Let me start by saying that I am a public figure. My views described here do not reflect those of the major organizations that I am associated with. These represent my views as a public trans activist and as a private individual.
“Babe can you call me the editor of Xtra is using my boy name on his FaceBook in referring to the story I did.” I saw this in my FaceBook messages. It had been a particularly frustrating day – a hard day at work on top of having just been dumped by the girl I was seeing, and then again by the boy I had my eyes on – and I just couldn’t deal, so I ignored Lexi’s message. Not because I didn’t care, but because I only have so much energy.
The day before I had gotten a call from a reporter I knew from Canada’s Gay and Lesbian newspaper Xtra. Andrea Houston was looking for a sex worker to interview for a story she was writing on sex work – a topic that’s being hotly debated right now due to the constitutional challenge underway in an Ontario court over three of the main anti-sex work laws in Canada. I recommended my friend, trans sex worker/reality TV star/filmmaker Lexi Tronic. Lexi’s a smart woman with an incisive tongue and always an interesting take on things. She doesn’t dress things up all pretty like cis feminist sex worker activists like; she tells it like it is – the positives and the negatives – and that, to me, does more to help the decriminalization cause than any happy Gender Studies grad student hooker can.
Lexi was more than happy to be interviewed by Andrea, and she consoled me a bit on my bruised ego, post-dumpings. Lexi’s a solid friend like that. And then off the phone with me, and onto the phone with Xtra. All was well with the world.
The story went up on the online edition of Xtra the next day with the deeply unfortunate title “The Dangers of Sex Work,” but all in all, it was a decent story. Xtra has a history of being a bit sensationalistic, especially when it comes to trans and sex work stories – their profile of me a month previous described my twelve year old self in the very first sentence as a “lost and confused drug addicted trans sex worker,” for example. But, generally, it’s pretty innocuous.
Then came Lexi’s FaceBook message. She followed this up with a copy of messages sent between her, a mutual friend of ours who had alerted her of her former name being used, and the editor in question – Danny Glenwright. In the messages, a surprisingly calm and polite Lexi explained that it was problematic for him to post Lexi’s former name when referring to the article on his FaceBook wall, gave him a link explaining how to respect trans people, and then wished him, in true Lexi fashion, “orgasmic love” for the holidays.
His response was almost astoundingly defensive. Rather than apologize, Danny wrote in part,
“I have worked with, and am friends with, several trans people and am more than acquainted with the complications of being trans, and the mixed messages coming from the trans community (as from any community).
What I choose to write on my personal Facebook page is my business and people can read it and interpret it as they please. Anyone who follows my page knows I use it to spark debate and get people thinking about issues they might not. I am certain this story will do that for many of my friends, including many old friends in Winnipeg and many friends in the developing world where I have worked for the past seven years.
We all have histories, some more painful, some not, some of us have changed our gender, others have not. I have also used the pages of Xtra to write about some of my more painful past moments.”
Back the truck up, Danny. After first trotting out his “trans friends,” he quickly swipes at our communities’ “mixed messages,” before defending his choice to use Lexi’s name, apparently to alert old friends from their hometown of Winnipeg that Lexi and her former name are one and the same. The last line hints at something that would come to dominate the things he would say in the coming days – his painful moments, we would find out later, are apparently all about Lexi.
I was livid. First off, I felt angry that this cis gay guy was being so disrespectful and defensive. Next up, I felt like I had personally betrayed Lexi by recommending that she be interviewed in the first place. After some exchange of messages, in which a boycott of further interviews was suggested, I phoned Andrea.
“Andrea, we have a problem,” I said when she picked up. I explained what had happened, how upset we were, and how I personally was going to call every single trans, queer, HIV, and sex worker activist and artist in this city and tell them to stop giving interviews to Xtra if Danny did not apologize, essentially cutting Xtra off from their ability to report on the community. What can I say? I’m a force of nature when I’m angry. Andrea agreed to call Danny.
She called me back a few minutes later, explaining that he was refusing to apologize. She gave me his number and told me to give him a try myself. Now, maybe I should’ve gone somewhere secluded, or even just waited until I had cooled down a bit. But, my force of nature side took over, and within a few minutes on the phone with Danny, we were full-on yelling at each other – all while I was in my office.