Rox Samer (Clark University)
Trans Comedy Before & After the “Transgender Tipping Point”
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Ever since Time put Laverne Cox on its June 2014 cover, “the transgender tipping point” has been used as a shorthand in trans media studies for the moment when trans representation became ubiquitous across media. While many in the popular press celebrate the mass arrival of trans characters and trans celebrities, trans scholars have expressed concern about the real-life ramifications of greater visibility and questioned to what extent these new representations challenge the visual economy of existing media. In this paper, I look to the comedy of trans comedians working in stand-up and DIY video, from not long before or long after the transgender tipping point, to make a case for trans comedy as potent site of trans knowledge production.
Admittedly, there is a certain incongruity in thinking transness and humor together. The rising statistics on trans murders and the many court cases regarding trans youth in the US and UK indicate that transitioning and transphobia are serious matters. Since the 1990s, which saw the critical acclaim of films like Paris is Burning (Livingston, 1990) and Boys Don’t Cry (Peirce, 1999), film has served as a pivotal site for narrativizing the trials and tribulations of trans life. While the gravity of experiences like those depicted in these films is important to keep in mind, scholars’ and journalists’ constant attention to it in the absence of all else has the ironic countereffect of defining transness as tragedy. It neglects all that is fun and funny about trans life. Furthermore, it misses the situation comedy that is cis society (and whose first archetypes were “man” and “woman”). Perhaps such othering of transness is the point. Furthermore, “good” representation that simply assimilates trans subjects into cis norms far from ameliorates. As incongruous as it seems, I argue it is time to think about transness and humor seriously. In such contexts of perpetual harm, comedy can amplify the absurdity of living a trans life in a cis world and act as much needed forms of trans care.
Workshop 24.05.2022 14 Uhr IG Farben 1.418
Rox Samer is a feminist, trans, and queer media studies scholar. They currently teach at Clark University as an Assistant Professor of Screen Studies in the Visual and Performing Arts Department.
Rox’s monograph, Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s, is out with Duke University Press (March 2022). Rox has published in The Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Transgender Studies Quarterly, Jump Cut, Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, and Feminist Media Histories. They are the editor of the “Transgender Media” special issue of Spectator (Fall 2017), the first journal issue devoted to the study of transgender media, and the co-editor of Su Friedrich: Interviews (UP Mississippi, 2022) and Spectatorship: Shifting Theories of Gender, Sexuality, and Media (UT Press, 2017).