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Savage on Simpson Going First


"Being the first sucks," Obama Commerce Department appointee Amanda Simpson told ABC "I'd rather not be the first but someone has to be first, or among the first. I think I'm experienced and very well qualified to deal with anything that might show up because I've broken barriers at lots of other places and I always win people over with who I am and what I can do."

Dan Savage argues that, unfortunately, being the first at anything sometimes means being the butt of a joke, much like David Letterman's failed attempt to bring humor to the first presidential appointment of a trans female. "Better first than never. Unfortunately one of the jobs for a first -- unfortunately -- is to endure, deflect, defuse, absorb, lance, exorcise, etc., the cultural biases that created the discriminatory climate that prevented someone else, long ago, from being the first before you. Being the good-humored butt of a joke or two -- jokes that acknowledge your arrival and help lance, exorcise, etc., some of those biases -- is one of the ways a first like Simpson contributes. Ultimately this video tells us more about Letterman's discomfort with trans people -- and his audiences' discomfort -- than it does about Amanda Simpson. And it isn't a joke that Letterman can tell every time a trans person walks through the door that Simpson (and Obama) opened for her community. It's [a] 'first' joke."

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