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Savage on Simpson Going First

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"Being the first sucks," Obama Commerce Department appointee Amanda Simpson told ABC News.com. "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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