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The Real Meaning of Playboy's New Transgender Playmate

The Real Meaning of Playboy's New Transgender Playmate

Transgender Playmate Op-ed

With so little to cheer these days, this change is at least slight progress on trans rights -- if you look closely.

In this day and age of Donald Trump and the blows handed out regularly to the transgender community, it feels as if there is absolutely no good news, and each new "first" only marks how unusual it is to have a right revoked.

OK, if you don't count Jim Crow and the Deep South, we're the first. But still, the blatant revoking of our rights and protections are devastating and hurtful -- making any good news or accomplishments, for us, a huge relief. So when Playboy came out and announced its first trans woman as Playmate of the Month, it was a great sense of... um, accomplishment I guess? I mean, it doesn't hurt.

Look, transgender people have a relationship to sexuality and gender roles that is, to put it diplomatically, complicated.

Let's be real, we're kind of all over the place. We haven't figured out where we want to go. We hate sexual objectification, unless it's on our terms as trans people. This is why we're cool with our porn stars for the most part but not with being some creeper's fetish on Craigslist. We also loathe gender norms with an unbridled passion. Gender norms are the bane of transgender people's existence, obviously. All day, every day, someone is making some remark about "man hands" or "why not just be a gay dude" or whatever. There's all the garbage about sliding scales of what counts and qualifies as a "woman" even going into genetics. Oh, that's always one of the most fun fights to get into; having someone who doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're" trying to explain human genetics and chromosomal variations to you. Of course with all the pressures of gender conformity, there is the unspoken double standard of placing an internal cultural premium upon "passability," youth, and femininity. Kind of weird that trans women, who hate the gender roles and gender expectations placed on them, so eagerly embrace them internally. Well, now that I brought up a point which will infuriate and anger so many of you, I'm going to move right on past it. Sometimes it's fun to find a big group of people, kick the nearby hornet's nest, then move on.

Still, no matter how you feel about it, getting a transgender woman to be Playmate of the Month is kind of a big deal. Oh, sure, you could go on about sexual objectification, or Hugh Heffner and Playboy's problematic history with feminism, and you would probably be right while, at the same time, overlooking other major points that run a contrary path.

Basically this news represents entirely what transgender women have wanted for a long time; to be seen as attractive and desirable as women, not as a fetish as trans women. We have wanted to be mainstreamed and accepted into society and we really are starting to be. Yes, we have characters in TV comedies and dramas that are being played by trans women. We have famous musicians, writers, actors, and directors. We've been proud of all our transgender fashion models for a while, so it was inevitable that we would get mainstreamed as a sexual object. Isn't that a worthy goal that follows along with the desire to be seen as attractive and feminine?

But wait, it's also sexual objectification! Isn't that the horrible thing that women hate, and we should hate as well?! Oh, it's so damn confusing. I guess it really depends on which social media mob you run with that determines how you feel about this conundrum.

There is one true thing, though, that I think all trans women can agree is worthy to celebrate: The mainstreaming of having really unattractive and unappealing men saying they would never sleep with one of us.

Oh, go check out the responses to the tweet from Playboy, and I'm sure you'll have to come across the vast majority of articles written about the first Playmate, Ines Rau. Oh, that's one of the things I've always enjoyed about men and the internet, and by "enjoy" I mean laughed to the point I was crying at. The absolutely hilarious belief that just because they don't like one particular feature of a stunningly attractive woman, they think their refusal to consider them a worthy sexual partner actually matters. Yes, someone who is so attractive that they are worthy paying money to stand there and just be pretty would be absolutely wounded by the fact that a man who's talking scale doesn't state an actual weight but just groans in pain. I mean, I'm sure they're devastated by the fact that men whose body odor resembles warm onions and vinegar and couldn't clearly recall the last day they bathed find her unappealing. Yes, without a doubt, a woman who is considered so attractive she deserves the title "Playmate of the Month" must be devastated that she will never get to have sex with a man who drinks a full two liter of Mountain Dew Code Red a day and hasn't had a full-time job since they got fired from Postmates for eating all the cheese off the salads they were delivering in their 1990 Geo Prizm (the one with the red duct tape for a tail light and primer grey quarter panel).

Look, would we all prefer having the first transgender astronaut or congressmen right now? Sure, who wouldn't?

But we're not getting those just yet. We got a transgender woman to be part of mainstream sexual objectification, which to be honest a lot of us are totally fine with, and have been fine with for years with our celebration of models and pretty actresses. This is just the next inevitable level of being normalized in society.

Yeah, I would totally prefer an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to be passed through Congress, which means we have legal job protections, or maybe even my transitions medical needs to be covered completely by insurance or even universal health care, but that ain't gonna be happening anytime soon either. So you know what? Mainstream ogling by men is something I'll take. It's an ugly win, but it's a win nonetheless.

AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @amanda_kerri.

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