All in a day’s work!

In the 19th century, Julia Pastrana, who suffered from excessive hair growth, was sold to a carnival sideshow and exhibited as a freak. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
In the 19th century, Julia Pastrana, who suffered from excessive hair growth, was sold to a carnival sideshow and exhibited as a freak. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, I wrote about a Post-Gazette reporter who wanted to talk to me about Caitlyn Jenner. On Friday, she called me to say there was a misunderstanding, and the Post-Gazette does not have a “real names” policy regarding transgender people. They could have quoted me using my pen name, she said, and she apologized for being unclear.

I accepted her apology and I told her I am happy to talk to her any time.

Hers may be the only apology we hear from the Post-Gazette, which has apparently decided to dig in its heels after newly appointed columnist Jennifer Graham wrote a misbegotten editorial about Caitlyn Jenner, calling her “Brucette,” referring to her by male pronouns, and suggesting Jenner should be exhibited in a carnival sideshow.

In fact, in an interview with journalism blogger Jim Romenesko, Graham was downright flip about the reaction her column received. “All in a day’s work,” she says. Ha-ha! Funny! Isn’t she a good sport, folks?

Romenesko asked Graham if she would change anything, if she had to do it again. “Of course,” she says. “Given the chance, I’d tinker with everything I’ve ever written—and stuff other people have written, too.”

Hey, sure, she might tinker with a few commas here and there, but she wouldn’t change her underlying premise—Caitlyn Jenner is a figure of fun who makes Jennifer Graham feel uncomfortable.

A friend of mine who teaches gender studies pointed out to me that in her original column, Graham tipped her hand when she mentioned 19th century Mexican woman Julia Pastrana. Pastrana was a woman born with hypertrichosis—excessive hair growth—and was sold, essentially into slavery, to a man who exhibited her as a circus attraction.

She died, as his property, eight days after giving birth to a baby he fathered.

In her column, Graham quoted, with no apparent irony, contemporary doctors who considered Pastrana “a separate species.” In other words, subhuman.

To me, Graham is implying she considers me, and other transgender people, as something less than human, too. That’s downright evil.

And, no, we haven’t gotten an apology yet from the Post-Gazette, but a few people have apparently gotten an email from Post-Gazette editorial page editor Tom Waseleski, who defends Graham’s column as “well-written” and “worth publishing.”

In a very condescending tone, Waseleski says the newspaper has also published articles and cartoons that were “pro-LGBTQIA.” So there. Nyahh!

“You can look it up,” Waseleski says. (Well, thanks for your mansplainin’, Tom! I didn’t know I could look it up!)

By Waseleski’s rationale, the Post-Gazette also needs to balance out any positive articles about people of color with some guest editorials from the Ku Klux Klan. And maybe any articles that explore Jewish heritage can be countered by some promoting anti-Semitism. Fair and balanced!

Romenesko notes Graham’s column triggered a “shitstorm” inside the Post-Gazette newsroom, with some reporters threatening a byline strike unless Graham was fired.

I will give Waseleski and the Post-Gazette editorial board—of which Graham is a member, and I still say she must be a doggone hoot at office parties—one very small bit of credit. They have published page after page after page of letters attacking Graham’s column. They also printed a strong op-ed from former Pittsburgher Jay Brown, director of research and public education for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, who called Graham’s column “repulsive” and suggests she’s far out of touch, standing “by herself.” (Brown is a trans man.)

In fact, I’ve only seen one letter, so far, defending Post-Gazette. It was from a Fox Chapel doctor who specializes in weight loss surgery. He says “Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner” (sic) belongs to “the theater of the absurd” and defends Graham from “the orthodoxy of political correctness.”

The very same doctor wrote a letter to the Post-Gazette in 2009 criticizing an editorial which said people who are overweight choose to be overweight: “No one chooses to be fat. Obesity is dictated more by genetics than any other single factor.”

Unlike, I guess, being transgender. Oh, the irony is so thick, you could just skate on it, couldn’t you?

But hey! It’s just all in a day’s work to me and the rest of the sideshow freaks! We’ll see you at the circus! Gooble gobble!

  • I should mention that Julia Pastrana’s owner did marry her before he got her pregnant. I mean, sure, he may have purchased another human being, and sure, he may have turned her into a living spectacle for other people to laugh at, but, c’mon, he didn’t want to have children out of wedlock, because that would be a sin.

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