HRC Blog

SNL’s “Estro-Maxx” Skit On Gender Transition Is No Joke

The following is from Meghan Stabler, a member of HRC's Board of Directors:

This past Saturday Lorne Michael’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) promoted a skit depicting pre-op male-to-female transsexuals.

In reading news and comments some contend that the SNL writers were poking fun at the typical pharmaceutical commercials that are so prevalent on TV. However to many of us who have journeyed along the deeply emotional and stressful path to transition our gender, the parody and acting portraits were utterly offensive. 

SNL has a long history of parody and on-the-edge comedy, and clearly their latest attempt for laughter by depicting men with facial hair as transgender women in a pseudo-joke-commercial for a daily estrogen-replacement therapy called “Estro-Maxx,” was, and is completely transphobic. Since airing, I’ve had many conversations with people, straight, gay and transgender, over this. While some of their views vary, all of them - once understanding the deep courage that it takes to transition, along with the real fears and deep-rooted societal prejudices that all too often manifest themselves as workplace bigotry, un- and under-employment, loss of family and friends, and most unfortunately, harassment and homicides - agree that we are right in asking SNL, the NBC producers and even Comcast, who recently acquired NBC, to apologize. Some argue that the portrayal was humorous, a joke, but in true comedy there is always a punch line. Unfortunately for this one, and for us, there was no punch line, unless you regard transition is a joke and therefore transgender people as a human punch line. In doing so the comic must also understand that conveying the humor they did comes with the risk that sometimes transgender people are a punching bag in the street.

The meme that SNL has conveyed to the public is that transsexual women are only 'men in skirts' and should not be taken seriously, a problem that could cause actual physical and mental harm to transsexuals, transgender and gender-nonconforming people, whose sole desire may just be to fit in to society. One only needs to turn to the often repeated lie and unsubstantiated message from SPLC listed hate organizations, that use the predator presupposition regarding ‘men in dresses’ entering bathrooms to abduct and rape children and women as an example.

Thankfully, organizations such as the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association have a much deeper and saner view than those groups. Ultimately, there was no sensitivity considered to the personal feelings of transgender viewers. The same could be said to other groups like people of color that SNL likes to marginalize and poke fun at. But with a significant risk of suicide within the transgender community, several homicides against transgender people already this year and a recent narrative within the LGBT community that “It Get’s Better,” the skit was poorly done and gave no thought to the way in which this fuels hate and violence. Sadly, society has a long way to go before transgender and gender-nonconforming people receive equality. Transitioning is already a physically and emotionally stressful process without people taking cheap shots along the way. I hope that the next shot taken by SNL and NBC is not just a token apology.

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