“He’s nice, and smart. And he’s not nonbinary,” a White Lotus character says over breakfast in an episode I was watching while eating breakfast, too. She was making a vague gross-out face when she said this last point. She was listing points that recommend a person. And those are them! All the things a person needs to be good: Nice. Smart. Not trans*.
White transmasculine wokes like myself are frequently at pains to point out that race and transness are not the same (they’re not) while simultaneously piggybacking (as I’m about to) on the progress people of color have fought and died for in educating their oppressors to the extent that most people would now recognize it’s denigrating and not at all funny to say, for example: “He’s nice, and smart. And not Black.”
I think about all the people that line went through on its way to my ears. The actress who said it, the more famous actress she says it to. The audio team that recorded it, the audio team that finished it. The editor, the whole group of executive producers—cis white guys all, one of whom is also the writer and director, who is gay and wrote another trans-people-are-trash joke in his film Brad’s Status that I wrote about in a feature years ago. Many dozens of people knew that line was going to happen and then was happening and then happened, and either no one said “maybe let’s not be anti-trans,” or someone did but more powerful people responded, “no no, definitely let’s. It’s not enough to erase them from narratives—they’ve got to be inserted, eternally, as punchlines about the subhuman undesirables they are, too.”
Get your shit together, HBO.