Part of me blames myself: That’s what I get for watching a movie, I think, trying to make it somehow my fault that Benicio Del Toro tells a homophobic joke in Netflix’s boring Reptile. The punchline is that gay men are so blindly desperate for dick that they want to get raped at gunpoint for it. I had a similar thought—That’s what I get for watching a reality dating show—when a woman named Nancy on Love Is Blind asked her new fiancé how he would feel about terminating a pregnancy if the child was going to suffer from painful and debilitating medical conditions, and he responded that he would never abort his child—even if they were trans.
Better to think it’s my fault than to think about how the world so successfully erased trans people from participation and representation in public life for so long—and attempts to still—that this guy thinks this is a totally reasonable thing to say. (“List reasons for stress in your life,” an intake form for a doctor’s appointment asked recently. I responded: “Poverty, global anti-trans antagonism.”) But somewhere in the continuing watching of Reptile I managed to work myself into a pretty good rage, not at Benicio Del Toro—probably because he’s older—but at his former-*NSYNC-member costar. Every time his face came on screen for the rest of the movie, I thought: Why, Justin Timberlake?
Dear Justin Timberlake: Why wouldn’t you just say, “Hey guys, I totally want to be in this boring movie, but let’s cut the weirdly irrelevant violent homophobic joke”? Justin Timberlake, you have the clout to do it. Justin Timberlake put your foot down! You are so much more famous than the actress who says a shitty transphobic line in White Lotus, who probably did not have the pull to get it pulled (though Jennifer Coolidge, to whom she says it, did, and about whom I now feel icky as well). Justin Timberlake here is a phrase I have googled more than once: “gay movies with happy endings.” I am far from alone there. Another sad phrase I have googled is “movies about a trans person doing anything.” But there are very few of the former, and even fewer of the latter, so as I have run out of content that acknowledges the possibility of my existence I would just like people to stop shitting on it in all the content that doesn’t. Is that so much to ask, Justin Timberlake? That you swing your Justin Timberlake-ness around just enough to stop egregious and unnecessary acts of homophobia from appearing in your projects? I believe in you, Justin Timberlake. Please act like you believe in the humanity of me.