Paladino’s ugly remarks insult transgender people
Republican politician Carl Paladino’s position on the Buffalo School Board is rightfully in question after he made incendiary remarks about former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, in Artvoice this past December.
Media sources were quick to point out the transparent racism and misogyny of Paladino’s statements. Virtually no one, however, discussed his transphobic assertion that Michelle Obama should “return to being a male.” Transphobia, simply defined, is the culturally learned hatred or disdain for persons who are transgender, or those who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth on the basis of biological sex (external genitalia).
By implying that she is transgender, Paladino suggests that transgender people, particularly transwomen, are invalid and laughable. His statements use transgender identity as an insult and a punch line, and are particularly loaded given the cultural stereotype of the “angry black woman,” often leveled against Michelle Obama, which undermines black women by positioning them as irrational, aggressive and overly masculine.
We should use Paladino’s ugly remarks, and the beliefs they represent, to have an honest conversation about racism, sexism and transphobia in our community and beyond. Words hold the power to hurt or heal, to inspire us or tear us down, and Paladino must now face the impact of his statements, whether he is removed from the School Board or not.
Jeffry J. Iovannone