Appropriation Tales: Israel Luna and dead trans women
Warning: Contains quoted descriptions of violence against trans people.
With the state of appropriation of trans lives in the queer community being what it is, I wasn’t terribly shocked when I found out about Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives, a new “comedy/thriller/‘transploitation” film directed by a cissexual gay man, Israel Luna. Trans women especially are subject to being reframed in cis people’s narratives, and gay men especially seem to have a sense of entitlement over the identities of trans women. This piece does a good job of pointing outmuch of the transphobia, transmisogyny, and cissexual privilege in the movie and in Israel Luna’s attitudes towards trans people.
Although annoyed by the news of the movie, this seemed just another case of the LGB community appropriating trans lives. When I checked the movie’s trailer on YouTube, however, I was genuinely shocked. Only four seconds in, against mournful music, I could not believe what I was reading:
Angie Zapata, a transgender teen
is bludgeoned to death by a
man she met online.
Literally mouth agape, I kept watching:
Caguas, Puerto Rico -
a 26 year old man picks up
Jorge Mercado who is dressed
as a woman,
then kills him – burning him,
then decapitating him.
NSFW, and extremely transphobic, the film’s trailer. Warning, contains violent imagery:
I felt sick. I have seen the lives and even the deaths of trans people appropriated by cis LGB culture before, but I didn’t think anyone would be so crass as to describe in lurid detail the deaths of two trans people (ironic in how quickly many cis gays were to distance Jorge Mercado from any sort of trans identity before) to promote a COMEDY. A drag queen comedy directed by a cissexual gay man. Even more troubling is the pornographic description of their deaths. Do cis people not realize how incredibly triggering and damaging it can be having to read the detailed description of how a trans person was murdered? And then the sickening punch of realizing it was done in the aim of promoting a comedy?
Rather than being left to wither in obscurity, however, this film is being given access to one of the best known film festivals in North America, Tribeca Film Festival. Israel Luna, for appropriating the lives of trans people and being willing to sink to really disgusting lengths to promote his work is being given an internationally recognized stage to show his product. Again cis people are promoting other cis people’s appropriation as art.
Please take the time to write the festival to express your disappointment with their decision to program such a transphobic, appropriative film. Contact Tammie Rosen at (212) 941-2003, or email@example.com.
As well, there is a Facebook group you can join to show solidarity with trans people on this issue.
ETA this classy quote from the director:
“[My film's] like Grand Theft Auto. If you have a bad day at work, you can shoot some people, kill some hookers, trash your car and feel better. It’s the same with my movie.”