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bashing back

Gay Director Israel Luna Is Sick of Bashing Victims Sucking It Up. So He Made a Movie Where They Stab Their Attackers To Death


For one, Luna uses the word “Trannies” in his title, a slur most recently popularized by Project Runway‘s Christian Siriano. Siriano famously called any train wreck of a person or horrendously failed attempt at dressmaking “a hot tranny mess.” He later apologized for comparing transgender people to white trailer trash, saying that he’s never meant any disrespect to the trans community and has since actively worked to remove “tranny” from his speech.

But Luna claims that he didn’t know “hot tranny mess” was a put-down; he’d heard his trans friends call each other that and thought it meant something akin to “ghetto-fabulous”—something over-the-top cool and stylish. When he realized it was offensive, he’d asked his trans-associates their opinions. A lot of them used the word “tranny” as well and found his use humorous rather than offensive. So in the end, Luna decided to stick with it. It was a catchy title and he figured anyone who’d get offended would entirely miss his film’s overall message. Besides, the word “tranny” doesn’t even appear in the screenplay.

Nevertheless, Luna deservingly got called out by Dallas transgender blogger Kelli Busey for using a slur that she considers on par with “faggot.” Regardless of your feelings about the word, Busey makes a good point. Let’s return to I Spit On Your Grave to see why.

In the film’s goriest scene of revenge, rape victim-cum-murderess Jennifer castrates a sleazy gas station attendant in a bubble bath mid-handjob. She locks him in the bathroom and he hysterically screams for his mother while pounding on the door and bleeding to death. Meanwhile, Jennifer sits calmly in the next room, listening to opera until his howls cease.

Herein lies the true horror of the film—on one hand, you’re happy that Jennifer’s not your typical helpless horror damsel, but on the other, she’s become a cold-blooded killer almost as monstrous as her attackers. One wonders how humane or empowering a depiction of trans-bashing victims can really be when in the end, they’re just end up a bunch of Ticked-off Trannies with Knives.

A second potential problem is that unlike I Spit On Your Grave, Luna’s bashing scene contains some humorous elements. The lead actress, Krystal Summers, says that the bashing scene plays on her worst fears of what could happen anytime she reveals her trans identity to a potential boyfriend. Nevertheless, the scene itself still plays out with some degree of B-movie camp. While Boner’s chasing down Bubbles—a tuft of bloody hair left clinging to his bat—Luna cuts to a scene where a dying transgender woman drives a lime green stiletto heel into the eye socket of her attacker with one final head-butt. Yes, Luna endows his women with the intelligence, courage, and strength to fight back, but by adding comic elements he potentially makes light of the reality.

By:           Daniel Villarreal enjoys the challenge of writing well about trans-issues. Horror author Dean Koontz notes that Flipper, the TV dolphin from the 1960's, was a male character played by a trained female dolphin named Suzi. As such, she was the first female TV star to regularly preform nude and was sufficiently butch enough to pass for male.
On:           Jan 22, 2010
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    • Sean

      Even if I don’t agree with the whole piece, I’m glad to see Queerty making an effort to include longer, in-depth pieces in its content.

      Jan 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • romeo

      I’m with Luna. Fighting hate with hate is what actually changes history. Pious passivity is just loser talk.

      Jan 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Nightstalker

      It would be great if gays were more prone to mercilessly innocent victimize heterosexual people at random. It would certainly energize the term “homophobia.” Change would occur faster if people felt more threatened by us. We could string up nice, totally good-natured straight couples in chicken wire, douse them with gasoline, set them on fire, and leave a note: “Love, The Gays.” While we’re at it, we could also send smallpox-laced blankets to state legislators. They might be more willing to listen to us that way. We could take the small children of straight couples, enticing them with promises of “A Beautiful Sandbox With Obsidian Black Sands,” and then once we toss them down the chute, lock the dungeon door, and the black sand is leaping all over them, tell the terrified children, “By the way, sweetie – those aren’t obsidian black sands. Those are fleas.” We would certainly get a lot of press that way.

      Jan 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • FakeName

      John Waters did it better 40 years ago.

      Jan 22, 2010 at 3:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Thom


      Huh? what are you talking about? The civil rights movement of the 60s was successful BECAUSE it was peaceful and not hateful. ridiculous

      Jan 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brian NJ

      “…he drugs her drink, and drags her back to his place, where he discovers her dick. Enraged, he beats and rapes her then returns the next night with a bat and some knife-wielding pals to leave Bubbles and several of her co-worker friends for dead. But Bubbles and two of her colleagues survive and, after some martial arts training, they get their gory, bladed revenge.”

      I’m there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDscluTJ540

      Jan 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jake from Boston

      I agree with you Fakename, John Waters DID do it better 40 years ago.

      Jan 22, 2010 at 6:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Disgusted American

      I look at it this way….I never proclaim to truly understand what makes someone transexual…but hey,Im gay so – whatever makes someone happy…anywho.if these are true Transexuals in all stages of transexualism..then its thier choice to be in a movie that portrays “them”….I would assume they have integrity and thier own minds, and know what they are doing..No?

      Jan 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Josh_Texas

      @romeo: You’re an angry idiot. That sucks for our chance at equality. It is because of people like you that we are despised.

      Just let the other side hate. It is a behavior of the ignorant.

      Jan 22, 2010 at 9:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • sal(the original)

      sounds interesting

      Jan 22, 2010 at 10:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben

      Honestly – this just sounds like shitty transploitation film to me.

      As a trans guy myself, I long to see the day when trans folk can appear as protagonists in films without it being about how weird they are. I’m sick of being a side character, or worse yet, a plot device.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 12:10 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CJ

      “The civil rights movement of the 60s was successful BECAUSE it was peaceful and not hateful. ridiculous”

      Seriously. All you get from a violent counter-movement is destruction.

      The success of this movie from a LGBT standpoint all depends on its execution. Kill Bill worked from an emotional standpoint because the Bride was an assassin. She was violent because that was her job. But normal, everyday transgenders? It won’t ring the same.

      But then again, I may be wrong. I hope it works out well, though. If it’s done right it could be very empowering.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 12:12 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CJ


      Yeah, that’s really what the community needs now. Transgenders aren’t sideshows. People need to stop portraying them as such. =\

      Jan 23, 2010 at 12:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • romeo

      CJ: have you ever read anything about the ACTUAL civil rights movement of the sixties? As long as it was peaceful virtually nothing happened, except activists getting killed by klanners. Only when blacks, and gays incidentally, started rioting did the white majority start getting nervous, and scared. THEN the point started getting through, and things started to change. Struggle not passivity is the dynamic of history. (Jesus, I sound like a Marxist! LOL ) But it’s true, nonetheless.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 12:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CJ


      If you’re talking about the Black Panthers, they didn’t do anything except create more hatred. Real change started after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. =\

      Being passive and being nonviolent are two completely different methods.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 1:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • romeo

      Oh, CJ, I’m talking about whole cities nearly burned to the ground with the National Guard rolling tanks down the streets! The Black Panthers were 70’s wannabes. They weren’t even around yet when Newark, LA, Detroit, and on and on were in flames in the mid-sixties. Read your history.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 1:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CJ

      They were formed in 1966. Not the 70s.

      And what are you talking about, specifically? The Newark and Detroit riots of 1967?

      Jan 23, 2010 at 1:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • romeo

      The panthers didn’t get much national attention until the 70’s. As to your list of riots, add Watts, which terrorized LA, and there were several others as well as college campuses exploding in violence everywhere. Those “riots” were full scale insurrections. They had a profound effect on the perceptions of majority whites which created the atmosphere that finally allowed real integration legislation, and gay rights legislation, to become law. Sad to say, the violence was what unnerved the mainstream enough to change their behavior toward minorities, at least to the degree we see today. Not perfect, but better than the total apartheid blacks lived under before. Same for gays. Prior to Stonewall, even the suspicion was enough for you to lose all civil rights, no freedom of association, no freedom of speech, imprisonment and possible castration or lobotomy, depending on the state you were in, and a couple of southern states even had the death penalty. Gays had been demonstrating and campaigning non-violently and discreetly since the 50’s, to no avail. It was the fighting back, the organized defiance that got us somewhere.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 2:05 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CJ

      That’s true. But they were still active in the late 60s.

      That’s something you don’t learn about in mainstream history, and yeah… it probably contributed to the advancement of the movement. But the reality is that whether or not it contributed to common attitudes of the day, the change in legislatures were from nonviolent protest.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 2:09 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CJ

      The real question of violent movement is toward whom it’s directed. Is the type you seem to advocate toward the persecutors, or the bystanders? That makes all the difference in the world.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 2:12 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • fanboy

      I can’t wait to see this movie.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 2:34 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike in Asheville

      I am sick; I am sick, sick, sick. I am sick and tired of all those PCers who are too afraid to kick up some dust and show the anger of being repressed by wingnut ape-shit homophobic bigots. [Apologies to Wanda Sykes for the sick/tired line.]

      While one can, and should, admire the personal strength and integrity of civil rights leaders Gandhi and MLK, DO NOT FORGET that tens-of-thousands were beaten, murdered, raped, lynched, and punished — victims who were brutalized while Gandhi and MLK were traveling the world exposing the ill fate of their flocks (and receiving Nobel Prizes for their efforts).

      Romeo and CJ, you are both correct and wrong. Romeo, a work-with-the-establishment approach is necessary to lay the foundation of enduring civil rights and liberties. CJ, it took kick-in-the-ass riots to shake the masses into embracing the changing political environment. Brown v. Board of Education took a full century to be achieved through the political process. But it was the riots of the 1960’s, particularly after the assassination of MLK, combined with the anti-war riots, that forced people to open their eyes, see the injustice, and marshal in a new era of recognizing civil rights for racial minorities.

      (It also took violent riot after violent riot, causing many deaths and much destruction of property, for women to achieve rights and laborers to be freed of virtual corporate slavery.)

      Per the “tranny” issue, what is the big fucking deal?! The use of the words “nigger” and “faggot” have unique meaning based on specific context. The depictions of “niggers” and “faggots” also have unique meanings based on context. We all know the difference whether a reference is bigoted or whether it is colloquial. So too with “tranny”. Luna’s use of the word has specific intent of meaning, one that appreciates transsexuals as human beings deserving all the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of their happiness. You go girls, beat the shit out of any and all who commit battery against you!

      Jan 23, 2010 at 9:36 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chitown Kev

      @Mike in Asheville:

      It wasn’t just the riots of the late 60’s either. It was the more militant approaches of the SNCC and the movement of the Civil Rights Movement to the North that scared the daylights out of everyone. And that was even before the MOW in 1963.

      You should read (in fact everyone should read) “Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North” by Thomas J. Sugrue.

      Particularly of note is what some Northern black Christian ministers thought of MLK.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 9:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • bill

      @CJ: Your silly. It took the Black panthers to put a fear in the minds of whity to really get that movement going , we spend all our time in the gye pumpin up for what, non violent resistance has not worked its time to really bash back not in a silly drag way in a real way.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 10:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Same Crap

      “It took the Black panthers to put a fear in the minds of whity to really get that movement going…”

      Well if that’s the case, white people have historically feared black men. Gay men? No so much.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 11:36 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dame Helga von ornstein

      This would be a good remake of a movie with an all trans-gendered cast. As hard (and awful as this movie is) try not to laugh at Zsa Zsa during the fight mob fight scene where she literally walks through the fight and never swings at anyone nor is hit and still stops to raise her dress as she steps over someone. The entire movie is posted in 10 minute clips and it is really a treat for those of you out there who are like us here in NYC where it is too cold to go outside and do anything.

      Sit back and enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5fEx8V6MVQ&feature=PlayList&p=7E37016E394CC8B8&index=0&playnext=1

      Jan 23, 2010 at 12:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • willam belli

      Hey CJ & Ben

      Transgenders aren’t sideshows- you’re right. We’re in the Main Tent. Welcome to my Circus.
      if you don’t see this movie, you’d be having a lapse in judgement (at least so you can try to justify your negative feelings for the flick without having even seen it)


      Jan 23, 2010 at 12:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ousslander

      I’m going with Romeo. We will continue to be victims if we allow. Most gay bashers to so because they don’t ecpect us to fight back just curl up in a ball and take it.

      If you are gonna attack me, try to make sutre I don’t ever get up because I will come for you ten fold.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • McShane

      It seems to me that drag queens would speak for a larger segment of the community, including transexuals, since thre plot is sort of lighthearted. No. 4 · FakeName about said it. John Waters did all that was necessary already, and didn’t go out of his way to preserve the “masculine” sactitty of some modern homosexuals, who want to make all fems surgical candidates.

      Jan 23, 2010 at 10:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • onCloud9

      what are the black panthers?

      Jan 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • terrwill

      I hope they have a Maggot Gallagher charachter that gets her balls kicked in……………….

      Jan 24, 2010 at 12:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dontblamemeivotedforhillary

      4000 (or thereabouts) clicks to view this story suggests that a high proportion of people visiting this site may not be men seeking other men…though the site is explicitly called “Queerty” with same-gender loving icons….what does that mean?

      Jan 24, 2010 at 8:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • David

      The “women” above are self-identified as straight. Stop pretending that cross-dressing and Gender Identity Disorder are a part of being gay. They aren’t. You are doing a great disservice to any gay teen who looks at that picture and thinks that all the stereotypes said about gay men are true.

      “LGBT” is a lie promoted by transgendereds because they know that they lack numbers. So they use dupes like Queerty to hijack the gay movement. You can post about “trans” issues every day but LGBT will still be a lie.

      Jan 24, 2010 at 8:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Daniel

      @David: Wow, I’m really not sure what to say. First though I will say that trans-issues are of interest to many people, including gay men (partially because they are the most nuanced and difficult to grapple with). Furthermore, T-issues are not exclusive of the LGB communities. We all want the freedom to express our sexuality regardless of our gender. We all want to freedom to express our individuality without having to bow to society’s expectations of us as men and women. We are who we are and we are human above all. We transcend the “traditional” strictures of gender and sexuality, hence TRANSgender and TRANSsexuality.

      Though I realize transgender politics can be infuriatingly confusing and seem almost willfully difficult, I find it intellectually insulting that you suggest some shadowy transgender cabal has somehow “duped” me into writing about these issues for Queerty. Transgender people are the most stigmatized and hated members of our civic society, hated even among gay men who find them too outside of the mainstream to be politically or economically viable. And yet even the gay population at large depends on drag and trans performers to entertain them with lip-synch performances and pageants and to emcee fundraisers for the entire community.

      May I remind you that the drag queens and genderfuckers, the butch dykes and effeminate men were those most singed out for abuse before the gay rights movement began. And when the shit hit the fan at Stonewall, they were among the first to fight against the cops. So instead of explaining all trans-people as gender confused cross-dressers, I encourage you educate yourself on those you revile, because you more than likely disparage them for whatever you see of them in yourself.

      Jan 24, 2010 at 8:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Daniel

      Quick clarifying comment: I meant that T issues are AMONG the most nuanced and difficult of LGBT issues. I’d also put the US civil rights political process and AIDS/HIV social issues on the high-level of complexity. It’s my goal as a journalist to demystify these issues so we can all engage them instead of standing confusedly or angrily by.


      Jan 24, 2010 at 9:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dame Helga von ornstein

      Wait a minute! Didn’t Flotilla DeBarge go to jail recently for fighting back in a bar she was performing in?

      Jan 24, 2010 at 10:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike in Asheville

      @No. 33 and 34 Daniel

      While I am sure that there are many gay/lesbian idiot bigots just as there are many more straight idiot bigots, I am not sure that the word “hate” is accurate enough describe the angst that some gay/lesbians have regarding transgender rights.

      Unfortunately there are many, like David No. 32 above, who mistakenly blame transgenders for making it more difficult for the straight community to accept the gay/lesbian community. David whines that the sissy/butch transgender stereotypes label gays/lesbians too — guilt by association.

      What David and many others here fail to appreciate is that pouncing on the rights of any minority to enjoy their “pursuit of happiness” allows any and all to lose their own rights of happiness.

      Thanks for raising this issue; transgender people are entitled to all the same rights as everyone else.

      Jan 25, 2010 at 9:36 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mykell

      The trailer and the director’s comments are sickening. What I see is over-the-top drag queens being labeled as transsexual and a cheapening of the violence transsexual women face, just so a cissexual man can get his kicks. From the use of the slur “tranny” in the title to the way the characters are portrayed, I see this film doing nothing positive for the transgender community. Unless this film is wildly different from the trailer and the clips made available, it will be a disgusting, exploitative, transphobic piece of entertainment for the cisgender community.

      Mar 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dan

      This is awesome that this conversation is occurring. I just recently became aware of GLADD’s disapproval of this project, and as a gay black man I find it so funny what both many blacks and gays are willing to do to be “acceptable” to people who don’t comprehend or want to explore difference. I’m of the view that if you need me to be acceptable to you then I need to be unacceptable all over your face. Why are some people so stuck on creating this homogeneous society is beyond me. Difference and diversity are key components in evolution. Beside that, most people need to get off their lazy butts and explore!

      Mar 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anja Flower

      Honestly, I don’t understand the idea that LGB and T aren’t really related. Sure, the LGB folks have a tendency to throw us Ts under the bus, but that’s -because- we’re related; gender variance is the dirty secret about LGB folks that HRC wants the straight folks to think is just a negative stereotype (because, you know, gender-normative gays are “normal” and worth empathizing with). Anyone who’s spent five minutes in the LGB community knows that gender-variant people are everywhere, though, and that there’s nothing negative or scary about it. Butch women, femme men, androgyny and gender-fucking are part of our culture, part of our heritage as queers, and in my opinion, that makes T folks like myself part of the larger circle of queerness. Yes, the T is part of LGBT for strength in numbers, but also because LGB and T really -are- related. Gender and sexuality certainly are not the same thing, but the coincidence of gender variance with LGBness is very, very high.

      Also, the “trans people should stand up by ourselves!” line sounds very noble, but I think it would be downright dangerous in practice. I do think that there should be more exclusively trans marches, fundraising and lobbying organizations, and so on. We need to show that we’re not just a footnote to LGB folks. At the same time, cutting ourselves off from the LGB community would be damned near suicidal! It would be better, I think, to raise our profile both within and without the LGB community, not to cut ourselves off from it.

      As for this movie, I guess it’s all a matter of who sees it, and what cultural assumptions they carry into the theater. It seems fairly obvious to me that Israel Luna did not intend this as a negative portrayal of trans people, though, and it seems a bit silly to take a piece of camp trash seriously. Then again, I’m usually willing and able to laugh at jokes that involve myself meeting an ill fate – a trait a lot of minority folks, whether racial, sexual, gender, religious or otherwise, understandably do not share. Much of my comics collection would horrify the ultra-PC types, and I myself have been subject to queer/trans-bashing violence – I have two silver teeth to prove it. Sometimes, mothafuckas just got to lighten up.

      Mar 28, 2010 at 1:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kate

      How Not To Write A Gay Story

      CW News Channel WPIX offers up today’s case study in how not to cover LGBT issues in a piece titled “Tranny Teens Terrorizing Downtown Girls”. While the author Steve Bogart gets big points for his ability to alliterate, by every other measure, he comes off like a racist, homophobic bigot. Here’s how.
      Bogart writes:
      “Police say a roving pack of transvestite teens has been targeting females living in a tony West Village building. According to authorities, the trannys would steal the women’s purses and use their stolen credit cards to buy wigs and new clothes.”
      There’s not a single thing right with this paragraph. Transvestites are not transsexuals and nobody should be calling them ‘trannies’ and even then, if you’re going to use a derogatory term, you might as well spell it right.

      Read more: http://www.queerty.com/how-not-to-write-a-gay-story-20090310/#ixzz0jfPKzFgv

      Mar 30, 2010 at 9:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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