No Blake Skjellerup, Saying Justin Bieber Was Made To Look ‘Trans’ Is Not An Insult

Blake Skjellerup, New Zealand’s Olympic speed skater who came out in May, did not like the headline of our post on Justin Bieber‘s massively Photoshopped magazine cover. Allow us to respond.

Writes Skjellerup, who’s now living in Canada (and might still be single!), about how some of The Gays like this website aren’t setting a good example:

Two articles have come to my attention about teen heartthrob/pop sensation Justin Bieber. Dean Blundell, a radio host for The Edge radio station in Toronto, recently insinuated that Bieber was gay and referred to one of his male fans, a 12 year old boy, as a future “chugger.” That’s slang, one I have personally never heard of, used to refer to male prostitutes.

Then there’s, a website who’s tagline is “free on an agenda, except that gay one,” which today published a picture of Bieber on the cover of this month’s Toda Teen Star, a Brazilian teen magazine. The title that went along with the post was “Justin Bieber, Trans Teen Star.” One would think that a website that was free of an agenda would not go out of its way to insult the very people that keep it alive. Justin has been clearly photo-shopped to a level that I am sure he finds unacceptable.

Oh, that post. About the Brazilian magazine Toda Teen Star transforming Justin into an uber-feminine version of himself. The complete text of which read:

Justin Bieber, or some version of him, appears on the cover of Brazil’s Toda Teen Star magazine. First comes the nail polish, then comes the complete makeover.

Calling Mr. Bieber a “trans teen star” is not, friends, an insult; only people who think being labeled transexual or transgender is cruel would think that (and I’m including Dan Savage in that group, for he actually does call people queer to insult them, but also uses the word “tranny” as an LOL) The headline I went with was a concise way of saying, “Hey, look how this magazine is marketing Bieber to readers.”

Unarguably, Toda Teen Star went out of its way to make Justin more feminine, with eye liner and softening his already baby-boy face. (There’s also an argument to be made the photo editors gave him a nose job, but that’s for another post.) Yes, the magazine put him through the gender-bending machine. That’s not bad, per se, because screwing with gender norms can be pretty cool; it’s only bad if you care about accurate representations of people on magazines. Moreover, pointing out how Justin was portrayed is not bullying.

Had the magazine gone another direction and played into the notion that Justin looks like a lot of lesbians, our headline “Justin Bieber, Lesbian Teen Star” would not have been a slam, but a mention about how a magazine chose to style and Photoshop him. Is “lesbian” now a slur?

While I do not care much for Justin’s music, his celebrity does fascinate me — particularly the way it involves gender, which is why the magazine cover caught my eye. He launched his career with a high-pitched pre-pubescent (“girly”) voice and attracted straight female fans young and old; young boys are “allowed” to be Bieber fans without being shamed; and the kid releases his own line of nail polish and nobody bats an eye. This is good.

On Wednesday Skjellerup tweeted, “I dont quite understand @Queerty First U stick up for Bieber, then U add fuel 2 the fire by commenting on his appearance. Whos bullying now?”

Pointing out a celebrity’s appearance (“He’s wearing blue”) is not the same as calling a celebrity fat or ugly or fugly or a hag. And commenting on Justin’s femininization by a major magazine was a (very brief) comment on how the media markets celebrity. That the original post or this one even mentions Justin’s actual physical characteristics is a secondary point. And so calling Justin a “trans teen star” is not an attempt at making fun of the kid, or knocking him a peg, or even making any comment about his sexuality or gender identity. Because calling him or his representation in the media “trans” — or calling any kid or person gay, or straight, or bi — is not an insult, nor is it a compliment. It’s an observation. And of all people, The Gays should understand that.

Around here there’s much love for our trans and cross-dressing brothers and sisters, whether celebrating the gauche, the victimized, and the pretend. In fact, Queerty has a big fucking problem with people hating on The Ts.

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  • Michael

    Calling Mr. Bieber a “trans teen star” may not be an insult to the writers of Queerty, but it’s the feelings of Bieber that matter, not yours. Whether or not true, is not the issue. You have cited, many times, the rash of gay teen suicides are the direct result of the kids inability to cope with being identified and unaccepted for being gay. People take their lives for many reasons, and nobody knows which was the final straw. Family, friends and society are left with the guilt of trying to sort things out, by reflecting; “what if…” I’m simply not seeing much difference in your conflicting rationalization here, not at all.

  • red phone

    Maybe your easy assertion that there is a set definition of what it means to look “trans” or “lesbian” is what is offensive?

  • Rando

    Calling someone something they are not, IS an insult. Even if what they’re being called is something with positive or negative connotation.

  • Wolfi

    Interesting consistency here. Calling a – for all we know – straight teenager ‘trans’ solely to make fun of his appearance (and, one is led to assume, that of trans people) is NOT an insult, but calling an electric car in a movie ‘gay’ is the worst thing anyone has ever done…
    Frankly, I’m at a loss what we can and can not say anymore :-)

  • Roger Rabbit

    Damn! I’l with Queerty on this one… With Lesbian Bars having Bieber look-alike contests and boys and girls buying his nail polish, I welcome the willingness to embrace all idioms of expression. Gender diversity acceptance is only being enhanced by these “terrible” steps forward.

    Besides, I’ve always laughed about how str8 guys get frustrated because they can’t insult gay guys by calling them “c**ksuckers”!

    And bullying? Far more damage was done by Bieber hitting the kid and then claiming it was because he was called a “faggot”.

  • Rick T. Gold

    All you bitches need to get a life.

    Most of you are neither Canadian or trans.

  • kyals84

    The whole point is commenting on someone’s looks by saying they look trans *is* an insult since it relies on the notion that trans people inherently stand out / look inbetween genders / or in most contexts of when the word is used as to describe someone who is not trans: to mean they look ugly. If someone is not trans, you do not say they look trans.

    Further, if you say someone who is trans looks trans you are saying they stand out and look somehow false. The whole point of ever saying someone looks trans is to say they look *fake* since the only alternative to looking trans is to look like a man or women. There is absolutely no good context to say someone looks trans like that. You can say someone *is* trans since that is a literal truth if they are trans but that is it.

    Saying someone who is not trans looks trans is utterly insulting to all groups involved trans and otherwise. That post was a queerty fail, and this follow up post isn’t helping justify it either.

  • alex

    The vast majority of Queerty posts are negative in tone. This site often criticizes others (and often those others are either LGBT people or allies); yet, when they become the target of criticism the writers on this site seem to lash out.

    Too often, Queerty is an embarrassment to the LGBT community. This response to Skjellerup’s criticism just an example of Queerty’s negativity.

  • Lucky Luke

    I just love this horrible blog and all it’s inconsistencies. I really do. Love it.

    *hugs Queerty*

  • Sam LaM

    @alex: Alex makes a very valid point; Queerty does have an ongoing, negative undertone to all it’s articles as if its writers are sitting up in some magical ivory towers looking down on the rest of the gay world and laughing at us all while trying to promote itself as a sane gay blog “without an agenda” (except for that irritatingly b*tichy one).

    I myself have come to blows with Queertys writers before and have had exactly the same response; them up on their haunches fighting back in an increasingly catty and b*tchy tone. All of this has lead me to realise – Queerty is to gay media what TMZ is to celebrities; a thorn in their side and an irritant to many.
    I for one will no longer be visiting this site and will henceforth steer my gay media needs towards more sane and consistent outlets (as I know will many others too).

  • James F

    I think it would be insulting to be described as looking transgender, when you are clearly NOT transgender.

  • Paul

    You got slammed by most posters including the famous. You “queerty” stepped over the line and now you are trying to justify your bulling. I’m Not buying your BS, take the slams you deserve for being insensitive and a bit creepy with all the attention you give the kid.. Learn how to treat people and keep the blog fun.


    Geezzee, aren’t there other things to be concerned with? Justin is a good looking kid who happens to have somewhat feminine features. Paint his face like a drag queen and he looks like a girl. So you can extrapolate out the trans tag. Big freakin’ deal.

    To try and wedge this little matter into the serious issue of Gay kids getting bullied and to say that Queerty is contributing to is absoulute bullshit. Blake, I admire you for having the balls to come out,something many in your position refuse to do. However please be little more carefull in makin baseless acusations against a site like Queerty. The writers may sometimes write commentary that sometimes is a bit dumb ass. Yet there is always a tremendous amount of information posted in its threads sometimes some serious, some humorus, some WTF. But the site is consistent in its support of the community and each and every day calls out those who actually do spew hatred and bigotry upon the Gays………..

  • Fagburn

    Even more pathetic than the Queerty post you’re desperately trying to explain your way out of (and failing spectacularly).

  • missanthrope

    Queerty doesn’t have a right to tell trans people what they should find problematic or not.

    The thing that I find problematic is that the story promotes the idea that when a male-assigned at birht trans person is “too femme” then they are being “transgressive”, “edgy” or “breaking down the gender binary” and then trans people become the props for whatever agenda around gender people might have (both reactionary and progressive). I think that gay people, especially femme gay men could probably relate to that and I’ve heard similar from them about a similar attitude towards them.

    It’s not an automatic slur to characterize someone as trans, but it is problematic to automatically associated them with being trans when they put on a little makeup. It trnasforms being trans from being a legitimate identity in to something constructed, an synthetic artiface to be worn and discarded.*

    Queerty, just own up to the fact that you made a minor fuck up without a long-winded justification about how much you love trans people. It’s like saying “But, some of my best friends are gay”. I’m sure you guys have heard that one before.

    *And when I say “trans”, I don’t just mean transsexuals, but all stripes of people under the trans umbrella.

  • SickofCelebrities

    Blake who?

  • bea

    hahaha :D whatever who blake it is,.all i can say,.good job :) thank you :)

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