Was Family Guy‘s Trans Episode Horrifically Offensive?

Family Guy, the enormously successful equal opportunity offender, on Mother’s Day aired the episode “Quagmire’s Dad,” about Quagmire’s father who was supposed to be a panty chaser, but turns to be a big homo — or rather, a transgender MTF. Lots of gay and trans jokes have the queers upset!

Enjoying a cosmo and owning the entire Sex and the City DVD collection are among the indicators that Quagmire’s dad is a poof. And the writers came up with lots of (reused and recycled) ways to talk about “stroking privates” and “taking loads.” But when confronted, pops says he is not, in fact, a homosexual. He just wants a sex change operation.

While GLAAD has yet to way in, Queers United has.

It starts off with the father coming to town and Quagmire’s friends commenting on how “gay” the father seemed, because he exhibited gay stereotypes including an (effeminate voice, desire to entertain, drinks Cosmo’s, etc). When Quagmire confronts his dad he admits he admits he is not gay but really a woman trapped inside a man’s body.

Quagmire asks for support from the Griffin’s, the wife Lois offers that her husband Peter will go to the hospital for the sex change operation. Lois and Peter remark that the whole thing seems “pretty gay” but that it is “obviously weird” and Lois finishes off by telling the two men that they should “enjoy the circus” referring to the hospital visitation.

In the waiting room there is the talk of “he/she” and the “penis being chopped off” an obvious disregard of using correct pronouns and propagation of the myth that transwomen remove their penis.

When Quagmire’s father transitions she takes on the name Ida and is invited over to the Griffin’s for dinner. She brings a pie but Lois immediately tells her daughter to throw it away. This plays on the irrational fears of interacting with trans people. Over dinner Peter asks the inappropriate question “do you miss your penis?” and asks about the legitimacy of her “knockers”.

When Ida meets the Griffin’s dog, they develop a relationship. The dog (Brian) is thrilled at meeting a new and wonderful woman but gets disgusted and vomits when he finds out she is transgender.

Were any television show to make gender identity a punchline, I’d immediately be right there with ya, throwing my arms in the air. But in between all the pretty grotesque jokes is even an anatomy lesson (explaining how a penis becomes a vagina, without anything being “chopped off”). That, and Family Guy, now past the 100 episode mark, has always trafficked in making fun of EVERYTHING. Race. Gender. Weight. Age. Human-dog sex. And now, gays and trans people.

And while some of the jokes definitely pushed some boundaries (with the hysterical laughing at the idea of someone having sex with a trans woman thrown in), shows that have anti-gay or anti-trans characters doesn’t make the entire show anti-queer.

Alas, in this instance, it does.

It was a pretty remarkable bashing of trans people — one that went so far I can’t even defend it. I’ve got no problem with TV shows making fun of queers; we’re a funny bunch, and our stereotypes can be hysterical. But Family Guy‘s take was just revolting. This program didn’t use humor to further a worthwhile conversation. Instead, it painted this group of people — our group of people — as monsters. That’s not something to laugh at. That’s something to expunge.