Last night, we met the first transgender person (that we know of) in the Terminator universe. We asked transgender activist and author Kate Bornstein for her opinion of the episode.
For those of you who don't know her, Kate Bornstein is the author of two books on gender issues, Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook. Plus two other books, Nearly Roadkill: An Infobahn Erotic Adventure and Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws. She's also a playwright and performance artist.
I already wrote about my thoughts on last night's episode here. Among a whole host of UFO freaks, the episode introduced us to Eileen (aka "Abraham"), a blogger about UFO conspiracy stuff who has worked with a mysteriously advanced metal. At my urging, Kate watched the episode, and she was pretty thrilled with it.
"It was a huge step forward," she told me. Eileen wasn't crazier than anyone else on that show, and "she turned out to be a brilliant scientist," which is a plus. "We did have Dead Tranny Syndrome," she added, "but they do that to a lot of people. They kill a lot of people in an episode, so it's not like she was singled out."
"If the [actor] was not transsexual, it was one of the best jobs I've ever seen," Bornstein says. Sure, the character was over-the-top and melodramatic — just watch the clip above — but so is every other character on the show.
Bornstein especially liked the speech that Eileen gave about "that moment, that opportunity to face what you never really wanted to face, but always wanted to face. I thought that was poetically written, and it did apply to Sarah Connor and to the tranny. I thought that was really fucking cool." She also really liked the bit towards the end, where Eileen is being hypnotized and remembering the warehouse, and describing being inside the panel truck with no way to see out. "And the therapist is like, 'Does that bother you?' She was like "No, I like not being seen.'"
One minor quibble: Kate thought Eileen looked more like a girl without her wig than she did with it. It seemed like the big reveal, where Eileen takes her wig off, is supposed to show her looking like a boy, but she just looked more natural and real. It was as if the director or producers insisted on the wig and extra makeup, because they were afraid Eileen wouldn't "pass" as a woman in her early scenes, but it backfired.
"What i thought was even cooler than the tranny treatment: When do you have a grown black man who's talking to an even older black man who's giving him wise advice?" Bornstein says, referring to the scene between James Ellison and his preacher.
She was also happy that the show didn't "go for the cheap shot" by making Jesse and Riley turn out to be lesbian lovers. "I think Riley's biseuxal," Kate says, which is "a cool nod" to real sexual diversity. Riley isn't just a lesbian who's pretending to be into John Connor, but someone who's attracted to both Jesse and John.
All, in all, Bornstein was surprised by how much she liked last night's epidsode: "It's getting complex." It turned out Bornstein stopped watching the show after the first season, but she liked last night's episode enough to want to get caught up. Before, "It wasn't deep enough for me. [But] I didn't think they were exporing the avenues that I saw explored in this episode. How do you learn? Who is the puppet, who is the master?"