If you’re on social media and separated by no more than one degree to trans media spaces, you’ve likely heard about the days-long continuous charity livestream of video essayist Hbomberguy. He promised to host an uninterrupted livestream of a 101% completion of the Nintendo 64 game, Donkey King 64, while collecting donations for a peer facilitator group for trans and gender questioning youth in the United Kingdom called Mermaids. When I started drafting this post, he had raised over $150,000 and streamed 38 hours uninterrupted.
Why now? Hbomberguy admits that he doesn’t know much about trans issues (which in the internet age of rewarding confident but wrong punditry, is something to be applauded), except that trans people should be supported and that that support shouldn’t look like calling us frauds or trying to change our minds. But another reason is that a former comedy writer turned full-time anti-trans activist, Graham Linehan, has been repeatedly defaming both Mermaids and its CEO, Susie Green, with his latest stunt being a social media campaign to revoke the charity’s funding earmarked by the National Lottery Fund (it’s currently “under review,” presumably a second time, since you have to be “reviewed” to be earmarked in the first place). Hbomberguy wanted to perform the stream in part to spite him, as evidenced by a donation incentive jokingly titled “Erase Graham Linehan From History”
His last motive, which is that he never completed the game as a child and wants to do so now as part of his enthusiasm for video game speedrunning, is self-explanatory.
Months prior to Hbomberguy’s tremendous success, an incident circulated among journalists that was significant for its explicit detail. Harron Walker reported for Jezebel on leaks that proved the existence of a secretive listserv populated by nearly 500 journalism insiders, in which several conversations were held to workshop Jesse Singal’s slanted and ethically questionable coverage of trans issues, alongside at least one confirmed attempt to defame a trans journalist. If the listserv contains any trans journalists, they’re closeted, as known trans people are excluded by design. In other words, the media’s frequent inability to cover trans issues fairly isn’t merely convergent incompetence and arrogance, but is at least in part the result of an explicit conspiracy to discredit us as authorities on ourselves while simultaneously privileging cissexist coverage as reliable. However, there was one particular line from Jesse Singal that came to mind from this incident during Hbomberguy’s livestream that’s bothered me enough to write about it.
Singal’s privileging of cissexism is no better demonstrated than his first foray into writing about trans issues, when he wrote a fawning apology for Kenneth Zucker in New York Magazine. As part of his piece he contacted three trans women, including Dr. Julia Serano (whose PhD is in biology, and whose published work includes numerous contributions to gender variance as a topic). All three of his trans sources informed him as to what the research actually says and where he should look to get a complete picture of the problem. He used none of them in the final article. And that brings me to my bother.
The leaked conversations revealed by Jezebel include the line from Singal seared into my brain ever since I saw it: