Jenny McCarthy told Page Six on Tuesday that playing a transgender character on television has resonated with her in a very personal way. In doing so, she perpetuated an ignorant trope about what it means to be transgender.
Speaking about her role as Brandi (formerly Burt) on Just Shoot Me, she shared how she identified with this character. "I always felt like one of the guys wearing, like, a Playboy bunny outfit," she said to Page Six. "I was David Spade's buddy to begin with, so I was a natural fit, and I always felt like his brother. To play kind of the dude was almost too scary natural."
When asked how she would react if husband Donnie Wahlberg ever came out as gay, she replied, "I would be so excited. We can shop! Do my hair!"
It goes on. "I really do feel like, with sexuality being more open and people coming out, there might be a little bi in everybody; it's just a matter of who acts on it," she told the tabloid.
At first blush, these quotes are out of touch — even insulting. Since when does being gay mean you only like to shop and do your straight wife's hair? And, since when does feeling comfortable in a group of men make you adopt the trans tag?
As a straight, cisgendered person, McCarthy doesn't have firsthand experiences to inform her opinions about what it means to be LGBTQ, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't have an empathetic understanding about the sort of oppression that that community experiences. And, comments like these run the risk of overshadowing the meaningful work of people like Laverne Cox.
McCarthy probably thought she was being super tolerant; after all she's talking about how much she loved playing a trans* character. The trouble is, repeating the idea that being trans* is kind of a like a woman who likes hanging out with guys, is perpetuating a deep misunderstanding of what trans* is. McCarthy's attempt at open-minded comments are rooted in the widespread misinformation about what being transgender means and the appropriate vocabulary surrounding it. Her statements perpetuate a larger misunderstanding about what it means to be transgender — or gay, for that matter. Perhaps it's her lack of education that clouds her otherwise innocuous intentions of being free and accepting of all identities and sexualities.