When I first started writing occasionally for FilmDrunk eight years ago, everybody was using silly fake names. A lot has changed since then, and I assumed I’d soon be asked to drop my own pseudonym when Brian dropped his. And that time has come. Being that Sweet Orefice and Tillmann Buttersack are already taken, I suppose you guys will just have to call me Caleb. By the way, hi.
So why did I hold out so long on dropping the silly name Robo Panda? Well, I’m transgender. That’s not a secret. I mention my sexual orientation and gender [gay trans dude] when it’s relevant (and it usually isn’t, despite what hate-fomenting, bigotass politicians seem to think). But I was using a silly fake name because it’s an easy way to be left the hell alone. Before some bigot sends off a death threat, they have to ask themself, “Am I really about to threaten somebody named f*cking robopanda?” A silly pseudonym gets people to chill out, but it can also lead to people not taking you seriously professionally, either. So you’re stuck in a situation where you have to decide between “stay safer, but maybe get passed over for work and recognition” or “sacrifice safety for potentially more respect” or just “live in the closet and hate yourself.” For as long as I’ve been on the internet, safety (and no closet) seemed like the obvious choice. Perhaps even more so lately, because right-wing politicians figured out they can’t get as many votes anymore by being homophobic and they’ve moved on to calling all transgender Americans rapists.
And I shouldn’t be surprised the politics of hate have sunk this low. It’s like reliving my teen years in the ’90s all over again. Try to imagine for a moment that your closest friends stop talking to you at age 16 because you came out to one person, your best friend, who proceeded to tell all of your (now former) friends, and they had a real good laugh at the freak, then told a bunch of people you don’t even know these details of your life that could easily get you “correctively” raped or murdered by a stranger. Because it’s just a hilarious novelty to them, not a medical condition you didn’t choose that gets you discriminated against and threatened for simply trying to live and mind your business. And this is happening shortly after Brandon Teena was raped and murdered in a small Midwestern town very much like your own.
Imagine finding out at age 18 that your life expectancy as a transgender kid was (at that time) age 36, making you literally a middle-aged teenager.
Try to imagine earning an academic scholarship for full tuition, room, and board, then finding out the housing situation at a taxpayer-funded college doesn’t have dorm rooms for transgender or intersex students, even though the scholarship was supposed to cover it, and most colleges require students to live in student housing their first year. (If I hadn’t taken enough college classes at age 16 and 17 to already be a sophomore when I got the scholarship, I would have had to choose between not transitioning so I could live in required freshman housing or being myself and giving up a scholarship worth $60,000 back then.) Imagine how much stalls or falls apart when nearly every facet of life requires ticking a binary box for gender, and no one can seem to explain why the hell you should have to for the majority of those things.
So yeah, I used silly fake names and took anonymous freelance work where I could get it. Wouldn’t you?
Now that we’ve got that can’t-believe-I’m-still-saying-this-20-years-later nonsense out of the way, what does this less-silly name mean for the site? Not a damn thing, really. I’ll continue “imposing my lifestyle” on all y’all for as long as I’m allowed. My lifestyle includes making fun of stupid cats and sexy robots. It’s all so very offensive, I’m sure.
I’ll let somebody else sum things up: