The Phoenix’s transphobic Jenner “Transformer” joke is stupid and horrible

I have not been particularly quiet about my frustration with / disdain for the second coming of the Portland Phoenix. That said, as I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to the rag, I missed their Caitlyn Jenner / Transformers joke / faux pas, which a reader brought to my attention. The comic, which comes by way of local comedian Tim Hofmann, is illustrated in this photo provided by the reader.


The reader wishes to remain anonymous, explaining “I’m trans and it’s something that I don’t normally disclose to people because I’ve experienced some serious discrimination when I have in the past.”

What follows is their take on the comic:

I’m writing because I spotted a kinda nasty thing in the back of this week’s most recent Phoenix, and I feel like somebody with some level of voice should point it out.

This week is ostensibly the new Phoenix team’s big PRIDE issue. The cover boasts “Out In Maine” and the inside even includes a “Pride Guide” for Portland events. All great so far. Then on the very back page of the issue, tucked in next to the crossword, is a straight up mean spirited swipe at Caitlyn Jenner.

To break the comic down: Jenner is depicted in her Vanity Fair outfit next to Optimus Prime. The headline reads “MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE” while Optimus jokes “Call me Optimus” and Jenner responds “GFY”…

…aside from not being contextually any good as a joke (Optimus was already called Optimus? Who is Jenner telling to GFY?) let’s break down why this comic is offensive.

So calling trans women “Transformers” is a slur that goes back literally as long as both trans women and the Transformers have coexisted in pop culture. A friend of mine was once arrested in a small town in the late 90’s for wearing women’s clothing early in her transition, and when the police radio’d in who they were bringing, the dispatch voice responded: “One Transformer. Hoo boy. Roger that.” It’s also been used in a slew of dick & fart joke Farrelly type comedies through the years (even as recently as Family Guy). So that’s a horrible and insensitive trope for the Phoenix to dig up.

The real gut punch line here though is “more than meets the eye”, which is just… first the implication is that the “more” is, of course, a penis, hahaha, and then to try to elaborate, it’s just… I don’t think I could more expertly sum up one tagline that so completely encompasses EVERY negative stereotype the media reinforces about trans women as well as the one used in the comic: they’re deceivers, they’re hiding something, they are not what they appear to be, that men are getting more than what they bargained for or that a trans woman’s appearance is linked to socio-romantic “false advertising”… it’s just gross, and sensational, and not at all an appropriate comic to have included in the PRIDE issue. Like a nice reminder: “It’s PRIDE! Hey trans women: nobody gives a shit about you!” y’know? It’s a kick in the teeth, and I kinda feel like it’s what happens when a moderate-to-conservative group of people take over a paper and continue to call it an “alt-weekly”, and that someone needs to call them on this horrible, tasteless hypocrisy.

Anyways. Thank you for enduring that wall of text, and I hope you fee like this is maybe something you want to get into.


Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.