Buddy, No!

06.12.12

Cake Boss’s Transgender Disaster

On Monday’s episode of the TLC family show, a transgender guest star was mocked and later called an “it” on Twitter by one of the show’s stars. Maria Elena Fernandez on the fallout.

“I tell him, ‘That’s a man, baby!’”

But it wasn’t. It was transgender reality-TV beauty Carmen Carrera, who has been transitioning into a woman and living as one since she finished taping RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2010.

The unfortunate quotation belongs to Cake Boss star Buddy Valastro who uttered it during a prank in Monday night’s episode of the popular TLC series. Carrera, 27, who has been modeling and appearing in other unscripted fare (ABC’s What Would You Do?) agreed to be the punchline, but now completely regrets it.

In the episode, Carrera flirted with Anthony Bellifemine ("Cousin Anthony") at a party with the goal of getting him interested enough to ask for her number. When he did, Valastro was supposed to shock him with the revelation that the bombshell in front of him had been born a male. What prompted producers to think this was ever a worthwhile plot is a question that TLC was not willing to answer on Tuesday. But Carrera spent the day Tuesday expressing her outrage over the episode on her Facebook page. Because, as Gawker’s headline put it, “How Transphobic Was Last Night’s Cake Boss?

“I was told this was a family show and they weren’t going to go that way with it,” Carrera told The Daily Beast. “It felt bad. I was really upset because this ignorance is going to be spread to an audience that’s not necessarily a gay audience.”

Carrera, who was not in the room when Valastro was interviewed on camera for the episode, said she was stunned to hear him say on television: “Anthony right now is on top of the world. You don’t know what’s coming baby! I call him over because it’s time to bring him back down to Chinatown. I tell him, ‘That’s a man, baby!’”

As someone who is openly chronicling her transition online, Carrera said she accepted the Cake Boss offer because she saw it as an opportunity to inspire other young people struggling with gender identity and to educate others about trans issues.

“It’s OK for a man to find me attractive,” Carrera said. “It shouldn’t feel wrong and they shouldn’t feel misled. The fact that I was born a male is not something I am ashamed of. At one point in my life, I was a naive, confused boy. Since I decided to transition, I am happy and I can still be successful, have a relationship, and have a career. But I am not a man and don’t want to be called that.”

For his part, Valastro personally apologized to Carrera and to the LGBT community through a statement issued by TLC. “It was absolutely not my intention to upset or offend her, or anyone within the community, and I was wrong to use the words I did. I am a supporter of gay rights and equality, and while I regret this situation and my choice of words, I am thankful to have received this feedback and the opportunity to learn from this mistake. I hope that Carmen accepts my sincere regrets.”

Carrera said that she told Valastro she understands that he was not trying to be malicious, but that the problem is that the episode “promotes ignorance, and it’s just not what I signed up for.” Carrera told The Daily Beast she was unhappy with the way the episode was edited because it didn’t show that Cousin Anthony took the news well, accepted Carrera, and even drank with her and her husband later.

“So now I’m an ‘it,’” Carrera told The Daily Beast.

Although TLC did not show the moment when Valastro tells Cousin Anthony the truth, viewers do see Bellifemine laughing and saying, “Oh my God, is that serious? I’m leaving,” as he momentarily walks out of the party room. But he returns and everyone, including Carrera, appears to be in a good mood as the men check out Carrera’s curves and continue to flirt with her.

But Bellifemine should have left well enough alone. After the episode aired, someone on Twitter wrote to him, “Dude you made out with a dude.” He responded: “hahaha nah I didn’t. It give me a kiss on the cheek.”

“So now I’m an ‘it,’” Carrera told The Daily Beast. “All I wanted was to be respected as a she. This is the problem.”

Bellifemine quickly saw the error in his ways, deleted the post, and tweeted an apology: “Hi all, I appologize [sic] for my ignorance. @carmen_carrera is a beautiful woman & i respect her greatly. no harm intended. My apologies.”

Adding insult to injury, Carrera said, is the fact that she spoke to producers before filming about her feelings about being called a man and that it would be acceptable to instead say she was born a man. She feels, in the end, that they just didn’t get it. “They don’t have to worry about things like that, so they don’t care. It’s the LGBT community that has to worry about bullying.”

TLC declined to comment about the issue beyond releasing Valastro’s apology.