I started watching the Discovery Life series ‘New girls on the block’, an unscripted show about the lives of 6 transgender women. I’ve seen shows like this before, AOL had ‘True Trans’ last fall, about Laura Jane Grace, formally Tom Gabel, lead singer of the band ‘Against Me!’ BBC had a series titled ‘My transexual Summer’, where they brought 7 transgenders to a resort each weekend for 3 months.
This Friday Bruce Jenner is expected to revel the long speculated news that he is transgender.
All this press should be viewed as good for the cause of enlightening the general public about transgender people. But I’m dubious about the results and here is why.
The producers seem to focus only on the pain, anxiety, and depression of growing up trans. There are endless discussions of how terrible it is to be trans, talks always run to suicide. Close ups of teary eyed individuals are common. And the implication that once transitioned, sexual orientation must follow. Shots of trans girls ogling guys at bars, deep discussions of their new boyfriend are also a staple of most of these shows. There are trans women, but rarely is a trans man anywhere in the picture. And the trans women can and will be happy only after SRS (sexual reassignment surgery).
This is the product of the producers preconceived ideas about what trans is. They come to the table with an idea of how things need to go, then find the subjects to fit their story. These are not the stories being told by the subjects, rather the subjects are there just to support the producers idea.
One Big exception is the BBC show ‘My transexual summer’ which featured 4 trans women and 3 trans men. Donna, one of the featured trans women, was very proud of the fact that she was still into women, and happy to keep her original plumbing. She was upbeat and positive, a departure from what we normally see. This show was also the only one I have seen that included trans men, all the others would lead you to believe that it was a strictly Male to Female issue.
Will Friday's Bruce Jenner interview repair the damage from all the media speculation? He has been the subject of so much media attention. As of today (4/20/2015), he has not made any statement, transgender or not, but there have been dozens of 'Bruce Jenner transgender' headlines, leading us to believe it's a confirmed fact. He may very well make that statement this Friday, but until he does, it's his right alone to say. I know he is a public figure in the headlights of the media, more because of his connection to the Kardashians than his Olympic achievements, but really media, poorly pasting his head on a womans body and photoshopping on makeup? You should be ashamed.
My big problem with these shows is that they appear to confirm the stereotype of transgender as fact, and they are doing it on national television. The general public reacts poorly to us mainly because they know nothing about us, and nothing breeds fear like the unknown.
What will the public think after watching all this narrow focused coverage?
That all trans have led a miserable life?
That all trans are men desperate to become women so they can have sex with men?
That people born female are immune to this problem?
This is not the only version of who or what we are. I am not alone in having a happy life, all my life, trans or not. I view it as gift, not a curse. I have no attraction to men, never hated my naughty bits and would never change them. We are of many diverse variations and no one version is the 'right' one.
The media is having a field day with transgender awareness, but I don't fit their definition, and I know that many of you don't either.