Wednesday, 30 November 2011

MTS: lasting impressions

Well, the show's over. What will the public take away from part four of My Transsexual Summer? I'm sure the question is worth asking.

It was in many ways a watershed programme: the first major TV excursion into trans territory for half a decade, at least in the UK; the first to show so much upbeat celebration of transness; the first to show a proper selection of trans people of both types (MTF and FTM), and yet suggest that trans people are not all alike, but have different personal takes on their condition; the first to throw away the silly stereotypes of 'ex-men' who can't leave train-spotting and car mechanics alone, or flamboyant pageant queens.

We were treated to a big slice of inspirational bonding, as if the main message was that all trans people are caring and nice and unselfish, and get on well together, and are terrific company for each other. And that - in most cases - their families are loving and reasonable and supportive, and will go that extra mile. We were not presented with terminally screwed-up pathetic saddos from dysfunctional home backgrounds. We saw high-energy people with ambitions and plenty to say about themselves, and each in their own way worthy of respect. It was very theatrical, but all very positive.

And the darker aspects of trans existence were not quite edited out. There were little glimpses of bleak despair; personal losses that could not be put right as if by magic. Karen did not rediscover her daughter. Drew and Sarah both found that prejudice and misunderstanding and myth can deny you a job, or a place to stay.

On the whole, MTS successfully repackaged British trans people and made them seem extraordinary for some good reasons. If that impression lingers, then the programme makers and Channel 4 will have done the community a service. I don't personally mind if one or two of the participants find a way of exploiting their celebrity. Nor do I mind if they seek peace and quiet and an ordinary life, and never become trans activists or advocates.

There's just one thing...none of the participants resembled me. And some of the friends I know in Brighton are saying the same. If the British public now think this is how 'trannies' typically look and speak and behave, then that's certainly an improvement in general perception, but it won't quite be the truth. There is a danger that the public will not see our problems, and that the issues that beset us will never be fixed.

Perhaps we - my friends and I - may now cease to be recognised as 'trannies' at all, simply because we don't fit the new TV image. Is that a good thing? Will we mind being treated as just slightly eccentric women? And not the 'real thing'?


  1. I for one don't mind being an 'eccentric' woman, probably because I am one but perhaps not for the same reasons. As far as programs go i thought it was well presented and informative, for those who know little about the subject of course. For those like ourselves the picture will always look different but I suppose it could have been worse. At the very least it was a step in the right direction. Perhaps it would be wise for Channel 4 to instigate a follow-up program sometime in the near future, not necessarily about those who participated in this one but something to show the broarder picture and the real problems that transsexual folk face in society.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  2. I hope that My Transsexual Summer will water down the general public's ignorance of transgender people. It will always be difficult to represent a diverse community, who do you feature? I felt using 7 real people gave the programme focus. They did also thankfully appear to represent the guy next door. I enjoyed watching the programme and reading blogs like yours is a great follow-up. Thanks for writing a lovely blog.


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