As planned, I got back tonight (on iPlayer) to BBC3's documentary Transsexual Teen, Beauty Queen, about Jackie Green's progress at becoming Miss England as a first step in a career on the catwalk. I'd left it at the point where she was preparing for the initial selection. If she got through that, then she woud take part in another event at Nottingham, and if successful go on from there to the semi-final for Miss England at Watford.
It became clear that although deportment and an ability to move gracefully were important, the judges were impressed most by a girl's personality. Jackie did not do as well as she'd hoped at catwalking in the initial heat, but then found that she'd won the 'Miss Personality' prize, and was able to go through to the next stage after all. That seemed due, at least partly, to the interest the judges took in her personal history and motivation. This success was repeated at Nottingham. But then, at Watford, at the semi-final, she said not a word about being transsexual and made less of an impression. She explained this by saying that she wanted to be on the same footing as all the other girls, as she was after all just the same as them. Her trans history ought not to matter, and indeed if disclosing it could affect the outcome, then it would be wrong to mention it at all.
In other words, she wasn't going to play the Trans Card, and possibly win an easy advantage. She wanted to win solely on her looks, her poise, and how she came across to the judges. The narrator was surprised at this low-key strategy. It didn't succeed. Not mentioning her trans history made it hard to explain the driving force behind her taking part.
As the competition was tough, she actually did very well to come 18th out of 60 contestants, but she wasn't one of the twelve girls who went forward to the national final. What a good effort, all the same!
The last scenes were devoted to a trip back to Thailand for breast augmentation, not because Jackie's breasts were inadequate, but a larger size would help her further her career in modelling. I was touched that she'd overlooked the need to have larger tops to put on after the op. I'm not sure that I'd have thought of it, either.
In between, various little details were touched upon but not made too much of. Such as how Jackie was the target of vicious personal attack at her secondary school, and how she made some suicide attempts when it got too much to bear. How her mum took out a second mortgage to raise money so that Jackie could travel six times to the USA to see Dr Spack at the Boston Children's Hospital, Dr Spack being an internationally known transsexual specialist and one of the only doctors in the world who will prescribe puberty-blocking drugs to children. (In the UK you can't get them until you are 16, which is too late to avoid the onset of unwanted and irreversible physical changes) How Jackie went to Thailand for her genital surgery, her mum explaining with complete frankness that the puberty-blockers had been so effective that the penile-inversion method used in the UK wouldn't do - not enough tissue - and so it had had to be one of the alternative methods used by Thai surgeons.
This was all mentioned without dramatics. And no visceral hospital scenes. That made a welcome change, and enhanced the credibility and impact of the programme.
What do I take away from this? For me, the programme connected with some aspects of my life much better than any previous trans documentaries. Like Jackie, I was full of suppressed anger at school from an early age. She knew exactly why; I didn't, but I know now. Barren, wasted years. I identified with her insistence that she'd always been a girl, and what nonsense it was to say that she'd ever been a boy. I identified with her ambitions, getting on with things to ensure that there was always something to look forward to in the future.
And for the first time since I transitioned, I felt a sharp pang at not being young, not having a mum who was on my side. Not having a mum who was proud of me for what I was.
I'd had four testing years of transition. Nobody could scoff at that, who realised what it meant. I just wish my mum had lived to see me now. Then she might be proud too, as proud as Jackie's mum was.