Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bothersome tv portrayals of mtf trans

This is old news to some people since the show aired about 3 weeks ago, I think.

With the fall television season starting up, I needed to clear out some space on my DVR (my cable company provides a teeny-tiny amount of space in the DVR/HD cable box I have).  So, I watched and deleted the recent ABC Nightline Primetime special "(Extra)Ordinary Family" on transgendered children and teens.  The reporting wasn't too bad, although I have to say that deciding to go with a very over-used "counterpoint" example of the guy who changed and then changed back, was sort of lazy, if you ask me.  Of course it also hits an anti-science pet peeve of mine: why make it seem that one person's experience should carry as much or more weight than studies with many data points?  Why make parents worry that their kid may be "the one" who isn't really trans, instead of the far more likely possibility (after proper diagnosis) that transitioning young is probably the best thing for them?  Why not just talk to a good gender specialist who can talk about how safeguards are in the recommended clinical guidelines to prevent mis-diagnosis, or to allow possible temporary gender confusion to play out before doing anything permanent to one's body?

What killed me though was that the huge majority of camera shots were of the girls putting on makeup!  WTF?!  Way to portray us as not as normal women born with a physical anomaly, but as people who are mostly obsessed with the trappings of femininity, ABC!  These were just background images, so why not just show them doing all the normal things a girl their age does instead of focusing on what is probably a fraction of a percent of their daily lives?  As a side note - and yes this is very judgmental and I of all people should be more open - what parent lets their 10-year-old daughter (in the "Jackie" segment) put on so much makeup to go to school?  That's what, 5th grade?

On the plus side, overall the show provided the general viewing public with some reasonably healthy examples of trans kids, teens, and families.  Even the young woman engaged in sex work (which I have no problem with for consenting adults) was treated with dignity and the love of her family was the main point.  Despite the annoyances, I'm glad ABC News decided to put this on the air.  Let's hope it helps more people understand that we trans-folk aren't all that different from anyone else they pass on the street.

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