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November 22, 2011 2:46 AM   Subscribe

Channel 4 in the UK recently began broadcast of their new reality show My Transsexual Summer. The first TV show of its type to have been produced with consultation from Trans Media Watch, MTS follows Channel 4's signing of the Memorandum of Understanding earlier this year. Response has been largely positive, but not everyone was happy.

In the first episode, the participants referred to themselves as "the magic tranny seven", which sparked much irritation and anger on Twitter. Many people took them and the producers to task, asking why a word with such a controversial history was so embraced. One of the participants, Drew, talks about her feelings on the word here; Max, another participant, also speaks up.

You can watch episodes one and two on Youtube and on Channel 4's website (links likely only viewable in the UK). Episode three airs tonight; expect much Tweeting under the hashtag #transsummer.
posted by ArmyOfKittens (35 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some people -- including several of the cast -- have been having fun imagining what it could be like if a bunch of trans people got together and made their own Trans Summer. Also, here's a not-viewable-in-the-UK clip from a morning show.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:47 AM on November 22, 2011


I've seen some hype about this, but I'll admit I haven't watched it, because these types of things always leave me feeling really conflicted. It's nice to see trans people getting air time as people - and not as the punchline in transphobic GOTCHA!-style sleazy daytime talkshow bullshit ("YOUR GIRLFRIEND IS REALLY A MAN!!! Next after these commercials!") - but, as some of the commentators you've linked mention, it usually ends up being presented in this really... I don't know, stereotype-reinforcing, "this-is-the-only-way-to-be-trans narrative"-reinforcing, stuff like that kind of way. There's rarely space for women who aren't really femme, or guys who are femme. (That's a problem common within the trans community as a whole, really, so of course it's even more common from or when speaking to people outside the community...)
posted by titus n. owl at 3:00 AM on November 22, 2011


Aye, the whole DIY Trans Summer thing is a reaction to that: trans people who aren't femme women or average dudes want to tell their stories too! It's possible that something Youtubey might come of it if the enthusiasm holds.

It's notable, though, that Donna says that she doesn't consider herself to be male or female, but something else, and that if she was offered a pill to make her cis, she wouldn't take it because she loves "being a tranny"; I've seen that described as a landmark moment for non-binary ID'd and non-stealthing trans people.

I watched it and enjoyed it very much; it was hard not to be charmed by the people they picked. Be warned, though, for people seeking this out online: episode one contains (towards the end) footage of surgery (as every TV doc is contractually obliged to) that is repeated at the start of episode two.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:16 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I kind of watched this from between the cracks in my fingers. I have to say it was considerably better than I expected it to be. It was certainly enjoyable - though, yeah, with any mainstream coverage of trans issues there's always going to be a high percentage of what you might call 'exposition' - which covers the ZOMG BOOBS ON A MAN end of the spectrum of conceivable topics. It would be nice to imagine that there could be a show about this topic that didn't have to account for either the 'nudge, nudge' mindset or what you might call the 'logistically curious'.

Datapoint - I was reading Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds while it was on - so my take on both the show and the book might be a little skewed.
posted by Jofus at 3:21 AM on November 22, 2011


There are a lot of really very valid criticisms of the show, but that's a lot of detail to go into. However, a few of the participants are deeply unhappy with what exactly they compiled from the footage, and are calling for channel 4 and the production company to show a little more responsibility.

I will of course be continuing to watch this series, but I won't be risking my life with the trans documentary drinking game...
posted by Dysk at 4:03 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw the trailers but was initially not going to watch the show then after seeing lots of positive reaction on twitter, gave it a chance, ending up watch the first two episodes back to back and being rather late to bed.

Max made me laugh loads and I learnt more about trans men. It was great to see Donna saying she wasn't considering bottom surgery and that being presented as OK. I think this is the first time I seen a television programme break out of the normal narrative and show more of the diversity of trans people. I don't think it was perfect but it was an improvement on everything else I'd seen.

I'll be watching the rest of the episodes as soon as they appear on 4OD.
posted by Z303 at 4:27 AM on November 22, 2011


Rejected ad campaign:

Transgenders: More than meets the eye
posted by Renoroc at 5:04 AM on November 22, 2011


Are there any links viewable in the not-UK parts of the world?
posted by sonika at 5:11 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


sonika, Max has a link to the first episode up which should work outside the UK
posted by Z303 at 5:15 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The link is a link to a torrent, which is awesome for those of you who can download torrents.

Personally, I am not one of those people as I live with the most paranoid man on the planet and the second I do something like that, he's convinced the Feds are going to come to the house and steal his harddrive. And possibly also his brain judging by the distress this very idea causes him.
posted by sonika at 5:30 AM on November 22, 2011


Send me a memail; I think I can rustle up something non-torrenty after work tonight.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:32 AM on November 22, 2011


Another option is to make channel4.com think your in the UK
posted by Z303 at 5:33 AM on November 22, 2011


It would be nice to imagine that there could be a show about this topic that didn't have to account for... the 'logistically curious'.

I think part of the problem currently is that the education gap is so very wide that any show about trans people intended for a mass market audience is going to spend a lot of time covering the basics. I strongly suspect general knowledge around trans people of being about where it was for lesbians and gay men in 1950*. There is a lot of "But... how does that... work... exactly?" involved here. I'm frankly delighted there's any subtlety at all in this show.

*Or, you know, today.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:27 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


DarlingBri - totally. And, I have to say that even as a man of the world, I shared the whistle of surprised admiration when matey dropped his keks to reveal a penis so aesthetically perfect that it wouldn't have looked out of place on a renaissance statue.
posted by Jofus at 6:30 AM on November 22, 2011


DarlingBri, the problem is not so much the basicness and simplicity as the reductionism, misunderstanding, and offence. The turns of phrase of the narrator, the erasure of identity, the lack of context provided, etc, etc...
posted by Dysk at 6:34 AM on November 22, 2011


I've enjoyed the show overall, but it does veer wildly between fascinating discussions of the issues faced by the participants and completely stupid telly stunts - it's like the producers couldn't decide whether to make a serious doc. about the group or a 'Woo-hoo! Look at these peculiar people!' piece of trash and ended up doing both. The disconnect between the lurid narration and what's actually being said by the participants is especially jarring.

Re: tranny - that controversy would've been a complete non-event if any of the participants had been given a minute to explain their use of the word, and their awareness of why it's problematic depending on context (something they've obviously thought seriously about going by the blogs and interviews linked above) but the producers just unthinkingly (or deliberately?) dropped in footage where it was used.

Some people -- including several of the cast -- have been having fun imagining what it could be like if a bunch of trans people got together and made their own Trans Summer.

I'm now imagining a remake of the series where the production company hand over the raw footage to the subjects and stick them in a studio with a skilled editor. Scripted by Max, narrated by Donna, ideally!
posted by jack_mo at 8:03 AM on November 22, 2011


Thanks for the drinking game, or else I probably won't be able to watch it.
posted by Theta States at 8:10 AM on November 22, 2011


jack_mo: Re: tranny - that controversy would've been a complete non-event if any of the participants had been given a minute to explain their use of the word, and their awareness of why it's problematic depending on context (something they've obviously thought seriously about going by the blogs and interviews linked above) but the producers just unthinkingly (or deliberately?) dropped in footage where it was used.

From reading Max's blog, I gather that the participants had a long discussion of the matter on-camera, but this footage was omitted from the final product. It seems that there were a lot of questionable decisions made in the editing room in particular.

None of this would be as bad, and it would be far easier to applaud what the documentary does well, if it weren't for the way Channel 4 pushed it, claiming a new, revolutionary, unstereotypical, sympathetic documentary. That's certainly not what it is.
posted by Dysk at 9:37 AM on November 22, 2011


Is there a British/American difference in the use/misuse of "tranny"? As a casual transvestite, it does not offend me too much. Of course, I've never really seen it yelled with hatred like the F- or N-words (which I've heard far too often.)

I can see how it's more offensive when used for "transgender" (as in "look at the silly crossdresser" when it's much more than that) but I've always thought the usual connotation was "transvestite," and it was in the same realm as "sissy" as in "hey, that's offensive, no wait a minute, i kinda like that term." (I actually consider myself transgender as well, I think. It's confusing.)

it is definitely not OK for non-trans people to use the ‘T’ word but the debate remains as to whether trans people are allowed to use it, and for me as an anarchist there is a larger issue here of whether anyone gets to tell me what to do...

I smell a large load of cognitive dissonance. I prefered Donna's response. It all depends on how you use it.

It's notable, though, that Donna says that she doesn't consider herself to be male or female, but something else, and that if she was offered a pill to make her cis, she wouldn't take it because she loves "being a tranny"; I've seen that described as a landmark moment for non-binary ID'd and non-stealthing trans people.

Interesting. It was pretty non-epiphanic for me. I figured it out pretty early, I guess. I identify mostly as female, but have no desire to change biologically and 99% of the people who know me would never guess (I likely overestimate a bit).

Anyway, I wouldn't take the pill either. I never really got the binary thing. I blame Free to Be You and Me for my gender fluidity.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:01 AM on November 22, 2011


I just wanted to pop in and say that this tread has made me glad that I am not the only one who cringes at the thought of TS/TG documentaries. I am going to try to force myself to watch that first episode and see if things have changed.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:20 AM on November 22, 2011


mrgrimm: "Is there a British/American difference in the use/misuse of "tranny"?"

Not as far as I know -- as many of the transsexual people I know who dislike the word come from over there as over here. A lot of it is, like you say, because many of those people have had it thrown at them many times over the years, sometimes with violence. I am not personally bothered by the word either way, and I've certainly been known to throw it around, but I've never been called a tranny with malice by anyone who isn't just some wanker on the internet.

It was pretty non-epiphanic for me.

It's more that it was someone talking about non-binary ID on television, on a heavily-hyped show on a mainstream channel.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:25 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think "tranny" is like "queer" or "nigger". An initially derisive word that has been co-opted by the target group in order to take away/take back it's power. I don't like to be called a tranny but then again I'm not really keen on being called a transsexual and being called transgender makes my eyebrows go all funny. But then again, if you get me drunk enough and I'm in the right kind of bar, I'll call you all trannies shortly before I fall off my seat.

do not get me this drunk
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:35 AM on November 22, 2011


Poet_Lariat: "do not get me this drunk"

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:39 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think the big thing for me with this show, for all its faults, is that it's the first time I've ever seen a bunch of trans people on TV, together, talking with each other, laughing with each other like it's the most ordinary thing in the world. Which it is, of course, but you never see that on television: we're always struggling to make our way in a cis person's world. Which yeah, sometimes, but I am not the struggle: I'm a bubbly, fun, cheerful person who likes a laugh and a drink. I often find I'm not able quite to be myself when surrounded entirely by cis people because there's always that awareness of the eye of the other: it may not be judging but it probably doesn't really understand, and stopping to explain yourself every two minutes kinda puts a damper on things. With other trannies, queer people, and the like, I'm able to push away all the barriers that in the everyday world keep me safe and save me a lot of awkwardness. My Transsexual Summer put that, among other things, on TV for the first time that I've seen, and maybe helped push away some of those barriers a little bit, for good, for everyone.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:49 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I haven't heard much pushback on this side of the Atlantic about "tranny" from my transfriends, but I'm admittedly not someone who would use the word nor do I really spend much time with people who aren't at least passingly aware of GLBTQWTFBBQ politics.

That said, I really haven't heard the word used much at all ever - which might be a cultural difference as it seems to come up at least occasionally in the UK. (Dunno about Australia.) "Shemale" and "He-she" are the slurs I've heard the most often.

Again, could be that I just don't know the "right" (or rather, wrong) people.
posted by sonika at 11:38 AM on November 22, 2011


I think the big thing for me with this show, for all its faults, is that it's the first time I've ever seen a bunch of trans people on TV, together, talking with each other, laughing with each other like it's the most ordinary thing in the world. Which it is, of course, but you never see that on television

Wait until they make it to the Gladiators episode! Who will fail the wacky challenges and be the first to be eliminated???
posted by Theta States at 12:32 PM on November 22, 2011


Who will fail the wacky challenges and be the first to be eliminated???

That's already happened on British telly, pretty much - Nadia Almada, a trans woman, won Big Brother back in 2004.

The latest episode is on Channel 4 just now - same mix of daft (jujitsu lesson!) and really interesting discussion. (If I was playing the trans documentary drinking game, I would be completely off my face by now.)
posted by jack_mo at 2:33 PM on November 22, 2011


The series so far appears to have been Youtube'd.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:39 PM on November 27, 2011


Any follow-up reviews/critiques so far?
posted by Theta States at 5:50 AM on November 28, 2011


Julie Bindel is apparently preparing one, having declared that trans people haven't done the right critique of it yet. I'm preparing my handbag.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:17 AM on November 28, 2011


The worst part is quite how much My Transsexual Summer has given Bindel to sink her teeth into - it plays right into some of her critiques in what it chooses to show, and how.
posted by Dysk at 12:31 PM on November 29, 2011


OK I decided to watch this. In the first five minutes it was clips of them getting dressed in various outfits, and revealing that they were all spending the summer together in a house.
And then I was done with it.
posted by Theta States at 2:15 PM on November 29, 2011


Dysk: "The worst part is quite how much My Transsexual Summer has given Bindel to sink her teeth into - it plays right into some of her critiques in what it chooses to show, and how."

Yeah, twitter was full of groaning last night when one trans woman, fresh from surgery, announced she was done with being a lorry driver and wanted to be a secretary.

But you know what? Fuck that and fuck Bindel. I said on twitter the other day:
I hate the idea that transitioning trans people should be luminously perfect political beings, striking down oppression, refusing validation. I have the luxury of being able to reach out and argue against oppression from my ten-years-done, perfectly-passing pedestal. My need for validation and confidence is over. I still have to rely on the spellchecker for "pedestal", though.
And, the deficiencies of packaging thoughts into 140 character chunks aside, I feel that even more strongly after watching the last MTS on 4OD last night.

Karen is a late transitioner. She lived most of her life as a guy, so much that she'll be 80+ before she's lived as a woman longer than she lived as a man. Throughout that time she's been dealing with the headfucking horribleness that comes of being pre-transition as well as absorbing all the worst gendered shit the world can come up with -- and from her stories she has had very bloke-centric jobs and has had little chance to get away from that and establish her own space, her own personality. In many ways -- and I hope I'm not patronising, I'm largely extrapolating from what I saw on screen and the way I felt pre-transition -- now that she's finally out of all that she has the chance to get on with the sort of personal growth that most people start in their late teens.

On top of that, she has no family ties, because of her transition, and recent attempts to contact her children have fallen flat. If Bindel or any other agenda'd commentator wants to mock her for her oh-so-feminine preferred profession (and btw any cis women secretaries out there? Yeah, I hear you're enemies of our gender too. You should quit and get jobs as newspaper columnists immediately) in the midst of all this then they've shown themselves to be so laughably callous as to be not worth listening to; their theories just parched paper unable to withstand the practicalities of life; their ideal-world revealed to have sanded-off edges where all the people who didn't fit were scraped off.

Fuck. Bindel.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:11 AM on November 30, 2011


I was referring less to the choices some of the participants made (I agree with you that it's incredibly common to hold trans people to both a higher standard of gender role conformity and non-conformity at the same time) so much as the way so much of the program was constructed and set up. I suppose it's to be expected of a mainstream doc, but to say that MTS was very focussed on bodies would be an understatement. Added to this, it seems footage was very carefully corralled in order to give the 'right' impression, with several participants feeling their identities had been practically erased in favour of making them 'fit' as what they're 'supposed' to be. However, unless you've read Maxwell's blog, there isn't another side to see, and it looks an awful lot like people are being careful to do everything 'right', while the very notion of there being a 'right' is offensive, and is likely to set Bindel off. There's just no need for it.
posted by Dysk at 3:52 AM on November 30, 2011


Yeah, I kind of got into a bit of a rant. We're out of coffee, which may have something to do with it :)

The funny thing is that they squeezed in a tiny little bit of what you're talking about in the final episode: there's a bit where they're talking over the dinner table about their trans identities which made me sit up and take notice because it was about the first bit of lucid conversation they'd shown that wasn't about the mechanics of passing or transition.

I'm certainly not going to browbeat anyone into watching MTS, nor do I think people should like it; I was charmed by the participants but still found myself wincing at the editing and the VO. But I do think that it's provided the necessary intermediate step, the "trans 101" of TV docs, that the wider discourse in the UK really needed. I saw in the hashtag for the show -- amid the usual posturing I'm-so-straight-jail-the-trannies bullshit -- not just sympathy and empathy but also a surprising amount of anger from many cis people, that trans people have to put up with so much crap, that so many families abandon sons and daughters. Next time the subject becomes relevant for the people watching -- whether because of pending legislation or just conversations among family and friends -- I really believe we're going to see the positive impact this show will have had.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:13 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


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