MTS Ep. 4 – It’s a Process, not an Event

The final episode of My Transsexual Summer aired last night, and I was able to get to watch it despite being on the road. Public reaction is still very heartwarming, though there were a few people on the hashtag last night who had clearly come spoiling for a fight. The usual rules apply, don’t feed the trolls.

Something that people may not be getting from the programmes, however, is that transition is very much a process, not an event. There are many ways in which that is evident, but an obvious one is appearance. Some of the comments I was seeing were along the lines of how, for example, Lewis and Donna look very convincing, but Sarah and Karen don’t, and therefore never will do. Partly that’s age, of course, but it ignores the very real changes that happen during transition, some of which take many years to unfold. You can get a glimpse of that by seeing the changes in Sarah from episode #1’s “bad tranny” to the much more elegant and self-assured person in episode #4. Some of that will have been a result of help and advice from her new friends (remember, many trans women have to learn make-up, fashion and so on by themselves – they don’t get to learn from mothers, sisters and school friends). Much of it is simply the self-confidence she’s gained from finally being happy about herself. But in the years to come hormones will make a big difference. Your appearance really does change.

By the way, one of the really cruel things about the way trans people are currently treated is that some medical people required them to live full time in their preferred gender for a couple of years before they will allow them hormones. That makes the process so much more difficult. And I see that Sarah has started a donations page to help her afford treatment. You can find it here.

Transition is also a process from the social acclimatization. Karen was getting a bit of flak last night for wanting to get a job as a secretary, having had very “male” jobs beforehand. I’m sure that Julie Bindel will have a field day over it when she finally gets to write about the series, and she’ll claim that all trans women are like that. Well of course some women never become feminists either, but many do, and that tends to be a result of experiencing life as a woman in a male-dominated world. It takes time for some trans women to process that experience, but process it most of us do. I’m sorry if this bursts your little prejudices, Julie, but actually there are very few things more likely to convince one of the necessity of feminism than the loss of privilege that happens when you transition from male to female.

Of course a common feminist idea is that women should try to break into male-dominated environments, and the fact that Karen wants to move away from that into a more female-dominated environment looks like letting the side down. But women who do work amongst men know that it can be rough. What they don’t necessarily know is what utter shits some men can be about women when they think that no women are around. Karen will have heard stuff that most women don’t, and I don’t blame her for wanting to get away from it for a while.

The process also affects family as well. It was lovely to see Lewis finally establishing a close relationship with his dad last night. Transition can be harder on families than anyone else. There are many reasons for that, but one is that they care about you and don’t want to see you hurt. Sometimes you need to prove that you can make a success of your new life, rather than end up selling your body for drugs on street corners, which is the life that tabloid newspapers want us to believe all trans people lead.

Anyway, that’s a wrap on the series for now. I rather hope that C4 decides to re-visit the cast in a year or so, because life isn’t just about transition, it is mainly about what happens afterwards. I think it will help a lot to show the audience how our seven new celebrities get on with their lives. It will make a big difference to have TV showing trans people doing something other than transitioning.

Oh, and did you see how steampunk Fox looked last night? One of us? I think so.