For Your Entertainment: part II

HBO is planning a new drama series about a trans-masculine transition. Who else is worried about this?

“T” as the show is known, follows a person who is transitioning from female to male. The creators of the show are the same as those who created “In Treatment” an HBO show that surrounds sessions of psychotherapy. Charming. I’m surely looking forward to how  bunch of non-trans hollywood know-it-alls are going to portray us.

Now, maybe I’m being overly pessimistic.  Just because the popular media has a habit of portraying us as self-hating hideousos, lying tricksters, and fame-seeking sideshow acts doesn’t mean that this new portrayal will be a disaster… It just makes it highly probable.

With the growth of our movement, there is an expected growth of attention. More people will talk about us, more people will wonder about us, more people will hate us, and inevitably, more people will be fascinated with us. I never quite know how to interpret the fascination factor. Should I be flattered that my identity is so interesting? Am I a better person because I am supposed to be more complex and my story is more… entertaining?

As I wrote back in June about growing trans attention, I feel that sensationalizing difference is another form of societal oppression. Making a TV special or going on Oprah where no real information or acceptance is promoted is no different than displaying us in a cage for view. Of course I realize that tons of people and identities are put on display every day. That doesn’t make any one instance more or less acceptable. Most media representation isn’t about helping a movement, its so people can sit in front of their TV and say “Holy shit, what a freak. Glad I’m not like that.” Its so big-wig “non-profits” can get recognition by being seen as an authority as they slap a mental disorder on us. Or so a bunch of bored hipsters can ask invasive questions and claim us as friends for cool points. I fucking hate hipsters….

These people don’t care about us, they are working for their own interests. So, who’s out there working for us? It sure isn’t them. It has to be us. We have to make our own public image, and if people choose to be fascinated by us, we’ll know its because of our hot sexy fabulousness, not because of what Oprah says.

4 comments

  • I’m intensely worried about this. I’m afraid it’s going to be the stereotyped, hypermasculine-childhood-claiming, bulldyke-turned-man story. Just what we need. Another Ryan Sallans presenting an oversimplified version of transmaleness that completely betrays the variety in transmasculine culture and in turn becomes a gatekeeping tool to preserve the binary. Way to go, HBO.

  • So, this post is a year old, but I just found it and I feel that if I see my name being displayed in a comment that is referring to me as “oversimplified” and comparing me to a “bulldyke-turned-man story” then I should say something.

    With over 100 trans identities out there, we all have different stories/experiences. My story, is my story. I never identified as a “bulldyke-turned-man,” and I never portray myself as the VOICE of all trans individuals.

    How TV shows edit series or how interviewers ask questions is beyond my control and what is seen on TV is not what is seen in the talks that I travel the nation presenting.

    I refuse to feel shame in my identity and I respect all others out there. I’m proud of who I am and the people I’ve worked with from around the world. I’m proud of the work I’ve completed over the past six years in expanding health care to all trans identities at the non-profit level and in general health care systems. I hate hierarchies and do not believe in an xyz process in regard to one’s transition or identity.

    It breaks my heart to see posts from people in the community minimizing each others’ struggles and challenges that surround understanding oneself and calling others “oversimplified.”

    I didn’t plan on my life taking the route it has, but I cherish every moment and I cherish the text and emails I receive from individuals struggling and explaining how my story, visiting my website or watching me on TV helped them in understanding more about themselves and prevented some from suicide.

    All stories matter. For more representation of our diverse identities, start contacting producers and pitching ideas. I know that even for me to appear on TV was a rarity because FTM’s are generally under represented in the media.

    To each that shares their stories and takes on the challenges of living in a westernized society that minimizes all areas outside of the binary, I salute you and will fight for you.

    Ryan

  • Hi Ryan,
    I’m glad you posted this. I agree with you. Each of us has our own story to tell and I think that no human can ever have an ‘over simplified’ life story – only have it edited by mass media which is pretty much always without consent. I am very sorry that happened to you, though I am not surprised. That’s the thing, these producers don’t care about telling a compelling, honest story. They want voice clips that are shocking or catchy.

    Though there are many of us in the trans/gq community, there are still not a lot of us. That is one of the many reasons why I think it is important to value each person’s experience (edited for TV or not). We all have something to teach and we all have something to learn.

    I apologize for there being a comment here that labeled you negatively, and hope you are thriving in your life.

  • I’m curious regarding your opinion on what seems like a similar type of program (granted I haven’t seen the one you’re referring to here), a series called “Transgeneration” by the Sundance Channel. It follows four transgender (two FTM and two MTF) college students over the course of a year. And there was also the True Life trans episode on MTV.

Leave a Reply