And when I heard it come on on my mother’s television upstairs, I groaned a little and half-listened to the first minute or two. And then I remembered what happened with “The Help” and decided that if I’m going to hem and haw about something, I should probably at least watch it. They started off interviewing a female psychologist who was talking about how women have been allowed to get more masculine–“look at us, we’re wearing pants”–but men haven’t really been allowed to get more feminine. Society still freaks the fuck out when the president of J.Crew paints her sons toenails. And I sigh at social conservativeness. I rally against it wherever it exists!
People were like OMG SHE’S RAISING HER SON TO BE GAY (a lot of them used more offensive terms that I wouldn’t dare repeat). People were like I’D NEVER LET MY CHILD DO THAT. I was like, *wishes she could slap ignorant people everywhere*
So what if a little boy wants to paint his nails like his mom? WHY IS THIS A MATTER OF NATIONAL CONCERN?! If I’m allowed to not paint my nails for the first 21 years of my life, then he should be allowed to experiment with painting his if he wants. Society said nail polish is for girls, society can un-say it. Simple as that.
“But what if your little boy goes a step further and actually tells you he’s a little girl?” the Nightline special asked. Evidently all hell breaks loose.
Okay. Now let me start off by saying that I can understand why this might be traumatizing for parents. Oh you had such high dreams of teaching your son to play baseball and watching sports together and buying him his first condoms and other touching father-son moments. Moms, you wanted to watch your little boy develop into a handsome man and feel proud of your accomplishments. I get it. But hey look, there’s softball, and some girls like sports, and everyone should be protected, and I think the biggest accomplishment any parent can have is knowing they did what’s best for their child. And trying to mold your child to fit your dreams IS NOT A GOOD LOOK.
It has come to my attention that transsexuals and transvestites really freak people out. I first learned this one day when I was in Atlantic City with my mother and we saw some men dressed as pretty fly ladies, and my mom mentioned something about how it made her uncomfortable. [Disclaimer: my mother is offensive sometimes. She’s also a bit homophobic. It shames me.] And I just said I thought they looked good. Then in high school I had a friend, Joe, who revealed to us after a while that he was about to embark on the process of becoming Cassie. A lot of people were weirded out by it, but I was just happy that she was finally going to be happy. At Princeton, people treat the Drag Ball like it’s such a big deal and I know guys who always crack jokes about dressing up and going but never actually do. Before you call me a hypocrite because I’ve never been either, I’ve never been because I don’t know what I would wear. Jeans and a t-shirt and sneakers is an entirely appropriate outfit for a woman. They even make female boxers. So what am I supposed to wear that is entirely inappropriate for a woman? [And how do I make the 38Ds disappear?]
Anyway, back to this primetime special. So it started off really well. The first story was about a woman of color whose four-year-old son loves to wear dresses and calls himself a “Princess Boy”. Though she tried to fight it at first, her older son encouraged her to let his brother “be happy” and she wrote a book about their family and has become an accidental activist. Some students at his preschool don’t like to play with him, and some parents are mean, but he has friends and, most importantly, seems genuinely happy. Because he still identifies as a boy, this child is most accurately labelled a transvestite.
The second story features a family in rural bumblefuck whose son eschewed things like fire trucks and action figures from infancy, preferring barbie dolls and pink tutus. When he’s ten, he finally has a mini breakdown and tells his mother he’s a girl and can’t do this anymore. Hir parents decide to let hir start dressing as a girl at home, but that isn’t enough for hir and eventually they decide to let him to to school as a girl. Jack changes hir name to Jackie, and hir older sister comes to hir 4th grade class to talk to hir classmates before she comes in. None of the kids laughed or said anything ignorant, and even their crotchety grandparents don’t disown Jackie. Jackie’s parents decide to put hir on drugs that will suppress male puberty. Everyone is happy. Success story number two.
Then we get our first actual teen, and our first look at the not-so-rainbows-and-butterflies side of this story. Vanessa was supposedly a normal boy until high school, at which point he started getting teased and having things thrown at him because he was different. Vanessa has been selling hir body as an “escort” to fund her “habit” of black-market hormone therapy and to raise enough money for top surgery (remodeling of the face to appear more feminine, reduction of the size of the adam’s apple, and breast implants) in Mexico. Against the wishes of hir mother, Vanessa goes to Mexico and undergoes a somewhat shady (but thankfully complication-free) surgery. Hir mother is supportive and welcoming she she returns, saying she is going to love her, because “that’s what she needs”.
And up until this point, I am okay with this special. They’ve shown the good and the bad, and both are needed to make an expose even halfway legit. But then, they found this fool. I don’t remember his name. He went through a normal functional male–no, I’m sorry, he called himself an alpha male–life, getting married and having kids and never having the slightest thought he might be a woman on the inside until he got divorced at age 33. Then he started hanging out around some transsexuals and decided hmm this might be cool or something. He went to a doctor, got put on female hormones, and decided to spend $100,000 undergoing fancy surgeries that turned him into a female supermodel basically. She was fucking hot. But after 7 years of life as Samantha, he realized he had never really wanted to be a woman in the first place, and spent another $50,000 to turn back into a man. And now he’s on national television saying that he doesn’t think anyone is born thinking they were born the wrong sex, and blaming transsexuality on doctors and their hormone therapy.
[This is where my respect for Nightline got up and walked out the door.] You just got finished showing us the stories of children who have, since birth, exhibited signs and symptoms of believing they were born into a body of the wrong sex and have been fighting since the earliest of ages for the right to be who they ARE, and then you’re going to let this FOOL who dropped 100 Gs on a WHIM tell us transsexuality doesn’t exist?! STFU. In fact, GTFO. I wanted to turn the TV off, but I’d committed to the idea of this post already, and I wasn’t going to punk out. But YOU JUST FINISHED SHOWING US YOURSELVES that this isn’t a whimsical desire, something someone just wakes up one day and decides to do. This is these people’s lives! But you undermined all of that by letting this fool open his mouth. [Confession: I have difficulty supporting the right to freedom of speech on the part of people whose messages spread hatred and -isms of any variety.]
They then turned to some foreign musical artist who became the youngest person in the world to fully physically make the M-to-F transition at sixteen, having to undergo all sorts of tests and becoming a big media scandal in her home country before they allowed her to make an exception to the rule that one has to be 18 to undergo the surgery. She talked about how she knew it was what she wanted, and all the support and love she’s gotten from fans around the world. I suppose her story was meant to show the social acceptability that M-to-F transsexuals can garner, but what struck me was the sort of throwaway line of hers that she doesn’t want to be known as “just that transsexual artist.” She wants to just be herself.
And that’s the take home point of this very long post, people. Transsexuals, be they M-to-F or F-to-M, are just trying to be normal people. They just want to own their bodies the way the rest of us own ours. They just want to be comfortable with themselves, and it’s ridiculous that close-mindedness on the rest of our parts might keep them from doing so. Why? Because it’s something we’re unfamiliar with? Oh-hey-look-something-new-and-different-let’s-shun-it is a mentality we as a society should have outgrown a hell of a long time ago. It’s 20-fucking-11 people–now that the technology exists that these people don’t have to suffer in a body that doesn’t feel theirs, why should we try to make them? No one would balk at someone who has been in a horrible accident getting plastic surgery. I think being born into a sex category that doesn’t match your gender is one of the worst accidents I can imagine. So get the fuck over it, okay?