TV for the TS?

Sometimes I just don’t get around to stuff. That’s been the case with two stories I wanted to write about of late. One, a bit of personal detail, about dancing. It’ll keep – but I really need to write it up.

The second, which no doubt will have various members of the trans community excited in one way or another, is the fact that a month or so back I signed my soul away. Or, more precisely, I agreed to take part in a documentary on transition.

Its likely to be fairly mainstream, being aired on one of the ITV channels. It will also, I hope, be a bit different. Oh. It won’t be ALL different. The world isn’t ready for that yet.

Because the start point is about trying to produce something that takes a serious look at transition, highlighting some of the issues, some of the challenges to be faced when you decide this is the path for you.

There’s a lot of fly-on-the-wall stuff. A fair bit of getting inside the whole family…or as much of family as is happy to be got inside of and it will provide a perspective of sorts.

I agreed to do it because after a number of conversations, both with friends in the trans community and with the producers, I felt it would, on balance, be positive. How so? Well, it won’t please anyone whose instant reaction to a meeting of media and trans is that it must be inevitably doomed to being exploitative.

Of course it will be, in the literal sense that any contact between media and the real world is characterised by the exploiting of the raw material involved. Exploitation happens whenever I put my neck on the line as an activist, or even when I complain about abuse by a member of the public and the press picks up the story and reports on it.

Because the raw material of the press, of TV, of the internet is stories. Narratives. In that sense, we haven’t moved on very far in almost 3,000 years. 800 BC was it, when Homer – or whoever the guy was really – told stories about the Fall of Troy and the exploits of that notorious cross-dresser, Achilles?

Those who see the job of the media as somehow or other telling the truth are doomed forever to be disappointed. That really is not its role. The media likes stories. That which is unusual will always feature highly. Within that, the story-tellers like characters that take on certain clearly defined roles within the action.

At the end of the day, those who complain about press coverage of “trannies” need to decide: are we demanding some sort of embargo? A total news black-out? Or do we accept that we are fit subjects for the myriad stories that go the rounds. Fairly obviously I go with the latter.

Why? Because the only way that the majority of the population is going to learn about us is by hearing stories about us – and the more those stories are ordinary, everyday, normal, the better.

What I hope this documentary will do is show that we are people, too. That no matter how different our journey, we have families, friends, communities within which we function – just like everyone else. That for all our difference, we are as much part of the human race as everyone else.

High-flown? Yep. I have every expectation that the documentary will fail to live up to idealised trans perfection. Still, right now, I have a fairly strong hope – a belief, even – that some degree of normality will shine through the imperfection and the overall message will be positive.

Ask me again in six months whether I still think that has happened. I’ll let you know.



4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Accepting that there will be a narrative is realistic. You’re probably in a much better position than most potential subjects to make sure that it’s the ‘right’ story that is told. Good luck with it, I think it will be great.

  2. 2

    Lucy Melford said,

    Is this the Wild Pictures production for ITV1? I exchanged emails with Assistant Producer Rachel Tierney about a month ago. Nothing came of it – they probably had many better people to select from, and may have thought me untypical or simply unsuitable (Rachel had looked at my blog).

    But I can look forward to seeing you on TV then?


    • 3

      janefae said,

      It is indeed. They are lovely people and not, as far as my own antennae tell me, out to trick or sensationalise. Kim is very interested in explaining the “phenomenon” of transition more widely, and we have had a number of discussions as to where to draw the line between trans sensibilities and using language and an approach that will communicate to the greatest number of people what this is about..

      Or to put it another way, I suspect the purists will hate it – though they would anyway – but if you believe, as I do, that as a group we seriously need exposure in normative surroundings, then my hope as of right now is that this will help.

      Sure. I could get stuff wrong. But if anyone is going to get their fingers burnt, I’m a good candidate, taking a pretty robust view of being “out” and having already had my fair share of embarrassing media attention over the years through being political and a media bod to boot.

      As for whether and how much of me you’ll see on TV…think that will depend on what get’s left in the edit suite. 🙂


      • 4

        andrea said,

        edit suite? as opposed to cutting room floor? or would that have brought confusion seeing as there’ll definitely be less of you come the end of filming 🙂

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