Internalised oppression

Watching Transsexual Summer, last night, on C4, made me wince. First, there was the shudder, as i felt so, so sorry for Drew, persuaded to get out there and apply for a job, finding herself face to face with a couple of women who, despite their initially sympathetic demeanour, harboured a fair bit of transphobia underneath.

A job interview at a bridal wear shop, where it was clear that Drew’s attitude and her expertise with make-up were real assets: then the slow crumbling. A discussion by the interviewers about whether they could “spot” Drew as trans: a totally rude comment by one about how it was the adam’s apple that was the giveaway.

The on the spot musing about whether the boutiques customers would be happy with Drew, given that they wanted to live the fairy tale when it came to their weddings – and the implied slur that there are no trans persons in fairy tales.

Oh, REALLY? Outside of Disney, Fairy tales are amongst the bleakest, bawdiest, darkest story types in the world: from Cinderella’s stepsisters having their eyes pecked out by birds, to Sleeping Beauty being raped (in some versions, by her father) while sleeping.

Somehow, i don’t think that is the sort of story that most of their brides want to dream about. Still. The point was well and truly made.

In the aftermath, many in the trans community are discussing whether the law is likely to be any help in such circs. And it would appear that the shop in question has taken down both its Facebook and Twitter presences for the time being. They are likely to regret having gone on TV.

But this is about Drew…and how, once upon a time, i was in much the same place. As, i think, many, many trans men and women are as well.

We are so used to people ssexualising what we do that we end up apologising for being us: accepting (and internalising) the projected fears of those around. I posted, a year or more back, my experience in John Lewis, where i was directed to a separate changing room.

No prejudice. No, ma’am. Just that it was “difficult” (code for: my presence was difficult), and some customers muight find it hard to accept.

Or issues around other changing rooms, where i have, in the past, wondered whether to point out how little a threat i am to kids on account of the massive amounts of feminising (and after the first few months, neutering) hormones coursing thru my veins.

Yes: that ever-present impulse to be the “good girl”. To take on other people’s fears and make them your own.

But no more. I am me: i’m a woman, as i have been most of my life. If anyone has evidence of me peering under curtains, interfering with other changing room wearers or anything of that ilk, let them bring it…and i would agree that they are right to do so.

But otherwise, they can get stuffed. Or as i couned in my “stages of transition” tweet last night:

Stage 1 – internalise and collaborate with cis prejudice

Stage 2 – realise you’re a person too and the bigots can go fuck themselves.

Have a nice day, folks. 🙂



16 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    stephanie said,

    big like. xx

  2. 2

    I think that there is a lack of perspective here…. Errrrm the cast of MTS willingly exposed themselves to a high production value bottom feeding tabloid media company. Now I don’t know if they researched the previous record of this company, possibly not it would appear. 20/20 have a history of producing sensationalised reality television which masquerades as documentary television.
    Nobody from supposedly media aware groups like TMW seem to know how companies like this operate. Situations, although to the casual viewer might appear to be spontaneous are carefully engineered to appear as they do. Do people really think that these companies spend so much time and go to so much effort for the benefit of their victims? No, not really, drivel like this is sold on the basis of generating ratings not showing their victims in their best possible light.
    In the industry I work in we are inundated with their creepy media types and received wisdom is to have nothing to do with them. Perhaps TMW would do better to advise the seriously not media savvy victims of the pitfalls of having contact with companies like this. Not being funny but they really don’t seem to realise that 20/20 mailed almost everyone I know but pumped the uninterestingly sorted people for info then dumped them as they don’t make good telly. Almost everyone else turned them down out of hand.
    Part of me feels a bit sorry for the victims but there is that point that they did volunteer for it. Most of us who’ve been around for a while know what lies in store for them. There is no point in whining when you get into bed with the devil don’t complain when you get ******. However remember that other people will have to live with the after-effects like the woman who turned up for work after the last episode to be asked ‘Do you call yourself a tranny then’. Nice and she didn’t volunteer for that.

    On the bright side though, I really enjoyed my film and would recommend it. Denis Lavant’s portrayal of Alex was both gritty and moving while Juliette Binoche was her usual fabulous self. Oh sorry, you were all watching something much more interesting 🙂

    • 3

      Sarah said,

      Boringly, I agree with everything you say Sophie, especially “remember that other people will have to live with the after-effects like the woman who turned up for work after the last episode to be asked ‘Do you call yourself a tranny then’. Nice and she didn’t volunteer for that.”

      The people who see no harm in the general use of ‘tranny” (like on Changeling Times), don’t seem to get that wider damage is being done here.

  3. 4

    Jennifer said,

    Not sure if I’ve missed something Jane. What you say is right and pretty much sums up my thoughts on the whole subject and the programme in particular. But I thought the two women didn’t actually decline Drew at the time but said they would have to think very carefully before comming to a conclusion. Was I asleep or out of the room when Draw was told no, or is that to be in the next episode. Of course being a small business they probably haven’t had any media training so they were a bit like lambs to the slaughter and oh boy, have some if our community slaughtered them. Some if the comments made, made me feel ashamed to be human. There are ways and ways. L

    • 5

      janefae said,

      you may be right about Drew not receiving a response yet. The focus of what i wrote was the attitudes in the interview, as opposed to the outcome.


      • 6

        Jennifer said,

        Agree with your take on attitudes and there are some very deep seated predudices in the UK. I recall as I went through infants and junior schools in the early 50’s (I’m a baby boomer) the heavy predudice I experianced, and it was not until much later in life that I came to understand those predudices. Simply I was an only child of a single parent (Mum), people were not interested in the actual reason for my family situation, Mum was just put down as a war whore – in reality my Mum was a war widow and I have my Dad’s medals and records to prove it. Pity he died when I was 4 month old. But the British can be very nasty with a smiling face. I did feel for Drew after that job interview.

  4. 7

    Shirley Anne said,

    I think one of those two women was being realistic but the other was being offensive. Did they not think that by employing Drew their business might even improve? No matter, what will be will be. I see the whole problem with transgender issues is that too much is made of it. In the background there is a nibbling away at the predudice, little by little, piece by piece until one day we will look back and think ‘What was all the fuss about’? I do understand what is going on and I do feel for those who are still at an early stage in their journey. Any comments I make will be superficial, time will resolve everything. We just need to be patient.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  5. 8

    Elanor said,

    What people might be missing, is that the ladies are running a business, and if they feel that employing a certain person may affect their customers, then they have a right not to employ them, regardles of who they are or their origins.
    The program “assumed” that they did not employ Drew, but we did not hear any “yes” or “no”.
    However, I’m sure that most people would not have been worried about Drew serving them, but the owners of the shop are the best ones to judge, and have the final say.

    Myself, I think Drew looks very convincing, (as she said herself that she was the best one of the group! The only thing I would say is that she does not need so many peircings, but that is only my preference!) and you would only “know” because she is being followed by all the CH4 camera crew which makes peole “wonder why”, and therefore spot things like adam’s apples… Being a Tranny (TV) myself, (and proud of it) I think most people just want to get on with their own lives, and don’t notice or even care. – Which is perfect!

    Love Elanor

    • 9

      janefae said,

      I hey where u are coming from, but legally incorrect. Otherwise it would be open season for anyone who feared their customers would not like an ethnic face behind the counter employing only true brits.

      There is much case law about employer responsibility to protect staff from risks…and that includes the prejudice of customers.

    • 10

      Elanor said,

      Whoops!!! I got Drew mixed up with Donna (with the piercings and other comment!) but I think they are both gorgeous and convincing!
      … Sorry, a blonde moment there! 🙂
      Love Elanor

  6. 11

    Any sympathy I may have intimated I may have had for this pathetic and immature morons has simply evaporated in the last 5 minutes or to be more precise during reading this pompous blog entry from the blatant self publicist Max Zachs

    Turgid waffle from someone who in actual owes every successful transsexual person in the country his unreserved grovelling apologies. I could go on and on but all I will say to this ghastly little Judas is ‘I told you so’ and don’t come looking for support from the group you have maligned for your own self aggrandisement. Enjoy Max xxx

  7. 12

    Lame excuse for an apology received from C Fail today….

    Dear Miss Hawthorne,

    Thank you for your e-mail. We are sorry to read that you have not found this programme to your liking.

    We are very sorry to hear that you feel our previous responses did not address your concerns appropriately. We can assure you that the intent of this series of programmes is not to denigrate those of the trans gender community, rather to show the challenges and on-going experiences many trans gender people face. Whilst we appreciate that this is perhaps not your experience, it is theirs. All seven contributors talk about their lives openly within the programme, which does include trans phobia. For many, this is why they wanted to take part in this series, to promote greater understanding and acceptance for trans people in Britain, we are sorry that you feel this is not the case.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.


    Grace Dawson
    Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries

    No this isn’t my experience at all! Neither it would appear to be the experience of anyone else that I know…. Lets face it it’s starting to gel that all these morons thought, as do many newbies, that they would change the world over night. In the 15 minutes I could bare to suffer the Drew character came over as well, a bit thick. Good enough reason not to let someone who appears to think drag queen make up suffices for a daytime look. I know 17 year old girls with more common. Zak Zachs comes over as a deluded self publicist with little grip on the realities of dealing with the media. Zak, if your listening, stop whining you bought this on your own head. How about an apology to all the people you have hurt (maybe it’s all that testosterone) to massage your own huge ego. When you (possibly) grow up and have the experience to use hindsight and life experience to understand what you’ve done you could be big enough to give us all that apology.

    As for C Fail, one would perhaps think they might be vaguely interested in why I am so angry. But then that would be me being naive enough to believe that they actually gave a s**t.
    Glad they ‘appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.’ then file it in the recycle bin no doubt.

  8. 13

    Lucy said,

    Sophie, yourself and Tamzin seem to be hell bent on attacking this programme and the brave participants of it all over the web, what is it you would have done differently?

    The characters in Transummer are all likeable and endearing, and from what I have seen in the way of feedback both on the web and in my own life, thats a view shared by the vast majority of people.

    Sure, it is not perfect, but the vast majority of people trans and cis agree its been good for transkind in general, from my own perspective it has stimulated sensible questions and intelligent conversations about myself/transexuals from people as diverse as the old lady over the road to my boyfriends mother, and it’s made them appreciate some of the struggles I go through that they had never even thought about before.

    It also needs to be said, that any programme needs to have a balance between watchability and coverage of the salient issues, and sometimes this may lead to certain scenes that seem a bit cringeworthy or uncomfortable, overall though, I think 20/20 the production company put it together as well as they could.

  9. 14

    Nothing anyone can say will ever convince me that this piece of simplistic reality television has done any real good for the image of transsexual people. It is obvious that anyone successful was avoided as a participant as that might have had the effect of normalising the way cis people view transsexuals. All credibility was lost within the first 15 minutes after the clearly quite stupid cast either shouted the words ‘Yipee, t*****’. Maybe you think that it is ‘just a bit of fun’. Thing I would have done differently… Dropped the ridiculous Big Brother house set up. Picked, as I said, decent role models not a bunch of kids with less real life experience than my rabbit. (Have you actually read Max Zachs blog?) The constant use in the voice over of the term ‘trans gender/ed’ seriously annoyed me. If I could pull off the trick of transing my gender just think of the time, money and effort not to mention the heartache I could have avoided. No matter what the gender bullies say it is not right to lump transsexual people in with the TV/CD/HPW/GQ ‘ others. Remember, the rest have a choice, transsexual people do not and that constitutes a very big difference.

    Feedback on the web? Well nothing like the opinions of lots such a discerning and well informed focus group. It can have the effect of pissing people off when even the slightest criticism is censored out and not answered. Did it occur to you that the ‘feedback’ you have read might be rather one sided because of this? OK I’m fine with the deletion of phobic rants but it doesn’t stop there. Cis people are in no position to make value judgements on how transsexual people feel about their representation within the media and the same goes for closet transvestites and cross dressers. This situation, my wish to make my view heard, has arisen because the cast, 20/20 and C Fail have all simply refused to enter into any sort of discussion regarding the poor representation of transsexual peoples lives. Remember that even the arrogant but fantastically naive Max is complaining vociferously about the way he was misrepresented. He thought that with his massive intellect he could manipulate a professional media company.

    My issue with people like Lewis and now the Fox character and their undignified money grubbing is that they haven’t even been honest with all the people giving them money. They could indeed challenge the refusal of their PCT’s to fund their top surgery. This is just plain dishonesty. They have ignored sensible advice and gone down a route to jump the queue off the back of their television notoriety. Please explain to me how this helps all the other people to whom this is not an option. And just in case you were thinking of using the ‘you’re just jealous’ cliché I have worked hard and have a firm solution in place to fund my own surgery which is genuinely not available through the NHS (FFS) and other surgery which I elect to travel to Thailand for.

    As for myself I now see that the self proclaimed ‘TG community’ is not discerning enough to recognise the difference between helpful and sympathetic coverage of purely transsexual issues and quantity, ie a longer version of the same old same old type of programme television production companies have been churning out for years.

    Perhaps hate is too stronger word but I dislike intensely the trans gender world and now will redouble my efforts to secure funding for my surgery in order that I can leave the ill-informed almost Stalinist ghetto that has been created by your leaders. I feel that to have a voice I have outed myself and it was pointless as many people seem too ignorant and needy to genuinely understand the issues.

    It seems most strange to me that there is now an element of the ‘Look at me, I’m really different’ from trans people. Personally I wish I hadn’t been born with what I see as a birth defect. I just want it fixed in order that I can get on with my live. I do not want to be defined by the fact that I was born male bodied, I want to be known for my achievements and not a medical condition.

  10. 15

    Lucy said,

    I respect your views Sophie, but I really don’t see that there is likely to be a huge conspiracy to remove negative comments against the programme, due too rather too much time on my hands at the moment (caring for my ill mother), my opinon came from viewing a multitude of sites with no vested interest in censoring one way or the other, and also my own experiences in the real world with real people discussing the programme.

    Quote from your post ” It is obvious that anyone successful was avoided as a participant as that might have had the effect of normalising the way cis people view transsexuals.”

    Sophie, I would be interested to know, what in your opinion defines a “sucessful transexual”?


    • 16

      I don’t think it should be termed a conspiracy Lucy simply a policy of deleting any negative comments from pages and sites the cast have control over. I’m pleased that on the whole no one I actually watched the programme, indeed I was chatting to the pharmacist as I was getting my prescription filled and his reply was that he tends to watch documentaries and not reality tv. I don’t really care what a few ditzy cis people who seem to call themselves allies as I’ve found some of these people to be actually more irritating than regular folk. You might have experiences the fawning and generally insincere ‘Oh I think you’re so fabulous crowd’. If you doubt me on this one check out some of these people on a TV contact site called TVChix.

      As for my definition of successful TS people, the definition is exactly the same as anyone really. Just to be happy and have a life, job and possibly not to shout t***** at the top of their voice at every opportunity or say to men in pubs ‘You can **** me, look like drag queens I could go on endlessly. Perhaps what I mean is grown ups and not a bunch of teenage emo ‘woe is me’ kids who’s opinions come straight from sixth form common rooms.

      On the up side, I have made quite a few friends of the sort I always wanted. They are secure, in my opinion successful, intelligent and most of all live in stealth and wouldn’t be seen dead in a trans venue or the trans big brother house. I attended TDoR on Sunday and spoke about my experiences and put forward what I thought might be a few sensible ways the transsexual experience might be put over to a few less than friendly groups I have come across and that was the last ‘activism’ thing I will do. I have severed all ties with the TG scene and am no longer interested as I seriously do think that it is it’s own worst enemy.

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