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July 14th, 2007

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01:52 pm - Hopeful Signs On Trans Issues
Since getting Tivo a number of years ago, I no longer channel-surf, but teaotter does, and in this case it was a good thing. We just caught this MSNBC special "Born in the Wrong Body" It was quite impressive for mainstream media, and also fascinating in comparing it to earlier, similar specials. The focus was mostly on teens and people in their early 20s, and featured some excellently hopeful info about several teens having gone on hormones when they were 15-17, which is definitely a far better time to do this than 20s or 30s. It was also interesting in how the documentary constructed a story of trans people based on 5 or 6 segments on different young people (split equally between FtM & MtF). These are people who are (as the title of the segment indicates) who are "born in the wrong body", who have all known this from when they were quite young, and who universally came out as lesbian or gay a few years before they came out as trans.

This special greatly resembled similar specials from the 1980s which talked about growing up gay or lesbian, including the confusion, secrecy, the problems with lack of acceptance (either temporary or permanent) from their families... In both cases (being queer in the 80s, and trans now) is very confusing for teens, it is strange and jarring to others, and in general, it is very difficult. OTOH, it is equally clear that in large cities (and they only talked to people from large cities, mostly NYC & LA) coming out as gay or lesbian teen is clearly vastly less of an issue now than it was 20-25 years ago, especially on an internal level, because these teens now have a map of the territory - they have positive images and role-models and know what being gay or lesbian means, in a way that most teens 25 years ago did not, and in just the same way that most trans kids now don't.

In any case, I was very pleased that the special showed trans people who were both rich and poor and middle class – one girl had been thrown out by her family and was clearly very poor, and one boy was living in Beverly Hills and at 16 was already on hormones and had gotten upper body surgery - most were in-between. Also, the show briefly addressed both the lack of insurance coverage and the fact that it is considered a mental illness, and the problems many trans people have with this ideas. In any case, while the special was not perfect, it was a good introduction for mainstream America, and most importantly to me, it showed vividly how much progress has been made, at least in the more progressive and urban sections of the US. All of the action those of us who were active in the queer community in the 80s and 90s paid off, and we have made life better for young people today. If you were part of that, be proud, I know I am, and my own efforts were very modest indeed – a dozen or so marches, some phone calls and letters…
Current Mood: pleasedpleased

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:July 15th, 2007 02:53 am (UTC)
Thank you for that link. I'm going to be teaching a unit on Social Justice during the upcoming school year and I'm going to try to check out that special and see if there's anything I can use.
[User Picture]
Date:July 15th, 2007 07:08 am (UTC)
I hope that works out, that would be very good indeed.
[User Picture]
Date:July 15th, 2007 12:17 pm (UTC)
That's really cool, though one bit of it gives me pause.

Admittedly anecdotal evidence, I'm wary of it being easy/encouraged for people to transition, particularly surgically, in their teens. Personally, I know two men that came out to me as both gay and MtF in their mid to late teens, that later changed their minds. One of them was clinically depressed, and eventually figured out what he actually wanted was to be was a drag queen. The other had been abused by an older man as a teenager, and was generally all turned around about who and what he was, period. We lost contact, but last I heard he was living as a man, and had a girlfriend.

I have no idea how common this is, my own experiences could just be a blip. Still, I do know a lot of teens struggle with questions of identity, orientation and not feeling quite right in their bodies, for reasons other than being transgendered. As teens also have a tendency towards going for dramatic, sweeping reasons for their problems, it seems prudent not to make any permanent changes until they have matured a bit more and better understand themselves.
[User Picture]
Date:July 15th, 2007 07:36 pm (UTC)
I'm fine with having people wait for surgery, but many of the effects of hormones are reversable, and getting transsexual and transgender teens hormones when they want them is honestly a way of saving lives. The suicide rates for trans-people are shockingly high.

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