Pity the Transsexuals

transalex's picture

I'm a bit of a media junkie. If I see a note online that there's a program on such-and-so channel about transsexuality (or frankly, anything I'm interested in), I will turn on the idiot box and watch it. I waited with baited breath for my favorite program, Law & Order, to broadcast an episode that dealt with transsexual issues (excellent!). I have watched numerous, annoying programs on various Discovery or TLC channels, hoping beyond hope that I wouldn't be completely annoyed or pissed off at the end of the show. That has yet to happen, honestly.

And let me tell you why. Every program I have watched, has had a sort of either "look at these freaks!" or "pity these poor individuals" bent to it. They will either go for the shock value, or attempt to be compassionate and instead make it seem like transsexuality is a huge burden that we are to be pitied for - like being born without a head or something. "Oh look at their horrible lives, woe is them, woe is them, don't brutally murder them because they have such a tough time of it!" Utter garbage, frankly.

I recently watched a program on TLC called "Sex Change" which talked only about male-to-female transsexuals. I thought it was fairly well done, for most of the program. It was respectful regarding pronouns, and while a bit gruesome with surgery video, it wasn't that bad. It even had this cute graphic in the corner that said "Sex Change" and from bold block type to flowing script (yay stereotypes about masculine/feminine!). But at the end, it turned bad. The narrator talked about finding a "cure" for transsexuality - realigning the brain to the body, in essence making those who are born with male bodies men, and those with female bodies women. Like curing homosexuality - take what makes them different and change it so they're normal. So you want to wipe us out, mister narrator? Shouldn't you be concentrating on the society that demonizes us? Shouldn't you concentrate on making surgeries covered by insurance? I don't want to be cured, thanks. I don't want to reassigned as a girl. Don't "cure" us. Accept us as fellow human beings, and respect us for who we are. Don't pathologize our identities and bodies.

I'm sorry, but being transgendered is not a disease, despite what the American Psychiatric Association says. We as trans people are at the point that gays and lesbians were in the 70's - being told that who we are is a disease, that we are sick, and need to be cured. We are currently pathologized, told we have a major psychiatric disorder, that we're essentially crazy because we have what the doctors call Gender Identity Disorder. The problem is all in our heads, and the only treatment currently is to reassign our bodies to attempt to match. That is incorrect, in this transman's humble opinion. What little scientific research there is tells us, and the feeling in my gut, says that this is ingrained in our brains. That would make our bodies the issue - our bodies are the ones that aren't matching what our brains say we should be. We aren't crazy, our bodies just don't match what our brains say they should be like. It isn't a mental disorder, but a physical one.

In the end, I suppose, it doesn't matter what the "cause" of transsexuality is. We've been here forever, in societies across the globe. We're here, we're trans, we're people. Don't look at us as these poor insane folks who have to maul their bodies irrevocably to live, despite what the media overwhelmingly tells you. Yes, sometimes it sucks to be trans - mostly when dealing with bigots who say we're sick or wrong, arguing with health insurance companies who won't cover our health care and physical transitions, or when we're struggling with legal systems that don't recognize our right to change the gender designations and names on paperwork. It sucks to be trans about as much as it sucks to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. We all have our fights to win, but we also have the rewards - a vibrant community, unique insights into the human condition, wonderful friends to make. Do not ever pity us. Your pity will not protect us. It will not help us in the least. It might make you feel better about getting mildly squicked, or about that sensation that maybe trans people don't belong in the queer community (we do), but it will not help me or those like me one bit.

All I want is your respect. I have no use for your pity. Pitying someone makes them the "other" that GLBT folks have always been to the straight majority. Get over it. Move on to respect, acceptance. And stop watching those awful "documentaries" on television!


vel's picture

well said

Thanks for writing this. What the narrator of that documentary said is infuriating. It drives me crazy to hear people talking of "cures" for the queer community. The matter of transexuals being portrayed mainly as freaks or as needing to be pitied is something I hadn't given much thought to; thanks for the wake up call. I think "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" treats transexuals in a non-freak non-pity way. Bernice (I think that's her name) isn't portrayed as freakish or as if something is wrong with her, and she isn't singled out as the vitim of a hate crime either. I think movies like "Boys Don't Cry" that show shocking violence toward transexuals carry an important message and fill important voids in the film industry, but it will be nice of filmmakers to also explore transexual characters leading lives as everyone else does. I think the rest of the Queer community is just starting to see gay/les/bi characters in this way in the media. Hopefully the trans characters will catch up soon and are following close behind.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Alex!
Love & Peace, Vel

RoaG's picture


Very well said.

"You should live your life as if change has happened. That's the only way it's going to happen."

-- Dan Butler, openly gay actor portraying Bulldog on NBC's "Frasier"