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Trans people need greater visibility, but not like this

Last night, a Firecracker documentary entitled Girls to Men aired. While its purpose was to inform and educate, the show hit a nerve with some trans people across the UK.

Stonewall staff members Leng and J share their thoughts on the show.

Leng

I’ve felt rather conflicted about the documentary Girls to Men, which aired last night.

I felt its attempts to be educational and provide a platform of visibility for trans masculine people was flawed from the start with its title. Girls to Men isn’t the most inclusive, bearing in mind that not everyone who transitions to a masculine identity will refer to themselves as a man.
 

The production of something trying to be educational yet ending up being sensational is, unfortunately, a tired trope that is used when making TV programmes about trans people. At the moment, there is some improvement and better visibility but for every advance there’s something that takes us a couple of steps back. Girls to Men is an example of this in my opinion.

A transition isn’t just about surgery and I am speaking from a binary trans perspective. This means that I have transitioned from one gender to another, female to male, and want to only be recognised as a man.  For me, and a lot of other people I know, transitioning wasn’t just about the body but to be accepted and to live as who we are.

Some people don’t have any surgery.

Our history makes us who we are but we create and control what our future person will be. There are different strands of masculinity which I felt this programme didn’t portray enough of.

I feel it’s crucial that trans people are able to be a larger part of what’s being produced, especially if it involves surgery, or covers other topics that are deeply personal and can be triggering. We need to be included in production teams and consulted more actively.

The thing that is often missed about trans people is that they have unique journeys and ways of transitioning – there isn’t a step by step process, as everyone does it differently, in the same way that we are all individual. This is often what is forgotten.

J

The documentary reinforced some peoples' damaging misconceptions of trans people: that we are focussed on genitals and going through 'extreme' surgery, which is ultimately what makes us who we are.

While there were beats of personality and family stories, this was hidden behind the graphic nature of the surgery scenes. Reducing trans narrative down to shock surgery is a tired tactic that has been used to dehumanise trans women in the media for years, and it's a shame that they chose to focus on trans male stories this way.

This documentary gladly spreads the misinformation that our bodies need to be 'fixed' before we are deemed 'real' trans people. For some people, the 'wrong body' narrative is fine – but even though I've gone through surgery so that I could live comfortably within myself (yes, the mastectomy, hysterectomy, and butt jabs), I hesitate to describe my body as 'wrong'. It had to be changed, yes, but now I'm older and can reflect on my journey, I feel possessive about myself – I have a body which I've struggled hard to love and accept. My body is not 'wrong' now; it's different and it's mine in all of its complexity.