It’s time to stop gawk­ing at trans bod­ies

Diva (UK) - - Contents -

As I see an­other call- out from a pro­duc­tion com­pany for trans peo­ple to share their tran­si­tion jour­neys – their very in­ti­mate sto­ries of com­ing out, of hor­mones and some­times surgery – it strikes me that many peo­ple strug­gle to see our process of be­com­ing au­then­tic as a per­sonal jour­ney, as a pri­vate jour­ney.

I un­der­stand that most peo­ple don’t know a trans per­son and I un­der­stand that shar­ing on-screen is a form of sec­ond-hand, per­haps even sec­on­drate ex­pe­ri­ence but I also know, from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, that so much of our “tran­si­tion process” is al­ready struc­tured around pleas­ing oth­ers, about be­ing heard and be­lieved, and about try­ing to en­sure we’re treated with dig­nity. So much of that process, our process, is in the hands of oth­ers, literally.

Many trans folk still risk so much in the process of be­com­ing their au­then­tic selves – fam­ily, work and surgery – that I can’t help but think, isn’t it about time that the largely cis de­sire to wit­ness our process stops? Just stops.

Since the 1980s we have been treated to a whole litany of “doc­u­men­taries” that fo­cus on us as a process. Tran­si­tion­ing (ac­tu­ally a re­ally small seg­ment of any trans life) has all the mak­ings of a soap episode; fear, re­jec­tion, sad­ness, joy and oc­ca­sion­ally re­flec­tion. But trans folk are at a com­pletely dif­fer­ent stage now. We need to ex­plore our own bod­ies, pre-, dur­ing and po­ten­tially post-surgery. What’s more there’s now a greater free­dom in our di­ver­sity, so not ev­ery­one will go on to a bi­nary end­point and rightly so. But we are so much more than a frag­ile, fi­nite piece of time as cap­tured and frozen by TV.

Can you imag­ine if ev­ery pro­gramme about les­bians or gay men cen­tred on them as sim­ply peo­ple de­fined by “com­ing out”? It’s ut­terly re­duc­tive and de­hu­man­ises us, re­duc­ing trans peo­ple to a se­ries of mark­ers; told fam­ily – tick, saw GP – tick, queue for surgery – tick, so­ci­ety ac­cepts me – tick/no tick?

But just be­cause it may make good sala­cious or even em­pathic view­ing doesn’t make it right. For far too long trans peo­ple have been de­nied their in­ti­macy and their bod­ily au­ton­omy by the NHS, so­ci­ety and history. The GP who asked to see my vagina, my trans vagina, as they’d never seen one be­fore, the ther­a­pist who ques­tions your fem­i­nin­ity via your choice of clothes and the peo­ple who feel it is their right to dis­cuss where and how we should pee.

It has been open sea­son on our in­ti­mate lives for far too long. Our pro­cesses are hugely per­sonal and shouldn’t be seen as a tool to ed­u­cate the masses. That jour­ney can be ex­plored through Google.

I want to own my body, I want the se­crecy and delight of in­ti­macy so that my vagina is mine and not some­thing to be dis­cussed over a take-away meal on a Fri­day night. So that my surgery – ter­ri­fy­ing, lib­er­at­ing, prob­lem­atic and ul­ti­mately beau­ti­ful – isn’t fod­der to “un­der­stand the trans ex­pe­ri­ence”.

I’m not say­ing that trans peo­ple won’t be queu­ing to take part, they prob­a­bly will, but I am say­ing that the pro­gramme doesn’t need mak­ing. My Trans­sex­ual Sum­mer should have been a full stop. On the whole, it pre­sented a group of peo­ple go­ing through their pro­cesses with some re­spect but even then the de­sire to gawk at our gen­i­tals slipped through. They couldn’t re­sist it be­cause that’s the money shot. That’s the one that makes head­lines and punch­lines the next day.

I be­lieve that as a com­mu­nity we are en­ti­tled to keep stuff back, that in seeking to ed­u­cate we also seek to strengthen our own un­der­stand­ing of our bod­ies, our de­sires and our as­pi­ra­tions. We take pride in be­ing more than just a process.

Sim­ply put, we don’t need to keep telling ev­ery­thing to make them like us.

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