It’s quite fashionable to moan about The Media just now. Leaving aside what Mr Trump has to say on the subject, of course media companies have an agenda of their own: they need to make money. They need to get you to buy their papers, click on their websites or watch their broadcasts so that they can show you advertising.
In an ideal world, they would do these things by telling compelling stories objectively and truthfully. Sometimes, they actually do this. But it’s not an ideal world and sometimes they don’t. They pick the stories they tell, choosing the most sensational ones that will best get your attention. Or having committed themselves to a story, they’ll concentrate on the attention-grabbing details, leaving aside the more mundane matters, which may be most of the truth, in the process.
So when Big Media does Gender, we tend to get one of a few formulas. Trans people as victims – of abuse, of discrimination, of the NHS. Trans people as the subject of controversy: are there such things as trans people? Should we be allowed treatment? In dramas, we never see a trans character unless their trans-ness is inherent to the plot in some way.
Joe Public could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that trans people are all whining drama queens!
It’s not just the non-trans, ‘muggle’ public that are affected by this: trans people are too. Consider transition. The media story is that it’s long-winded, hard, painful, expensive, risky and lonely. And that your partner will leave you – that goes without saying. Why would they want to stay with a freak who’s turning into someone of the opposite gender? Not to mention what all their friends and colleagues will think about them.
But now it’s ME that’s moaning. Let’s be constructive. What can we do about all this? Well, we could recognise that we are in the age of democratisation of media. The days when media content could only be made and published by Big Media are gone – anyone can write and publish on the internet: that’s where you’re reading this, after all. I’m excited about nGendr, and other projects like it, because it’s trans people publishing their own stories, and generally doing it a lot better than Big Media usually does.
And here’s my point (finally!). Successful major feature films have been shot on digital SLRs and even iPhones. YouTube and Vimeo are packed with content made by non-professional film-makers on equipment that ordinary people can afford. I’m not a professional film-maker, but some of that content is mine.
Up till now my videos have been mainly humour. But now I want to get my teeth into something more helpful. You see, it may be true that some relationships fall apart when one member transitions. But lots of relationships fail for other reasons too: it’s sad but it’s life. Big Media love to concentrate on the conflict and pathos of the failures: that’s where the drama is. But this is not helpful to those contemplating or going through transition while married or in a relationship: all they hear of is failure, and this can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, I’ve got my own camera and sound gear out and I’m working on a film about the success stories of transitioning relationships. I want to show that they can survive a transition, and often do. I want to find out from the survivor couples why they’ve been able to stick together – what they did that worked, or what it is about them that’s enabled their partnership to survive. And I want to celebrate their success with plenty of feel-good moments: the kisses, the dancing, the smiles, the caresses: only film can really do this.
So why this article? Two reasons really: first to inspire YOU to get out your camera or your phone and show the world some good stuff about trans people to counterbalance all the negativity. More conflict, more drama and more victims are not necessary; some more smiles and laughs would be nice. And the second…
Well, I could do with a few more ‘survivor’ couples to talk to. Want to be involved? Please get in touch!
by Amanda Prosser
Trans Media Watch: transmediawatch.org