Since the airing of My Transsexual Summer and the enormous reaction it caused, both in the trans community and the wider public I have been aware of a number of other production companies who have been pitching ideas to trans people about including them in a new television show. I’ve heard from people asking for advice from me and I’ve even spoken directly to one production company, resisting their attempt to extract contact details of people who may be helpful to them and trying to find out more details about how they would represent anyone who might be involved.
Whilst I understand some trans peoples eagerness to get involved with these projects, maybe an attempt to try and emulate the success of MTS, I cannot help but be very suspicious of any TV company who is seeking out trans people to make a show with. During the run up to starting filming for MTS and throughout the production and editing process all of us involved went to great lengths to ensure that we would be shown with dignity and respect, not some kind of freak show to be made fun of. And we still didn’t get it perfectly right.
You really do dance with the devil when you get involved with TV. Trans people in the past have had to flee their homes in the middle of the night because of the reaction they received from opening up their lives to national TV cameras. I am aware of a few examples of trans folk that deeply regret their involvement with television.
My Transsexual Summer raised the bar considerably when it comes to how trans people are represented on TV but that’s not to say it was a total game changer. There still will be production companies that mean well but are just looking to the trans community to make a quick buck, to exploit us and sometimes even to make fun of us.
By all means, get involved with a television show but please approach with extreme caution. Be aware that the tone of the show will mostly be set by editors you may never meet. Take into consideration where you live, how people you have never met will react to knowing you are trans. Be prepared for a negative reaction. The night MTS went out was the most nervous night of my life, I thought I had prepared myself for idiots on Twitter laying into me, I was wrong. Some of the things written about me was really upsetting and it was a steep learning curve for me to be able to cope with that.
Seek written assurances from the production company about how they will represent you. Speak to Trans Media Watch and GIRES, ask for their help. If the production company has never heard about these groups, let alone asked for their guidance then be EXTREMELY cautious about getting involved. This is your life they are asking to broadcast to the world, stay in control.
Since MTS there have been a few shows on TV covering the trans genre and one or two of them have been quite positive but this does not mean all future ones will be. Approach any TV project with open eyes and an inquisitive mind. I am all for the trans community to be represented in the media more and wish anyone thinking of getting involved with it my very best. If anyone wants some advice please do not hesitate to contact Trans Media Watch or myself.