Alright guys, just for today, put away your hatred for all that is the commercial shallowness that we all associate MTV with and listen up.

First of all, thanks to my coworker back home in Pittsburgh for tipping me off about this show.  MTV has a series called True Life, and one of my fellow waitresses let me know that there was one specifically about transgenderism called “True Life- I’m Changing My Sex.”

Verily, I was skeptical, because this is a serious topic and MTV is not exactly known as a serious network.  But I was more than pleasantly surprised at the tactful, nuanced way the show dealt with transgender young adults and the process of gender re-assignment surgery.  The first good sign was actually the title itself, which you will note says, “I’m Changing My Sex,” not “I’m Changing My Gender,” which is an important distinction which you can learn more about in my earlier article, Midnight Philosophy and Gender Identity.

There are 3 things I love about this episode, which you can watch in full on MTV’s website here: http://www.mtv.com/videos/true-life-im-changing-my-sex/1631489/playlist.jhtml

  1. The eternal positivity of the two young adults transitioning.  Both of these situations were very real and had outside factors that affected them- Elle’s mother died during the period of her transition and Teddy had financial stressors which made arranging surgery difficult.   Through it all though, both of the young adults were extremely happy about their transformations and affirmed the fact that there was nothing wrong with them- they were simply becoming the person they were meant to be. After one of Teddy’s surgeries he simply said, “I have the chest I should have been born with.”
  2. Showcasing varying degrees of acceptance among family and friends.  So often shows about LGBT (especially transgender!) teens end up being sob stories about how parents have abandoned their children and friends rejected their peers because of their identity.  In this episode, however, MTV shows what full acceptance looks like: “I remember initially feeling a sense of mourning having to let go of my son.  But I was shocked how quick and easy that was, because it was true [that Elle was actually female].  And once you realized that, you have to do whatever is necessary to make that happen. “  -Elle’s mom .  On the other end of this, of course, Teddy’s parents, while acknowledging his transgender identity, treated his surgeries as unimportant and elective, which trivialized the process of his transition without outright saying “You are wrong- you are a girl and should not do this.”  Showcasing that kind of reaction is so important for understanding the different forms of discriminationand misunderstanding that trans people can go through, besides straightforward hate and discrimination.
  3. I love, love, love that Elle went through full sex reassignment surgery and Teddy did not.  May trans people find that they are comfortable with genitals that don’t match their gender identity, and that is a much misunderstood concept for people looking at the trans community.  While I’m sad that MTV didn’t get a chance to have Teddy talk about this particular topic, at least it was showcased in general.  Trans people have options- some only cross-dress, some transition using hormones only, some have chest surgery, and others get the full-haul with sex-reassignment surgery.

“Both Elle and Ted were, as Ted said after his consultation, “full steam ahead” and had “no second thoughts” about surgery whatsoever. And their resolve made a lot more sense to us once we got to know them and realized that this was not just a medical procedure to them. This was a way to finally allow them to show off on the outside who they truly were on the inside –- and, in fact, nothing on the inside was changing.” – Producer’s notes

If you have a chance, I would highly suggest watching this short 40 minute episode.  It may open your eyes to the less sensationalist, but equally relevant, difficult, and rewarding parts of being transgendered.

Stay cool, queer kids.

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