In Reality

I'm not a huge fan of reality television. I watched one season of "Survivor," and have regularly watched "Project Runway" for the last four years. Oh, and while I began my transition, "What Not to Wear" was sorta helpful, even if the feminist in me now rebels at either a man or a woman telling women how to "look like women." (Hello! By definition she already does, just not the kind of woman you prefer to see!) But that's about it; generally, the genre doesn't do a lot for me.

But I guess things change. This year I've been watching the biggest bear in the woods, "American Idol," for the first time since my marriage imploded. The combination of this being Simon Cowell's last year--and I was always a Cowell fan; as a former English major, my professional training was to end up something like him, except without the money--and the inclusion of an actual queer-person-we-know-is-queer (Ellen Degeneres), instead of the cryptoqueer Clay Aiken and I-know-you-won't-ask-but-I-really-want-to-tell Adam Lambert piqued my interest. I have to say, "Idol" has improved somewhat since the third season, which was when I stopped watching; they do a lot less audition trainwrecks, and this year was notable for not having a single incident of trans-shaming during the auditions. Also, Crystal Bowersox is cool and makes me hum with hope that her love of Melissa Etheridge comes from more than just the similarities between their voices, ahem.

Hell, I even watched the grandaddy of all reality shows, the Oscars, on Sunday. Although fun viewing tip: did you know that you can miss a large part of the show, say by watching Matt Dillon be scrumptiously amoral in Drugstore Cowboy, and still flick back to the Oscars in time for the Best Adapted Screenplay award? 'Struth. And yanno, I can say all sorts of super feminist stuff about Kathryn Bigelow finally making a movie that was dudely enough to win the Oscars (not that she's dudely, or even that The Hurt Locker was especially dudely in the way it was directed; on the contrary, Bigelow was honest about men in a way I've never seen a male director be. But. The movie was still all. about. dudes.) But how can I talk about that, when there's this in the world:

From the article:

"Laverne Cox, Jamie Clayton and Nina Poon understand transformation. According to PR Newswire, the three women have teamed up with VH1 and Left-Right Inc. for a new fashion makeover show, Transform Me. Each half-hour episode follows the makeover of one woman badly in need of a transformation — on the outside and inside. The subjects quickly find out this won’t be your typical makeover, since Laverne, Jamie and Nina are all transgender women."

OK, I'm dense: but "I Want to Work For Diddy" wasn't on my radar two years ago, and anyway, having a trans person on a reality show isn't that big a deal anymore; we're like the gay folks in the "Real World" reruns from the '90s, only with a lot less flannel shirts and Hole albums in the background.

So I don't know much about Ms. Cox, except I admire her for her success and for turning her 15 minutes of fame into a full half-hour. Kudos, ma'am, kudos.

But: is it good for teh Tranz?

I'm...divided on this. I guess it was inevitable; ever since "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," there was going to eventually be another program to mine sensationalistic gold from somewhere on the LTBG spectrum, and sadly for those of us who love women...on television...(or, you know, wherever), lesbians aren't doing it for network execs. (Besides, to fit in with the horrific sexuality stereotypes of "Queer Eye," what could they possibly do? "Lady Mechanics for the Straight Woman"? "Sex Toys All Girls Would Like"? Actually, I'd have watched that last one.)

But still. It's hard. On the one hand, having three (count 'em! Three!) trans women on television at once, and none of them is either a) a sex worker b) a dead sex worker c) played by a cis woman and d) played by a cis man--well, that's an accomplishment. It's why "Queer Eye" was even halfway tolerable: gay people! On TV! Played by gay people! And everyone on the show agrees that's a good thing!

However...a makeover show? Really? Do I even have to go into what an enormous minefield that is--with the double whammy of policing acceptable feminine behavior coupled with the underlying theme about the artificiality of a trans woman's gender? Do we have to go there? Couldn't we have a show about trans lawyers or something? (I know of at least four of those, one who was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court.) Does it have to be about teh shoez?

But I'll probably watch, because there's a slender ray of hope in the write-up that this will be a tiny bit more than a makeup show. And because, seriously, when am I ever going to see that many trans folk on TV at once? I mean, besides those old light beer commercials.

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