Thursday, March 29, 2012

In the News

Natasha and I decided several months ago that we would write a dual memoir about her transition. We thought it would be helpful to both TS and partners of TS. We plan to start it in the next couple of months, after I finish a screenplay I will enter into the Nichol Fellowship competition. It's also generally about a couple who are dealing with transition. Who knows...

About two weeks ago, I was contacted via email by a PA on the Dr. Oz show. They wanted to do an episode about MTFs and their wives. I must have spent an hour or so with the PA, and I explained a lot about the condition that she was not aware of. I also warned her about the pitfalls of sensationalizing it... like showing before and after photos. She also spoke with Natasha and both of us refused to have our kids on the show. Lo and behold, today the episode aired. It was sensationalized... complete with TS folk to offer up their before and after pictures and older children who were willing to express their shock and dismay.

I'm a bit frustrated with this community. On the one hand, nobody wants to feel like a freak. They don't want to be stared at. They don't want to be mistaken for the wrong gender. Yet, some sell-outs got themselves some spotlight time at the expense of those same fears. You know what people who watched that show will see if they see those TS folk on the street? The BEFORE picture. Plus, now the spouses have a permanent reminder of the sensationalist view of their marriage. I don't have much hope for those couples.  Some, but not much.

So then, as a member of a tiny, closed FB group, someone posted this article: "Thematic Analysis of the Experiences of Wives Who Stay with Husbands who Transition Male-to-Female." Fantastic review of a study about this, based on a previously written book about it. Generally, I found that I could identify with what the wives in the study/book revealed, but not everything. It's a bit dry, I warn you, as it is a scholarly paper, but it's worth the read for both parties. It proves that this difficult and tumultuous road can be survived, and that a smoother road can be found ahead... provided that the wife truly, utterly loves the husband for "his/her" person.

Did Dr. Oz present that?... What do you think?

Is that important?...

It is to TS folk who are in relationships they do not want to end. That's not what the Oz show was about, though. He missed the mark... a quite dramatic mark, if I may say. He would have had his ratings, much like Oprah might have had if she had handled it... maybe... but not with sensationalist perspectives. Those TS folk who were on the show... well, I hope it was the editing that did the most damage. But they were the ones who offered up those photos: items that should be kept for one's own memories and not for prying eyes. So was it the spotlight that got them there? Were the spouses thinking clearly before deciding to tag along? Was it about love? Information? Support?

Not from my perspective.

Read the article. It's great!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

So were you and Natasha on this show? What was you message that you tried to get across? Were your perspectives fairly portrayed?

Marni said...

No, we weren't contacted again. I think it was because of our refusal to show our kids on TV.

Kay & Sarah said...

It was good to stick to you guns on this issue. No, i did not see the program but it probable was everything I would expect from him.

Anonymous said...

These people thought it ws great.

http://livingtransgender.blogspot.com/2012/03/transgender-on-dr-oz.html

Meg said...

I have seen worse, but I'm glad you didn't take part.

Marni said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing that link. I've heard from others that they liked how the show handled it.

I'd like to hope that at least some of our advice to that PA sank in, but to say that it was "the best handling" of this subject is, frankly, not saying much, you know? I still maintain, from my experience and from Tasha's, that what the TS folk who, I hear, ran to the show to be on it, shared about themselves just reinforces the public's fascination with the "strange" and "freaky." Sure, lots of TS folk don't mind showing before pictures. We will never get rid of ours because they are a part of our lives. However, as I said, the consequences of sharing them go far beyond the person.

Sorry... I ramble. :-)

Yes, it was handled better than it could have been.

@Meg - Me too. Things tend to happen (or not happen) for the better, I'm starting to think. :-D

Brynne Soukup said...

Marni,

I think that our family are not sell outs. I think it is important that society see that TS folks can be a happy normal family. It saddens me to think that you don't hold much hope for us as a couple. For me I only want the best for any couple, especially TS couples going through the transition. I wish you and your spouse the very best.

Marni said...

@Brynne - First of all, thank you for not posting anonymously. :-)

Clearly, I agree with you that society understand what being TS is and that a family can survive the transition with few scars. Unfortunately, understanding what I do about Hollywood sensationalism and audience interpretation, I generally feel that there is a bit of "sell-out" in anyone who goes on a show like that without drawing some lines. Now, you probably don't think they did anything to cross a line. I do. I'm not necessarily right, but that's why I didn't pursue them. They didn't respect our desire to exclude our kids, for example (they're 4 and 6). Proves to me that they were no less hungry for drama than any other daytime show. People tend to view before pictures like they do car accidents. It's a simple disagreement you and I are having. Besides, having worked in that industry for a long time, I don't necessarily think being a sell-out is the worst thing. :-) It's just that being a sell-out doesn't gain "knowledge" for a cause. It gains notoriety.

As for not having much hope for the survival of your relationship, that's just par for the course. I don't have much hope for anything, really. I just keep moving forward and wonder what the next day will bring. Doesn't make me depressed, pessimistic or nihilistic. But having the experiences I've had with TV media and the audiences that tend to watch those shows, you've been made into an icon of "otherness" and you will be noticed for that. It can wear on people. It can rub old wounds and fester new ones. Of course, I want the best for everyone. Why do you think I'm going to write a book about this? (And of course I'll happily be a sell-out to let people know it's there! :-D) However, if you've read my other posts, you should know that I'm a realist and offer my concerns up without reservation. Knowledge is power, you know, and if there are potential obstacles I know can exist then I'm going to write about them. So no. I don't have much hope. I do, however, believe that if you are willing to work hard, you will be just fine together. That will make me happy. :-)

Marni said...

@Brynne - I forgot something. A friend of mine who is the spouse of a TS posted something recently. It was a philosophically based article about "difference." The argument is that "tolerance" is not the opposite of "intolerance." Tolerance is a close, less violent bedfellow of intolerance. Both recognize "difference" and "otherness." The only big difference between the two is that one tends to cause violence. The other causes internal, more silent hatred or discomfort. It's like when you "tolerate" your neighbors when they blast their music all day on Sunday or you "tolerate" the hot weather because you know eventually it will get cold again.

Shows like Dr. Oz can be a platform for tolerance, sure, but that's not the goal, is it? To be tolerated? No. The goal is to be a part of society that doesn't get noticed. It gets taken for granted just like everyone else. THAT's the goal. No show that wants to point out how a TS has changed physically rather than simply accept that a change has occurred and talk about acceptance is deliberately calling out the "otherness" about being TS. Most people "tolerate" otherness. They don't accept it and take it for granted.