Series One, Episode One of Transformation Street aired last night on ITV is the latest in the media’s current fixation with normalising sex-change for a new generation. The plinky plonky music and the playing of ‘Natural Woman’ during vaginoplasty surgery for a man set the cheerful tone of a documentary which follows several patients through gender reassignment surgery, described here as ‘medical intervention to change their identity.’
We heard that the number of adults seeking medical transition in the UK has doubled in the past five years to 130,000. Absent any critical analysis, the documentary is essentially one long promotional video for the services of the private clinic ‘London Transgender Surgery’ where over 1,000 surgical and non-surgical treatments are performed every year. At £20,000 for a vaginoplasty, business is booming.
This is presented as the new cosmetic surgery of choice, but with less caution or questioning than you might expect from a similar documentary on the plastic surgery industry. We may question whether surgery has the power to transform insecurity into confidence, but we cannot question that it can transform a male into a female. A vaginoplasty is described as “the ultimate surgery to become a woman.” One of the many illogicalities of the transgender doctrine is that it defines ‘woman’ as an inner feeling unrelated to female biology, and yet to ‘become a woman’ takes only the surgical creation of a neo-vagina.
Although presenting no ‘angle’ or judgment, the documentary is revealing of who is transitioning and at what age. The older age-group is exclusively male, some of whom are married or mention previous marriage, all of whom have been employed in stereotypically ‘macho’ jobs: a truck driver, a track engineer, an army commando. One is a part-time dominatrix. Then we have a twenty year-old female who has been ‘living as a man’ since the age of eighteen, the only young person portrayed. This represents a reflection of today’s pattern of transition. Who is doing it? Predominantly teenage lesbians and older heterosexual males transitioning after a lifetime of cross-dressing.
The only thing that links these two groups is a new one-size-fits-all interpretation of their feelings and behaviour: the biologically impossible idea that they were literally ‘born in the wrong body.’ This explanation conveniently displaces diagnostic exploration and covers up the wildly differing motivations for taking this pathway. The older autogynephilic male who grasps the new socially-acceptable status of ‘trans’ to finally live out his fantasy, and the young lesbian who finds out on Tumblr that there is now a socially-condoned way to feel sexual attraction towards women, have nothing in common.
The idea itself is not challenged. Lauren (who is now Lucas) describes hitting puberty as ‘the worst point of my life’ and we hear of the agony caused when Mum buys her her first bra, as if this is an uncommon experience for girls. Lauren presents her completely normal reaction to female puberty as proof of being a boy: an interpretation which has been created by a society which teaches young children that being a boy in a girl’s body is a possibility. Now that ‘conversion therapy’ is outlawed, who is there to tell young women that their feelings of being ‘wrong’ are unfortunately very common?
As with all the cases we hear of children and young people, their thinking, and the thinking of the people around them, seems to be informed by an unshakable belief in gender stereotypes as immutable reality. Lucas empathises with Mum: “For you to give birth to a little girl after having two boys, picturing going shopping together, doing make-up together, getting your hair cut together and everything like that and to know it’s never going to happen…” Did no-one ever tell Lucas that some girls are not like that and that some mothers don’t expect it? Is it really so impossible today to imagine that a daughter does not have to fulfill a stereotyped role of girly companionship for a mother? Does Lucas genuinely believe that the only way to escape that role is by becoming a boy?
We are told that for Lucas ‘everything was girly up to primary school’ at which time she began to reject dresses and insist on wearing trousers, behaviour which is typical of pre-lesbian girls as well as any girl with two older brothers. We don’t know the impact of the death of her father three years ago, but trauma can be a factor in the development of gender dysphoria. However, the possibility that a trans identity may be used as a cover for deeper, more painful issues can no longer be entertained; the idea that a girl may really be a boy has become so sacrosanct that we are not allowed to question it. This documentary certainly doesn’t.
What came across so clearly was the grief experienced by family members, including the wife who had been married for only five months before finding out that her new husband was ‘really a woman.’ This was not a programme to explore issues of deception though, nor to question the idea that a man is literally a woman if he says so. The devastation to other people’s lives appeared to be irrelevant compared to the heartwarming journey of people becoming ‘who they really are.’
Double mastectomies for twenty year-olds is not a subject to present with breathless enthusiasm, no matter how ecstatic Lucas was at the results of the surgery. This documentary series continues next week with Lucas considering a skin graft in order to create a ‘phallus.’ The FtM transitioners who are documenting their surgical transitions on YouTube and influencing young girls into thinking that this is completely normal and cool, have been joined by a mainstream TV channel who are taking it to a whole new audience.
ITV needs to take some responsibility and do their homework on the subject of rapid-onset gender dysphoria in teenage girls before including them in celebratory documentaries which make it all look so normal and easy. If ITV knew the facts of the worrying and unprecedented increase in the number of teenage girls identifying as ‘transgender’ they would be more cautious in broadcasting documentaries which cheerfully promote amputation of healthy body parts as a way to become your ‘authentic self.’