I’ve just got back from the cinema, having watched my first LGBTQ film. In it, the transgender protagonist seemed angry and resentful towards her parents for forcing her into a particular gender and sexuality from the moment she was born. The baby was dressed in blue and surrounded by boy’s toys to play with. There was particular disdain for the nurse who helped deliver her, for saying things like “oh doesn’t HE look like HIS father?”
Looking back at my childhood I guess it was a similar story, in that I was brought up ‘as a boy’ (when I wasn’t wearing my sister’s hand-me-downs that is). But I don’t think that this had a negative impact on my life at all. At such a young age I really had no knowledge of what I was wearing, let alone what it might mean to an observer. People needed a pronoun to refer to me by, and my sex dictated that it be a masculine one. If my parents had deliberately rebelled against the gender stereotypes, it would feel more like they were trying to influence my life, rather than letting me make my own decisions.
And with the toys, well I’d play with (or chew) anything I could get my hands on, be it a toy soldier, a barbie, a stick or a spider!
In the film it seemed like the main character had decided what they are now, and then was trying to retroactively fit that to their childhood. I don’t feel that this works, there was a very definite time in my life where I started to question my gender. I wouldn’t have wanted a childhood where I was forced to confront this any earlier than when it naturally happened. I needed to experience all the boy things to develop into who I am today.
Whether you are straight, gay or trans is something you discover for yourself in life. My parents were great in the fact I never got told off for crossing any stereotypical gender boundaries, and I was actively encouraged to pursue any interests and hobbies that I had. Nobody so much as batted an eyelid when I brought my first boyfriend home or wore my low-cut, feminine, purple hoodie on Christmas day.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have been in the news recently as their daughter has expressed a desire to wear boy’s clothes and be called John. It is natural for a child to experiment with different names and identities (my brother insisted we call him Sam for a while when he was younger because he had a friend called Sam). The parents in this case aren’t making a knee jerk reaction and telling the child to conform to gender stereotypes, they are allowing John to explore and find what makes him comfortable.
I agree that gender is predominantly a social construct, but the film gave a very embittered view. Maybe the protagonist’s parents were close-minded and did not welcome her exploring her gender, but I felt it was unfair to start the criticism of them at the very moment she was born. The film portrayed a very dark and tormented look at being transgender and, while life isn’t always sparkles and rainbows for me either, I found I couldn’t relate to the main character at all.
The film was billed as setting out to “explore perceptions of the gay scene, queer stereotypes, gender and identity.” I’d hoped I would come out of the cinema feeling empowered at seeing transgender issues on the big screen, and that other movie-goers would be made more aware of, and more sensitive to, the problems that transgender people face every day. Instead I was left feeling that the writer’s view of being transgender was very, very different to my own.