Trans Cinéma vérité – A style that haunts our archive like a ghost in the machine – FFS Cheer up!!!

Trans Cinéma vérité – A burgeoning YouTube style that haunts our archives like a ghost in the machine – FFS Cheer up!!!

Youtube is a great space for people to upload their own stories, this is clear from the YT mega Vlogger Jenna Marbles – course if she wasn’t pretty would anyone watch?

From that we can glean that you either need something really weird or something really sexy to make it on YouTube! Transpeople are still classified as weird by society so they are quids in!

But when you make videos about others, this changes things, for a kick off you do not know how those people who are excited now may feel in 10 years when trying to be taken seriously. Many a social network photo has come back to haunt their poster. Almost all shots of criminals seen in the media are lifted from their Facebook pages and pasted onto the tabloids – usually they select the ones that make them look the most creepy!

Trans Videos

These days transpeople still only fall into two camps, ‘Look at me!’ or ‘Look at them!’

Look at me covers pornography (transpeople’s low status globally has resulted in this being their only way to make coin!). Look at me also covers Vlogging, we are doing that too, but very carefully edited! Look at me also is a way to be heard. People listen to someone pretty – why this is the case goodness only knows(?), but as Nixon sweated buckets in front of Kennedy who was coiffured and made up – I think we all kinda know the score there, even if they are idiots, people listen to beautiful people which in turn makes them idiots. This is dangerous for transpeople, as they are often vulnerable, or ignorant to what is about to happen. So agreeing to be on television or in the papers at this moment in their lives can be seen as exploitative. Or the people involved are already ‘out’ and have nothing to lose, and use their own successful outcome as leverage in this 15mins of fame world. But this ‘devil may care’ cavalier attitude from filmmakers could actually be like ‘grooming’ people to take part in projects without really thinking it through – just so they have something to put on their YT channel. I am not suggesting this is the case but it is possible.

Nothing new under the sun!

It has all been done before, and better (in part down to being better funded and at that time, original), docu sound bites, or little video shorts similar to, where someone sits down and give an opinion on something, or a brief voxpop glimpse of their lives are a media staple. These are all the rage (still!) from MyGenderation on YouTube, to the longer but identically, styled and scored ‘Me, Doug & Meg’ available on Vimeo.


Why is there a raft of depressing trans films being made – and they are all so depressing. This should be a time of celebration, there seems to be a desperate need to feel downtrodden, almost as if having opportunities which were hard fought for by trans elders are not worth a jot. If you are young radical and angry, having a cushy life just doesn’t cut it, the very fact you can see a doctor for free, and get a referral for free, to a clinic that’s free, and then get free surgery, and have legal protections, is a dreamworld to most of the planet! So there is a desire to emphasize misery – as that’s what sells. There are no happy stories on the news and that works – so why not for the trans community?

Happiness has less ‘currency‘. So why the dark depressing feel to these films? This is partly down to film schools, the cost of music and the cost of the rights to use it. This leads to ‘home-made’ music which is probably better left out completely, so many often opt for piano as even a second rate pianist can twinkle out something, but that’s so DEPRESSING! There are no laughs, transpeople today on YouTube are the most depressing subculture there. At least we try to raise a smile in our Vlogs (when we are not reporting deaths of course).

Admittedly if someone dies then that’s sad, but we managed to find some laughs from the Late Chrisie Edkins and try to turn it around. Isn’t it time to stop the ‘wobbly’ digital SLR camera style, buy a tripod and lastolite reflector wait for the sun to come out and FFS cheer up?! Its little surprise parents are terrified for their trans offspring.

Fast-track to the tabloids –

Many of the new raft of YouTube cameos are almost like a pick n’ mix for lazy journalists looking for a story. The other major problem is the most do not want to be filmed or even identified (we go more into this here), thus we end up with what is for the most part ‘Brighton-centric’ skewed view of the world, that makes no sense other than perhaps in Canal St, Manchester or SoHo in London. Transpeople are diverse and geographically isolated from one another, unless it is identified at birth, most will carry on and accept the burden and ‘crossdress’ in secret.

I found the MyGenderation videos shot on digital SLRs HD very good quality, but there is just this depressing undertone to them – we know here that people have a voice with a DIY approach, but often those with the best life experiences do not always want to be identified or filmed (or even recorded on audio) as a million trans text bloggers with fake avatars demonstrate, and even then far more never type a word – this is a disconnect that needs to be solved. The confident can actually precipitate and exacerbate gender dysphoria as the viewer can feel physical pain watching successful transpeople on camera – that’s a debate for our support group which you can find out about more here in our show notes another day.

YouTube is a great platform for talent-spotters, many a famous pop star has been plucked from obscurity to a multimillion dollar contract by their videos being seen! Maybe the transpeople there are looking to be film makers and get a big gig with a major network(?) – that’s fine, but it kinda upsets the ‘normality’ of the well known, it also upsets the beliefs many have in those they follow and become dubious as to the drive in their original fame platform, an example of this would be participation in ‘My Transsexual Summer’ (this has already been labeled ‘My Transsexual Extroverts’ by some sections of our community), as people who live in a safer areas with less risk are light years away from the transreality in some parts of the country – and no they can’t just up-sticks and leave and all move to Brighton as they have mortgages and families and roots) which they are still flogging as their moment in the sun. Some are saying,  “Let it go…wreaking of past glories its years ago now…when you were on the telly” Imagine if every trans person who has appeared on goggle-box grabbed video cameras and went cherry-knocking on transpeople’s doors for content?


FOR F*CKS SAKE CHEER UP! Lets have some laughs, I felt happy until I watched MyGenderation films on YouTube, when I was done I actually felt depressed…

Lots of wobbly camera shots, panning past people and differential focusing and ‘creative photography’ – getting sea-sick – well that’s ‘kewl’… When you see wobbly cam on News at 10 in their studio let me know.

I have an archive full of similar stories I can fish out (hundreds) of people walking about and talking about their lives and so on… its nothing new. It was depressing back then also :). They have a great opportunity and clearly the talent to step away from this and entertain us and make us smile as a community – go find a trans stand-up comedian? Or something new, get a train out of Brighton else it will soon become self-endulgent.

With YouTube packed to the rafters with this sort of thing, I just think its a feed into the newspapers at the moment. For example, a cheap way for journalists to find young ‘sexy’ saleable stories for women’s magazines. It sadly is the case, ‘the younger the better’ as our research shows here. This newspaper story is directly linked to MyGenderation
At the bottom there is a link to MyGenderation YouTube channel.

That’s great for YT views as tabloids get a lot of traffic, when Transgender Zone is shown as a support link in the nationals and on television (Channel 4 etc) we get some additional traffic, and still do from Channel 4 MTS (ironically) help lines pages and Hollyoaks etc. But we are not a conduit for the story – just a source of help for someone reading or watching it. MyGenderation may actually become a nursery for life stories to be converted to print, such is the desperation of the press for something to fill up their tawdry salacious pages. A bit like …hmmmm we need another story lets look at MyGenderation and select one ‘from the shelf…’ The individuals are then carried along on this intoxicating wave of praise and adulation until they appear in tears a year later like this. Here is when it was something similar was filmed of a younger person and here is the outcome a year later where she regretted the whole thing and felt manipulated, and then this story ( broke. This can NEVER go away now. Had she (or he) decided to not get involved she could still pretty much live a life apart. Now there is this baggage that will haunt for the rest of their lives, not even 20 and its done.

So filming others is rife with problems and the younger they are the riskier it is!

From their videos, you know who they are, where they live and even in some cases if their house is worth robbing! Think about it!

And there are no laughs – trans are portrayed as a f*cking miserable bunch on YouTube generally. At least when the TV filmed Janett Scott and others back in the 90s they were either passionate on Kilroy arguing and fighting people off, Del La Grace ( taking the mick out of a hostile audience defending the Drag Kings on a studio Show and getting laughs in the 90s, or seeing docus of trans having get-togethers at home having a a good time with friends – they were far from ‘boring!’

Its tempting to take a video of let’s say Janett Scott from our archive and show the original and then one with a depressing music score and alter the colour balance a little more (grey-green) modern cinema similar to MyGenderation. And you see, feel your heart sink when compared(!) – an experiment worth doing?

It also amazes me that anyone trans today can go on the telly and suddenly become ‘experts’, and everyone else who does the hard unglamourous work – and are the ones who actually have achieved the changes enjoyed today over decades – are increasingly ignored for the advice of a famous trans pretty face who is just genetically lucky and nothing more (not in all cases obviously). Many on MTS were out of their depth when they walked through the door of the MTS cottage. Perhaps in 10 years when they have been around a bit and completed their respective journeys, then that’s the time to ask them and hear their take on the experience of transition, I can promise you it will be different to now – as we know many are often disillusioned further down the line, and many do regret what they say and do. But by then they will be OLD and out of touch and new young sexy things will be available to choose from – then they will wonder why now when they have the knowledge to help properly they are suddenly valueless – what a f*cked up world we live in eh?

YouTube and Vimeo filmmakers just need to step back and cheer up, and get out of Brighton to more distant shores for that to truly have any value long term. The experience of a transwoman running the gauntlet on a sink estate in Yorkshire with 100% unemployment and violence, is going to be very different to the experience of some middle-class transwoman with a loving family in Brighton reading on her patio.

I suppose they do realise that they will never be ‘allowed’ to be men and women and will always be transgender people… It might not be something they have thought about whilst they are having fun doing all this. But in 10 years they may regret it.

Most do and try to fade away. Trying to clean up their social networked past is not that simple as it was when a younger FTM who in 2001 asked that I delete his photos and story from our features as he wanted to go stealth (I obliged of course). And then he disappeared. Today he would forever be referred to as ‘that trans teen’. He appeared on ‘Kilroy’ and ‘This Morning’ with his dad! We still have those clips, but YouTube don’t! The future is for the many featured to remain transpeople and learn to live with it and become ‘professional transpeople’ as a consequence – that’s actually a positive especially with Gender Queers as they are something society needs to step forward.

So what’s the general view of the current raft of YouTube films?

Positives – transpeople doing something – showing they exist. Very transman it seems (two of them make the shorts on MyGenderation), that’s good, but there is a pattern in it all. It is like the same video just swapping a talking head over in each one. So I think they need to shake it up a bit, Paris Lees interviewed Jonathan Ross yet has only 2000+ views yet MyGenderation has overnight reached 5,000+ (I find that odd), Paris did something that was interesting and very left-field, not been done before by a transperson to my knowledge – but would depressing piano music playing watching Paris Lees wander about, instead be better?

No – that would have been miserable!

As they say on YouTube if it is longer than 6 mins most people will not watch it all, many will Skip the ad (if there is one) look at the length and over 5 mins is is alarm bells and although listed as a hit (or view) people didn’t actually watch it. This is why ‘4thought’ worked as they realised this years ago. And clearly MyGenderation have realised that too – smart move lads! 1m 45 secs (I think it has been removed well we have it archived).
However it would be mean to mention them and not give them a link
MyGenderation Youtube 6-8mins
Meg, Doug and Me Vimeo this is the preview but the original full length before it was pulled from Vimeo was a Full Length docu.

Can you spot the difference style-wise though between MyGenderation and Meg,Doug and me? Neither can I.

I just think filmmakers need to be aware that its not all about hits on YouTube and building their profile, they are dealing with the lives of vulnerable people and as we have seen only recently people who are prepared to end their lives through stress.

Just be careful dealing with minors as that could land you in legal turmoil if you slip up!

And SMILE! And forget about any Film School Training – as everyone and his dog is doing that – be different!


Ice Maiden
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