Saturday, 1 February 2014

When is something offensive?

4 weeks ago a new program started on Dutch TV – Hij is een Zij (Literal translation: He is a She). Quite a few people in the office had told me about it, but I had not got to see it until last week when I found it on the Dutch catch up TV app.

I really like the presenter of the program, he tackles quite a few difficult subjects, and it never feels like he is making it sensationalist.

And this one is no different; I think they have tackled the subject quite well. There have been a few complaints about the use of pronouns at the start of the program to explain what the program is about. And it is very much he was a she, she was a he. Kind of like the title itself. But, this is a program trying to introduce this subject to people who haven’t a clue. You have to start somewhere, and I can’t think of a good way to do it…

In the program we are introduced to various transsexual people, male to female and female to male. They are all at different stages of transition and all at a different stage of life. Some of the program is more interesting to my colleagues than me (I know rather too well what the process is ;p), some of it is quite upsetting – seeing other people going through the same things I have gone through, listening to my life told by other people. Of course not everything is the same, but there are a lot of similarities in the feelings that people described.

There was one part that really made me have to laugh though. It was with two female to male guys on a beach having just been surfing. The presenter asked why, when they were wearing wetsuits, did they have big, baggy Bermuda shorts on over the top. There was some embarrassed smirking from the guys, looking around a little, and then: “Well, the wet suits are really tight and, well, there is nothing there – it's not something we want people to see.”

Why did I laugh? Well, because there is a reason I don’t wear some of the outfits I really like. Skinny jeans with a nice top and jacket, looks great, but… If I wear skinny jeans I always wear a long jumper or dress over the top. For the same, if opposite, reason as the guys in the show J

The reactions online here have been mixed, with some people really feeling for the people on the show. Some of them feeling outraged that the people appearing have been used to make the show (I have to say that looking at it I don’t see it that way), and of course the trolls that crawl out of their caves and write crap about the people on the show – who obviously completely missed the point! Thankfully there were not that many trolls; progress? Overall, the show is very sympathetic, showing the lives of those involved and the way it has affected themselves and the people around them. The difficulties faced and the good things that have happened.

The reactions of my colleagues have shown just how good the program is. I’m quite open about myself in the office. They all know just what I am going through, and seeing as 90% of the people I am working with also worked with him I don’t see the point in being coy about it. I do have one small rule though. If someone asks a question that could result in a too much information answer then they could well get too much information. If you don’t want to know, then don’t ask. But still, there is so much that they do not know to ask – just how it affects me, and what the effect on my life has been; both the good and the bad. This show shows that side, and I think has been a good for my colleagues and myself.

The title of this post is there as I can see why people think it is offensive to reveal someones history on TV. I can see it as something that would mortify me completely, whilst people who know me, know me, those who do not - and those who get to know me now - have no reason to know my past. It does not affect them, and is in no way relevant to them. And yet I don't find this program offensive as some people online have. These people were not coerced into doing the program. They were brave enough to go on the show and tell their stories. The program has treated them with complete respect, not taken anything as a joke, and the presenter has supported the people on the show when they were doing something very hard on camera. I only think this can be a good thing, and the people on the show have my admiration for having the strength to appear on it!

I also wanted to write about a conversation I had yesterday. Considering I have been living as Stacy as two years now it’s maybe odd that it has had this effect on me.  It certainly seems that way to me, and yet it still pretty much made my day.

I have recently moved offices – or rather I now spend my time between two desks; two days at my old one and three at my new one. Yesterday I was working at my new desk.

About half way through the day a colleague popped in to ask about gift ideas for someone who will reach their 5 year milestone next week.  I’m not going into details about what was discussed (just in case someone who I work with is reading this and give the game away ;p).

But, there were two guys, me and the other female programmer in our team in one of the rooms discussing this and the guys went a little over the top with their ‘fun’ ideas that all four of us were discussing.  Afterwards the guys left to go into the town centre to get the gifts and my colleague just gave me ‘that’ look and said, “Guys just don’t have any idea do they, Stace?” That comment made my whole day!

Like I said, after more than 2 years this sort of thing shouldn’t mean that much to me, and yet…  Big smiley face!

One final thing before I go – update! No update J  Someone is still very happy where they are!


  1. Interesting, I thought Holland was quite in advance of the Uk about this subject. In the past it has been a total mystery to the general public because the media has seen fit to make it sensational rather than treat us with any degree of respect. only when some of us are public to one degree or another, blog or TV, we understanding reach the wiser population.

    Even years down the line there are real YES moments to remind you where you have got to and how it was all so worth while.

    1. Holland is a mixture. I have seen a few other programs about transsexuals, and they have all been good. But this is the first series that I have seen on the subject. The other programs were all 1/2 hour or hour programs following a few people and doing a short report on each.

      On the other hand I have rarely seen something on UK TV that I can relate to - most of it is very fake or just there for sensation.

      There does need to be understanding, I was having such a conversation at work today when commented that people should really just see us as people rather than 'trans people'. Sounds so simple, and yet people struggle so much!

      It really was a YES moment! :)


  2. Interesting post, Stace. I'm not sure if this story made it across to Europe, but there has been a story here that has caused a great deal of controversy.

    Grantland, a well-respected sports site here, published a lengthy story about Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, a woman who claimed to have invented a revolutionary new golf club. In the course of writing the story, the author discovered that she inventor had falsified her credentials, undermining her claims about the golf club.

    He also discovered that she was transsexual. It was not relevant to her deception - she admitted she had misstated her credentials,but her status as a transsexual had nothing to do with it. Nonetheless, he outed her in the story, in spite of her begging him repeatedly not to do so. She did not ask for the article to be withdrawn; she asked that is only focus on the story, and not only make her status as a transwoman known. He not only ignored her requests, but he also told one of her investors - without her permission.

    It's a complicated story, with a tragic ending: she committed suicide. It is unlikely the article was the sole reason, but it would be reasonable to infer that it was at least a factor.

    Several trans friends here say the author had every right to out her, as it was something the writer discovered during his investigation. I could not disagree more strongly. Speaking as a writer, I can say that he could have structured the story in such a way that protected her status as a trans woman. It had no bearing in any way, shape, or form on her guilt or innocence. But he and his editors never gave a thought to the potential consequences, before or after her death. The article was published - as originally written - three months after her suicide. The insensitivity and callousness was, and is, utterly appalling.

    They have quite rightly been taking to task over their mishandling of the story. Chistina Kahrl, a well-respected baseball writer for ESPN, which owns Grantland - and a MTF transsexual - wrote a blistering article about the entire affair that Grantland, to their credit, published. She pointed out that not once in the course of writing and editing the story did anyone think to reach out to someone with any experience with transsexuality. Grantland's publisher, Bill Simmons, issued a remarkable mea culpa statement, saying the failure was his as the person who oversees the site. While that is admirable, it will not bring back Essay Anna Vanderbilt. It's a sobering reminder that for all the progress we have made as a community - and your post reflects that - we still have a long way to go in increasing public awareness of the unique struggles we all endure in simply trying to be ourselves.

    Here's a link to the original article. The introduction also contains links to Christina's Kahrl's response and to the apology written by Bill Simmons. All are well-worth reading.

    Apologies for the lengthy reply, Stace. But I thought perhaps you, and some of your readers across the Atlantic, might find this story worth investigating.

    The original story:

    Christina Kharl's commentary:

    Bill Simmons's statement:

    Glad to hear all is well, hon. Hope you, Mrs. Stace, and your forthcoming new additional have a lovely weekend. :c)


  3. Apologies - I noticed a few typos. That's what I get for typing before my fingers are fully caffeinated. :c)

    == Cass

    1. Hi Cass,

      I read through the apology, and the rebuke from the Trans colleague.

      The thought that came to my mind was, "Why was this ever followed?" The debunking of the putter myth, and the debunking of the educational claims made to sell it I can see. But to go further added nothing to the story. And outing her to her investors was unforgivable. It wasn't an oversight, it was vindictive and nasty.



  4. ...Bermuda shorts on over the top...

    I did wonder why they didn't pack the outfits out. But then, I guess there's a risk said packing might absorb water and enlarge. Given the way life works, the two gents would exit the sea as two young nuns were walking the other way.... :-) I'm with you on the skinny jeans front, although [quiet voice] the right tucking seems to help. Not sure I'd want to do that all day.

    I found the programme you mentioned on-line, so I'll have a look, although without English subs, it's not going to be that practical. From what you say, it sounds educational rather than exploitative. I think it's tough to make a programme that starts with the basics, but isn't too patronising to the audience, and it well informed enough not to leave people behind.

    Sounds like Junior is enjoying a nice long lie-in. Good luck! <3

    1. Looks like YouTube have some of the episodes and they have subtitle translation.... .which can be an interesting read ;-)

    2. :) Tucking is something that the hospital here really, really, really advice against due to the damage it can do to the tiny blood vessels that they need during the operation... I can't imagine that it's comfortable all day either!

      Enjoy the programs, assuming you can find all of them with subtitles. Assuming I have time this Saturday (as in no arrival) I'll watch this weeks episode (I think it may be the last one).