Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Kids are Alright

Okay. That's a lie. The kids really aren't all right. Young T's are as troubled and confused and afraid as ever. But something's going on. Something good I hope. I see more and more young T's online. I hear more and more about gay and transgender support groups for teens. There are certainly more movies and TV shows that portray T-life (with mixed results of course). But at least we're not totally invisible. And, of course, today's kids have something we didn't have. The Internet.

While girls my age (40-something) hid in shame and secrecy, the young T's of today (both m2f and f2m) can log on and immediately find friends and support online. (Of course they can also find danger and deception, but that's a topic for another day.)
Today I'd like to keep things positive. Because I'm excited about the idea of more t-girls exploring their fem sides earlier in life.

To me, this movement (if it is indeed a movement) all starts and ends with the Internet. I remember trying to research crossdressing and transvestitism in the 70's and 80's. Not only was there not much information available, it was very hard to find, and usually pretty dry or worse, degrading. One had to sneak around the public library or the school library. Or buy t-porn from sketchy bookstores on the sketchy side of town. Movies at the time rarely, if ever, portrayed t-girls. And if they did, they resorted to demeaning characterizations or overly flamboyant stereotypes.

Not surprisingly, very little of that was appealing to me.

I've learned much more about all of this since I logged on about 8 years ago. I can't even remember how I went about it. I honestly think I stumbled upon some sites. (I was probably surfing bdsm sites; I've always been into that.) I remember it being quite a revelation. I wasn't seeing over-the-top drag queens (although I love that look and have been known to lay it on pretty heavy with the makeup myself from time to time!). And I wasn't seeing drugged-out streetwalkers either. (Although they certainly exist in every city.)

For lack of a better phrase, what I was seeing—for the first time—was the "girl next door" look. Some of the girls were cuter than others. Some more polished in their femme presentation. And some definitely had better make up skills and a better sense of style. But I took one look (I can't even remember the name of the site now. Sorry.)... I took one look and thought... this is me. Or, this could be me. I can do this. I can be this. I'd never had that feeling before. I never had a role model that helped me to see where I fit into all this. But now I did.

You probably know the progression from there. I chatted in the tg/cd chat rooms. I met many other girls and admirers. I started buying clothes and accessories online. I took a few photos. Posted the good ones. And basically entered the online t-scene. 

In fact, my name CiCi comes from the initials, C.C. &ndash which stood for Cyber Chick. And that's what I was. A cyber girl. At that point, I didn't think I'd ever actually go out. Or meet anyone. Or date. I thought admitting my "special hobby" to an anonymous group of like-minded souls was about as far as I'd ever carry this. Little did I know!

My point here – and I know, I know, I sometimes have trouble getting to my point – is that I started doing all this at age 40! But now girls are doing this in their teens. Or their early 20's. And I wonder what kind of impact this will have. Will we see more t's out in the clubs (the non t-clubs I mean)? Will we see more in the malls or the classrooms? More accurate portrayals in the media? Will dating a T become less of a stigma? Will being a T become less of a stigma?

At a certain point, my generation can only do so much. We've missed our moment. The USA, if it is anything, is a youth culture. Young people lead the fashion police. They set trends, and decide what's cool and what's not. All we can do is provide support. And hopefully, become good role models.

Because it's amazing how many negative messages are out there. I love the "Shrek" movies, but I really lost a lot of respect for the filmmakers when I was watching "Shrek 2." Do you remember the moment? The fairy tale characters were in the middle of a daring escape. Somehow, Pinocchio's shorts were accidentally pulled down. It's a slapstick gag that's been done a zillion times. The pants go down. The audience explodes in laughter.

But this moment was different. In this scene, when Pinocchio's pants go down, it is revealed that he is wearing garters and hose. The gag still worked. The audience still laughed. But all I could think was, "Why?"

"Shrek 2" is a movie chock full of laughs. Some of them quite clever and sophisticated. So why on earth would the filmmakers resort to such a demeaning sight gag? I wonder if they have any idea how powerful that image was. (It played to literally millions all over the world.) To me, I kept picturing some young kid. Someone like me at age 8 or 11...or even 18! He's insecure. He's confused about his gender. He's afraid to tell anyone. And then, during an animated family film (of all places), he is reminded that his longings are taboo. His feminine urges are an embarrassment. He's a freak. He is to be made sport of. His urges are to be hidden away, never to be discussed and never to be revealed.

Just think, that summer, out there in the dark of the cineplex, hundreds of young, confused future tg's saw an image of themselves in a major motion picture for the very first time. And, of course, the image they saw was degrading. They had always feared that they were something to be ridiculed. And "Shrek 2" confirmed it.

That's what I mean by being good role models. Even if you're not out. Even if you've never admitted your t-side to another living soul. You can still help. In your office. In your workplace. In your home. You can provide positive messages. You can refute negative messages. And you can provide a safe place for the kids.

Last week I saw an episode of ABC's "20/20" that dealt solely with the subject of tg kids. One was as young as 6. These kids (both m2f and f2m) were being allowed to live as they wished. Their parents, their counselors, and their schools had come together to support these children—and basically said, "We're not going to hide this any more."

What affect will this have... on the kids, on their families, on their schools and their communities? Will it make growing up easier or tougher for these kids? Will it, in some way, help them to avoid some of the confusion most of us experienced? Or will it just bring more bullying? And, in the end, will their public "outing" cause them even more problems?

All I know is that it made me want to cry. To see these kids surrounded by such love and support. Barbra Walters, the host, seemed a bit uneasy. She knew she was venturing into difficult territory. And she didn't particularly seem to win over any of the kids during their often-awkward interviews. Then again, what conversation with a kid about sex or gender isn't awkward?

Any way, that's not what made me want to cry. What made me want to cry wasn't the program itself; it was the response to the program. Walters claimed that ABC received over a million emails in response to the story. And that nearly all of those emails were positive and supportive. One website said, "All three families said that the story helped change their world for the better. Advocacy groups also report a significant surge in young transgenders coming out."

And this is how it all starts. A new way of seeing what was always there, but hidden. And a new perspective among younger generations who may not yet have all of the prejudices and biases of the older generations. And, most importantly, a newfound courage among young T's to no longer hide. To be themselves. And to be proud.

Maybe, with our help, the kids really will be alright.

Take care out there.
Be safe. Be smart. Be sexy.


Drogith said...

I work way too much and was unable to even hear about that 20/20 episode, but I am very happy that stuff like this is out in the open more honestly. I'm at the edge of my generation, 27, and wish that I was more aware of what is out there now, just like you CiCi. I remember when the only thing to look to for support was hairy men in drag being degraded by other men. It was a sadder time. Nowadays I am very happy to have found multiple sites that support clothing and other essentials that a girl needs. Even on myspace you can find local groups of people that you didn't know existed. I just wish it was around 12 years ago.

CiCi said...

thanx so much for reading my blog and responding. i luv to get comments! and yes, it def was tougher for us "back in the day." we can't go back. but in our own way, we can help today's t-kids go forward. i'll be very curiuos to see the state of t-world in 20-25 years!

Tonya said...

Thanks for the post. It's hard to find insightful and well reasoned discussion about our community so it's refreshing to read a post like this.

It's my hope that with the efforts of sites like yours (and mine) that we can raise the status of CD/TV/TG to something other than an edge case.

Keep up the good work!


CiCi said...

thx, tonya. and thank you for taking the time to write your blog as well. it's just like you said, thoughtful and informative! very cool!

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