Transmissions: The transgender documentary drinking game

By Gwendolyn Ann Smith

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of attending the viewing party of a new transgender documentary. As I watched, I noticed many of the same cliches and stereotypes that I've seen time and time again in transgender documentaries. I thought about who I could write to, and how I could address these issues.

Then I decided to go for a more novel approach, and turn it all into a drinking game.

For those three of you out there who have never heard of this type of drinking game, let me elaborate. The concept started in earnest during the 1970s, when someone noticed that the phrase, "Hi, Bob" was uttered several times in the average episode of The Bob Newhart Show. Hence, this particular drinking game requires everyone watching to take a drink when they hear any character say, "Hi, Bob."

Today, even the Weather Channel has a drinking game. Indeed, it would seem that only one genre does not have such a pastime -- but I intend to rectify this!

The set up is usual. A number of friends, a beverage of choice, and a transgender documentary.

Take one drink if...

A transwoman is shown putting on makeup or fixing her hair, or if a transman is shown shaving or slicking back his hair. If they show two transfolks in one shot, take two drinks.

The narrator uses the words "unusual," "shocking," or "disturbing" to describe a transgender person and/or the process of transitioning from one gender to another.

"She" and "her" is used to describe a transman, or "he" and "him" is used to describe a transwoman.

The birth name of a transgender person is used to describe the person after ze begin transition or when ze is shown in a preferred gender. Take an extra drink if the narrator has already stressed that the person in question has changed hir name.

If anyone makes the assumption that genitals equal gender.

A transwoman is shown doing a stereotypically feminine action, like shopping in the mall, or a transman is shown doing something stereo typically masculine, such as playing a sport.

If a transman is shown putting on and/or straightening a tie.

If old photographs are used to try and show that a transperson used to visually fit into their birth gender.

If anyone uses the phrase "a man trapped in a woman's body," or vice versa.

If undergarments are shown. Make it two if they happen to be a gaff or a binder.

Take two drinks if...

No transmen are shown.

The transgender people presented are predominately Caucasian, and predominately middle or upper class.

An "expert" is brought on to talk about how "wrong" being transgender is. You may as well add a third if they happen to be using a religious argument against being transgender.

The family of a transgender person is shown, particularly if they are negative towards their loved one's transgender status.

If anyone says, "You will always be """" to me," where the blank represents a transperson's birth gender.

Finish the bottle if...

You discover you accidentally put on Ed Wood's "Glen or Glenda," or if the only thing you can find on that has to do with being transgendered happens to be The Jerry Springer Show. Just don't waste anything expensive in the process.

It isn't that I feel these documentaries serve no purpose. That said, education can always be better. Much of what is shown are stereotypes and cliches, and frankly, it is time that these cliches become a part of history.

I would rather like to see a documentary where transgender people are not stereotypes, where people can see just how diverse we really are. I want to see that transgender people are not all Caucasian. I want to see transmen, I want to see gender queers, and I want to see others who are just living their lives without a concern for genitals.

I want to see transwomen and transmen defined by who they are, not by dated notions of gender. I want to see people called what they want to be called. In short, I want to see reality, not cliches.

I'll drink to that.

Gwen Smith turned down the chance to appear on the Maury Povitch Show, which would drive her to drink. You can find her on the World Wide Web at http://www.gwensmith.com.

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