July 3rd, 2018

singapore sunset

let me take you to a place i know you want to go

I just watched last night's Pose, and it reminded me that last week i wanted to write about that episode.

For those who haven't heard, Pose is the new Ryan Murphy show about the NYC ballroom scene of the late 80s. I'm not sure how true-to-life it is, because so much of what we know of that era today is filtered through the lens of Paris Is Burning, a legendary documentary in the gay scene. I'm also skeptical of it staying a reasonably grounded drama, given Ryan Murphy's tendency to turn any show he touches into a soaptacular trainwreck. But so far it's a decent watch. Some of the actors are trans, and there are trans writers on staff, so perhaps that brings a level of authenticity in portraying the trans experience that a lot of other shows fail to get.

I mean, it's complicated. I'm not one of those people who thinks that actors should always have the exact same background as their character. Just like with writing, i think acting means applying your craft to tell a compelling story. If you're good at what you do, and you understand the role, you should be able to kill it anyway. But i do think a lot of cis artists don't understand those roles. It doesn't help that nowadays the lines have all been blurred between transsexual and transgender and non-binary and so on. Contemporary messaging deemphasizes bottom surgery, because the progressive way to look at gender says that what's down your pants is irrelevant. Unfortunately that means something missing in modern media representations of transpeople is exactly that weird drive to self-mutilate. Transsexuals who seek surgery are not just looking to live out a different gender role, they also really fucking hate their own bodies.

The fourth episode of Pose captures that. I have to go back and rewatch it because some of the scenes i wanted to write about last week i have forgotten now. I remember parts where it hit on the topic of guys who fetishize chicks with dicks. And - hey - ain't nothing wrong with that. Plenty of women would agree - chicks with dicks can be a hot visual. But when you - as a real fucking person - are reduced to a sexual fetish, well that sucks. You know what else sucks? Hating a part of your body so much that it makes you gag, literally. Pulling and scratching and crushing yourself because you hate it so much and wanting to punish yourself for being too chicken to just grab a knife and end it all. Feeling overwhelmed with shame and self-loathing every time you become aroused. Never feeling comfortable naked. Ever. Yeah, that really fucking sucks.

I think now i never particularly wanted to become a woman. The fact i am one is an accidental side-effect of pursuing bottom surgery. There were many years where i regretted my decision. I realized being a woman in society had plunked a glass ceiling on my head and created a maze of restrictions that i had never faced as a man. In my relationships with bi women i always felt crippled, like i would never be enough for them. In my relationships with gay women i felt like a fraud, like i could never be the real woman they needed. I hated myself for rushing into the decision at such a "young" age. God, i struggled for so long...

But watching Pose S01E04 i remembered. I fucking remembered how much it hurt me to have that junk between my legs. That was a feeling that went back far longer than i ever considered becoming a woman. I hated it so much. I hated it from when i was a child. What was the cause? I dunno. Yeah, i was sexually abused. I don't think that had much of an influence. I barely remember it. Maybe it changed my relationship with sex in general? I dunno. God knows since i stopped caring about relationships and sex i have rediscovered a happiness i haven't known since my blissfully ignorant teenage years. But more than that... When i look down and see nothing - oh yeah, that was another quote from the episode - i don't marvel at my fine female pussy, i am just happy that there is nothing. And that's a feeling that no-op transwomen or non-binary folks or cispeople will just not get. Whoever wrote that episode got it, though, and seeing that on a mainstream TV show is pretty fucking awesome.

Anywho, i recommend it. I've watched several shows with trans characters over the years, and most of them have underwhelmed me because they don't really tell my story. I'm far from a gutter punk trannie came up through sex work and balls, but at least the characters in Pose feel real. Check it out.
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