Louis Theroux used to write books. He’s moved into the far more lucrative market of documenting those in our society that don’t quite fit in. He writes the scripts for these programmes. Has his own crew. Puts it together like a jigsaw. A novel approach. I get the feeling Louis doesn’t quite fit in either. An alien presence among those we hold at arm’s length and treat as alien.
Let’s look at the squirm factor. By far the worst came near the end of the programme. Dr Crane, the surgeon that carried out trans-surgery in his San Francisco clinic talked about the cost of different procedures like a gung-ho general. He made me squirm. But it was one of his success stories that made me want to look the other way. She had been a he. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t care what people do with their fiddly bits. Not that she had any fiddly bits left, apart from her eyebrows. They kept beetling about whilst she looked on as her partner answered questions from Louis. Up and down they went. Left and right they went. Possessed by free will they would have turned into a wiggy world and I feared for mankind. It might have been the type of questions Louis was asking that set them dancing. He hesitates and then hesitates some more and then jumps right in and talks like a kindergarten teacher addressing a class of five-year olds. Using words such as ‘top bits’ and ‘bottom bits’. He acted like a fanny.
Around fifty-percent of transgender people think about or attempt suicide. There is a cost and it’s not just financial. If adults want to make changes to their bodies that’s fine. But the ethics of medicine is guided by the epigram: above all do no harm. I’d cite the tragic case of David Peter Reimer whose penis was accidentally burnt off in a medical procedure when a baby and, on the advice of psychologist John Money, advocating a particular theory, brought up as a female and used as a test subject.
For any good story you need the beginning the middle and the end. You get those that are sure. Such as those with beetle eyebrows. You get the ones that are not so sure. We see a prepubescent Cole who sometimes dresses as Crystal and talks about growing up and marrying as a man and having a family. His mum Joy supports his/her choice. His dad Eric is more ambivalent. He wants a son. Often it was the parents in this programme I felt most sorry for.
Eduardo and Kacey made the difficult transition in supporting their son Sebastian’s metamorphosis into Camille. Here’s where the squirm factor struck again. Camille is about seven. She shows Louis into her room. It’s girly as you’d expect. Then she asks him to play a game. Louis, being Louis looks like a stick of wood with specs. He politely declines. Camille turns on the music and apes some girly pop star and it’s like kiddy porn. All the stupid half hints as sexual fulfilment and a child flinging her face about like a wobble board. I didn’t like it, but my thoughts were Camille wants to be that women, that particular pop star (I don’t know which one) therefore to attain that goal she needs to be a women. Perhaps she’ll grow out of it. Above all do no harm.
Louis visits a group of medics who take children through body dysmorphia or wrong body transition. He is told that children from the age of two or three can show a consistency that suggests they are wrongly gendered. One test is the he/she test. Which pronoun the boy/girl used is indicative of what exactly I’m not sure. I’m not sure about lots of things.
Let’s go back to good old Alfred Kinsey for answers. We’re all fucked up. And he would counter Larkin’s suggestion that it was your mum and dad’s that fuck you up. He suggested that 37% of males had some form of homosexual experience and one in ten of the population are homosexual. There are around nine million Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender in America. A third more than the population of Scotland. To suggest that gender is fixed and identity can be cured by medical treatment and intervention at such an early age seems be repeating the failure of John Money’s experiment – and for many of the same reasons. What’s the hurry? We’ll find out who we are at different points in our life. Do no harm and no harm to wait.