News transgender, american transgender, national geographic, Jim Howley, transgender, tv

Published on April 27th, 2012 | by Wild Gender


Just Another Mammal: New show “American Transgender” on National Geographic

So we’re bound for National Geographic kids: fasten your seat belts, the “American Transgender” TV series is slated to air on Tuesday, May 1 at 8 p.m. EST with the tagline of “Male or female? Boy or girl?”

“Most of us can answer that question without a second thought, but for some people, the answer isn’t so simple,” writes the show on its National Geo. website.“American Transgender takes us firsthand into the daily lives of three individuals—Clair, Jim, and Eli—who each identify with a different gender from the one in which they were born and raised.  How do they manage at work, build careers, maintain friendships, and nurture lasting, intimate partnerships? Each of the characters in the film tells their story in their own words as we follow them through life’s daily battles and victories, both large and small.”

A screenshot from the show, Clair Farley tries on her wedding dress

From the previews, the show is predominately white, and features the lives of three middle-class transgender people,  Clair Farley, Jim Howley and Eli Strong, and relies heavily on the gender binary for its definitions of trans.

Regardless, in an interview with National Geographic, Howley hopes about his participation in the series helps trans folk.

“Not only does it help educate society at large, more importantly I hope it can provide inspiration for fellow transgender people, particularly youth,” he said.

Farley, a counselor and job coach for the first  U.S. transgender employment program called Transworkplace, hopes the show helps take the focus off “purely…the physical transition,” and draws more on common challenges between trans people and all people.

“I hope viewers will recognize that we are just like them,” she said. “We experience challenges finding work, love, and understanding but in the end, we all come from the same source.”

transgender, american transgender, national geographic, Jim Howley, transgender, tv

Jim Howley shaving

And Strong hopes the show illuminates the widespread violence and hate perpetrated against trans people nationwide.

“Hate crimes against transgender people are on the rise, particularly in D.C. Transgender people are being assaulted and murdered, just for walking down the street,” he said in the Q&A. “Not having equal opportunities to get and keep a job, or having medical expenses covered by insurance, or being able to serve in the U.S. military, all show the larger population that we are ‘less than.’ Many people don’t even see us as human, which they think gives them the excuse, right, or authority to beat, stab, shoot, rape or otherwise hurt and kill us.”

Hopefully this show and others like it (springing up all the time of late) actually do encourage a national acceptance of gender variance, instead of “whitewashing” the trans movement as non-threatening and assimilationist. But we’ll have to wait and see, watch a preview of the show below.

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About the Author

Wild Gender

is an online magazine and creative hub born out of gratitude for the gift of full expression. We are dedicated to creative practices that celebrate gender fluidity, identity and expression. Wild Gender prioritizes visual art, creative writing, and journalistic work by trans/gender-variant individuals who have never before been published in a public venue. Run entirely by volunteers,we are always in search of writers, thinkers, and creators hoping to participate in our growing community.

One Response to Just Another Mammal: New show “American Transgender” on National Geographic

  1. Amanda Baker says:

    Also, don’t forget, just because something looks on the outside (especially through a camera lens) as heavily binary, doesn’t mean it neccessarily is… I know that dressing femininely at my size will get me further towards my current goals, but it doesn’t mean that my gender isn’t fluid.  And I can’t really help the fact that I was born into a family of European descent, but it doesn’t mean I don’t expect that my story is any more or less valid than someone of a different color/nationality/etc. 

    Just because we show one face to “mainstream” society, doesn’t mean that we don’t wear many masks as representations of our true selves.  Oh, and nevermind trying to shove several life stories into less than an hour!  I applaud NatGeo for taking on such a topic with grace and a willingness to ask many difficult questions, even if they didn’t all make the final edit.  Hopefully, someday, this will all be a distant memory and future generations will never have to worry about the hate that seems to be so coupled to gender expression right now. 

    Thank you for spreading the word, I hope this documentary proves helpful to someone out there *love*  – Baker

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