Monday, 26 November 2012
Transexual Teen, Beauty Queen - Body Beautiful Season
First Shown: Tue 20 Nov 2012, 21:00, BBC Three
Online (available until 27 Nov): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00w09yg/Transsexual_Teen_Beauty_Queen/
'Transexual teen, beauty queen' was one of these programmes that I probably didn't really need to watch, as it had dominated my Facebook newsfeed like wildfire. So, out of curiosity, I got it up on iplayer and watched for myself.
The hour long film follows the story of Jackie Green, age nineteen, who was born as Jack Green. Jackie is a gutsy, confident average teenage girl by all accounts, but her expression shifts as she explains how things used to be. Jackie, like many transgender children, knew who she was and what was wrong. As she said in the programme: "It's like a birth defect". Throughout the documentary there was a large focus on the past, how she had attempted suicide several times as a child and when she told her Mum for the first time at age four that "God has made a mistake, I should be a girl.". Jackie was started on hormone treatment at the age of just 14, preventing her going through male puberty and meaning that her voice remained high. To Jackie these puberty blockers gave her hope for the future, and (she admits) saved her life.
It wasn't easy though, to get this controversial treatment at age 14 she needed to get treatment in the Boston Children's Hospital, where they could legally administer the treatment. Jackie suffered constant, malicious bullying from her peers at school, which eventually caused her to steal a packet of paracetamol and overdose. This made it clear in her Mother's mind that she couldn't go on being physically a boy. At 16 Jackie pushed the boundaries again by becoming the youngest person in the UK to have gender reassignment surgery, by travelling to Thailand where a surgeon was willing to operate on her on her sixteenth birthday.
Now 19, and comfortable in her rightful gender, Jackie Green wants to be a beauty queen. The documentary follows Jackie and her Mum through two heats of 'Miss England' and then onto the semi finals. In the first heat Jackie chose to tell the judges in the interview round about her past, a brave choice, but the judges didn't seem to respond anything but supportively. However she unfortunately did not get through to the next round in this heat. The BBC producer seemed persistent in asking her if she felt that telling the judges about being transgender had disadvantaged her in the competition. She was, frustratingly, asked the same ignorant question throughout the programme but her answer remained the same. It seemed that the interviewer wanted some admission that being transgender was a disadvantage- but he wasn't going to get one. I admired Jackie enormously as she smiled and replied that; no, it shouldn't do, because she is a girl like all the other contestants.
One thing I actively disliked in this documentary was the post production, the voiceover in particular was increasingly irritating. For example after the judges verdict was delivered we follow Jackie as she silently cries in her beautiful dress, and her Mum consoles her. When they turn to go back inside the voiceover announces "We decided to give Jackie and her Mum some privacy". I don't feel, that in fly on the wall documentaries this is a very good thing to say. We are blood thirsty viewers! We want emotion, tears, screams, we want to know what next! The next thing we hear is "When we join Jackie again she is on stage". Woah, if you are filming a documentary on an event, you need to actually be at the event to capture what happens. Surely that is just simple logic? The BBC director actually has to ask someone what's going on. Turns out that the lovely Miss Jackie Green had won 'Miss Personality' while the BBC were kicking their heels. How wonderful it would have been to see her amazed reaction as her name was announced. *sigh*. She seemed delighted with the result of 'Miss Personality' but was still disappointed not to make it through to the next round.
The second heat was a second chance and Jackie chose not to tell the judges about her past during the interview round. Naturally, she was sprung upon by the BBC producer as to why. She patiently explained that it is one thing for people to know her story and accept her, however she wants to be accepted as just Jackie. Not transgender Jackie or anything else. I think this is a great attitude to have and she even gained an all important place in the semi-finals in this heat. Strangely, the shortest part of the film was when Jackie was in the semi finals, a bizarre editing move, but sadly she didn't get through to the finals.
Overall, I think this was a very inspiring story and it really full filled Jackie's aim- to raise awareness of transgender people. However I think the writing, interviewing and post production was just generally clunky and inadequate.