On the LGBT food chain, I feel like transexual and transgender people are at the very bottom of the scale. Still completely misunderstood by a lot of society, and often overshadowed by gay and lesbian rights campaigning, it was great to see BBC3 tackle the issue last night in their documentary Transsexual Teen, Beauty Queen.
Jackie Green from Leeds, is currently 18 years old, and begins by telling us that at the age of 5 she was ‘diagnosed as transgendered’. The outgoing and seemingly confident girl has just reached the first round of the Miss England competition, and hopes to use this as a spring board into the world of fashion and modelling. It’s like a real-life version of Little Miss Sunshine, but not as we know it. And with less Toni Collette.
Born as a boy named Jack, Jackie sent an email round to her classmates when she was at school telling them she was a ‘girl born in a boys body’, and thus sparked the inevitable prejudice, confusion and hate that comes with everything that isn’t deemed as being ‘normal’ in society. Jackie had to endure cruel taunts from school bullies, as well as being beaten up by two male 40-year-old strangers on the street when she was only 14.
So, it’s not exactly the most uplifting opening to a documentary, but it certainly got my attention. Plus, you could tell it wouldn’t be all doom and gloom – beauty pageants always provide a variety of entertainment, so naturally I was glued to my television, Honey Boo Boo style.
We’re introduced to Jackie’s family, including her supportive Mum Susie, Grandma Julie and the dogs, just before the documentary creator makes his first Stacey Dooley inspired blunder when he says to the 18 year-old, ‘So, you used to be a lad?’. Quick off the mark Green replies, ‘I didn’t use to be a lad. If you met someone else who was trans, and you said that to someone else who wasn’t as nice as me you might get a slap, so you know, be careful’. He apologises, and Jackie quips, ‘Yeah you should. Dick head’. I love her already.
She tells us, ‘I’ve always been a girl, it was just like having this little birth defect, like having a mole you don’t like. I have a girl brain, and I had a boys bottom half’. At the age of four she told her Mum, ‘God’s made a mistake, I should have been a girl’, a bold and confident statement for somebody so very young.
Mum remembers times when Jackie would pick out girls’ clothes in the supermarket, and twirl around with them, whilst other shoppers frowned and judged, but this didn’t stop Jackie from becoming the youngest person in the world to change their gender through surgery at the age of 16.
After being scouted by some of the Miss England team at a student fashion show, Jackie went on to win an online public poll and a place at the regional heats of the competition. The first transgender contestant to ever achieve this. Massive kudos, which sort of makes Jodie Marsh’s foray into bodybuilding look even more pathetic doesn’t it?
Jackie has never entered a pageant before, so heads off to do some training at a posh looking Premier Inn, where she learns how to conduct herself in an interview, tries on some choice-looking outfits which K Middy would certainly return if they got sent to her (bravo for that Kate FYI), and gets taught how to walk on the runway by Britain’s version of a Pussycat Doll. Although she’s got the interview technique down, Jackie’s walk is more teenage angst than beauty queen, and it all gets a bit too much. After a little cry in the toilets, and a pep talk from Katherine Jenkins look-a-like Laura, there’s a huge transformation and suddenly Jackie’s eyes are firmly on the prize.
The first pageant arrives, and competition hardly looks fierce as most of the other 50 contestants could give Twitter’s Salford Sandra a run for her money, but Jackie is still understandably nervous. After an awkward group interview stage, where one panel member responds to Jackie’s news of being transgender with, ‘well good luck with that’, we move on to the ‘club wear round’, with some particularly interesting takes on the theme. Big up to contestant number three, Grace, who is hilariously and possibly inappropriately sponsored by ‘Toolmatic’. She wants to win so she can follow her dreams. Potentially, those dreams may involve opening her own car mechanic service, but this is neither confirmed or denied.
Sadly, Jackie doesn’t place in the competition, but after a genuinely touching conversation with her gorgeously supportive Mum, she finds out she has actually won Miss Personality of the night, as voted for by the other contestants from backstage, a small triumph, but worthy nonetheless.
We hear more tales of how the troubled teenager was bullied viciously at school, which lead to her trying to commit suicide several times, as well as attempting to castrate herself because her genitals were a constant reminder of something that she felt didn’t belong to her. Heartbreaking stories to hear.
All is not lost however, as there’s another chance to progress to the next round in the pageant, and at another competition we see Jackie receive First Runner Up – which is so American we can practically smell the cheese fries from here. This means the competition is still on, and we head to the semi-finals, which oddly requires the girls to compete against each other in a series of sports. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s just had terrifying P.E. related flashbacks. Also, and rather brilliantly, all the contestants will have to model eco-friendly dresses. Quick, somebody give me a ‘WORLD PEACE’.
After lasting what looks like only two seconds in a planking round – no, we’ve got no clue either – Jackie hits the interview stage, and we come across a confusing sight; one of the judges is Egghead panelist CJ de Mooi?! Quote of the night though, comes from one girl who says, ‘Car boot. I always do a car boot for charity. Every time I do it, I raise about a hundred pounds. It’s really worth it’. To be fair though, I never get much at the car boot sales, and anything I do earn gets spent buying a hot dog from the burger van when I get bored, so CJ, you can stop the eye rolling. Good for you car boot girl.
Jackie, frustratingly, doesn’t win, and I say that because it genuinely annoyed me. Jackie was extremely likeable during the programme, and I found myself genuinely rooting for her throughout, to the point that I actually screamed, ‘NO’, when she lost out on a final place, to what can only be described as Maria Von Trapp when seen through the eyes of someone under the influence of acid. I blame de Mooi. You can’t trust anybody that appears on a game show called Eggheads.
The show rounds up by showing us Jackie’s recent trip to Bangkok, where she underwent breast enlargement surgery, to complete her transformation. And what a transformation it’s been. Congratulations on the courageous journey this young girl has been on, and I hope anybody that watched is inspired to think twice the next time they are tempted to ridicule somebody like her; after all as Jackie says, ‘We’re normal human beings, we’re not freaks, we’re just trying to get on with our lives. It’s not a big deal to me, and it shouldn’t be to anybody else, because I’m just a girl’.
The only criticism I have surrounding the whole thing, is BBC iPlayer’s decision to suggest that after I’d watched the documentary I might want to watch four episodes of Snog Marry Avoid? I’m sorry, but if you’re insinuating that these two programmes are in any way similar, me and Abigail Breslin are gonna get all ‘Super Freak’ on yo’ ass. The SMA girls may be the real freaks, but Jackie couldn’t be further from it.
You can watch the full documentary on BBC iPlayer.