Review: Age 8 and Wanting a Sex Change (Channel 4)

One of the things that Channel 4 does best is to bring us documentaries that make people go “Wha’?” Be it incestuous siblings or people jacking off over horses, when Channel 4 gets obsessed with knocking uglies, it goes straight for the jugular. Most people know Autumn is here because the leaves turn brown… I know it’s here because Channel 4 start doing potentially controversial documentaries.

And so, last night, Channel 4’s first of the year came along and was called Age 8 and Wanting a Sex Change.

The title alone is invariably enough to send Britain’s right wing thinkers into melt-down. The kind of people who think that being something as simple as homosexual sends them scurrying to their letter-headed paper to write furious letters to The Daily Mail or whoever. The premise of parents allowing their children to be transgender probably made them vomit blood and bile and pointing accusatory fingers and yelling “…and I’m going to charge you for redecorating my house as well!” between stomach honks.

This documentary came along at a time when the UK is considering revising guidelines for treating transgender children. Naturally, like all Channel 4 docs, we find out that another country (in this case, the USofA) is already on it. There, we met two eight-year-olds who were already in the process of hormone treatment.

Being someone who knows two transgender folks, I know how agonising a decision it is. I also know that, by-and-large, a lot of people couldn’t give a rat’s ass what sex you are or become, just as long as you’re a nice person and such.

Mercifully, this was shown in the programme, with one hairdresser getting over the initial shock by cooing “Aren’t you the prettiest little girl around?!” or some such to a little boy who felt trapped in the wrong sex.

It’s unfathomable to think how wretched it must be to look down at your genitals and see them as wrong or defective. This is not a case of Wanting To Be A Boy and slapping a fake beard on or whatever… this is wanting the very essence of another sex, a sex that you feel you were somehow denied when you were being cooked up in the womb. It’s a depressing notion.

Which is why I get inordinately irate when people can’t budge their own dim-witted notions of How Things Are Supposed To Be and stick to making things awkward for everyone concerned. Sadly, in the show,the narrator persisted in saying He instead of She for the kids concerned.

This might not seem much as it’s anatomically correct, however, one of the biggest battles when you’re a transgender person is getting people to accept you for the sex you feel that you are. So to hear the constant “he” almost felt intentional and a little needly. Maybe that was just me being oversensitive, but it didn’t sit well in what was an otherwise sensitive look at what can be an incredibly tricky subject.

About the author

I'm Mof Gimmers.

I've been writing about TV for a long time. I love it and loathe it in equal measures. I'm pretty sure the TV feels the same away about me too.
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