Saturday, March 14, 2009

TransAmerica and the Castration of Max Sweeney

Now of all the horrific attempts to bow out of The L Word the Max Sweeney storyline was one that bothered me the most. Max Sweeney has been one of the most complex characters to enter LGBT television. Frankly I'd have to say it was quite premature. The L Word big wigs never seemed to have the writing capabilities for a character like that, and of course not the time. Now since the introduction of Moira Sweeney, viewers have debated and laughed because her butch "hickness" was all too real and all too out of place. She entered a group of glamorous lipstick lesbians, where even the ones who were non-working and broke were chic and clad in couture. She just didn't fit, but still was a comedic balance to the ever annoying Jenny Schecter (who i personally love to hate).

Eventually the direction of the character went from over-the-top butch to someone struggling with their sexual identity. Still things we could follow and even relate to. The series goes on to chronicle the alienation, ignorance and bigotry that follow those of Trans Experience. All things we need to see. But in true Chaiken fashion the storyline takes a turn fro the worse. So Max is a man not a woman, we get it-- but on a Lesbian drama to take Max through the sexual dysphoria that follows turns us off to a potentially wonderful character. Max then struggled with sexual desires towards men and women and takes the viewers through an emotional rollercoaster of mild understanding , to confusion, to utter disgust. Instead of taking a prime opportunity to educate us on any aspects of Trans life, she decides to turn this character into a freak. So know we hate the character and groan when he's onscreen.

Season 5 began and Max pursues a monogamous relationship with Tom, Jody's interpreter. A bit annoying but to gay men right? Not too bad. Even though at this point it's obvious Max has decided not to got through with the surgery, but he's still taking his "T" and now benching massive weight. Ha. Ha. So besides the big contradiction of the prior season with trying to raise awareness to this community, the actual surgery is written off as "a really serious irreversible procedure. " No shit! Anyhow the real K.O.D (kiss of death) is the irreversible season 6 . . .
The final season of The L Word the ultimate insult is added when Max first enters the scene. The werewolf formerly known as Max Sweeney is a dramatized caricature. Is this suppose to prove that Max is a real man? As i laughed myself off a chair i had to think that Chaiken has one hell of a sense of humor, and that she was going to jump from behind a prop and shout "Gotcha, this has been a spoof, and the real final season is coming right about now. . ." It never happened and I'm no longer laughing. To add insult to injury they incorporate some unoriginal Thomas Beatie bullshit. Really, i mean really -- Because America needed another pregnant Trans-Man? So on top of everything that goes wrong with this character, he's now pregnant.

Here's where i play devil's advocate, and ask all those stupid, ignorant but much need questions.

First of all, from what I've known about people of trans experience, it is not likely that they feel comfortable or are even capable of sexual activity with their biological -er parts. If you've felt like a man in the wrong body all you life, once you come to terms with this, do you still use your "lady parts?" Doubtful. But i may uneducated in the matter. So let's say you re sexually active pre-op, post-"T". . .you are feeling more like a man with a few glitches, are you going to have vaginal intercourse, and go totally against everything you are working towards, being counseled for, paying for? Doesn't make much sense.

So let's say you are the type of Trans-Man who DOES carry on this way. And you prefer sex the traditionally heterosexual way, and you end up pregnant. . . Do i call you sir or ma'am. Because generally i wouldn't refer to anyone whose pregnant as sir, and i do think its a lot to ask of someone to process a such a complex scenario. Opinions aside, i do wonder how common this very situation is. Thomas Beatie was another (real-life) pregnant transman, but he too exploited himself fro the sake of an audience.

What doesn't sit well with me is that we as an LGBT community have to overcome more than enough hurdles. We have to deal with being harassed, leered at, and disrespected. The trans-community gets a great amount of the intolerance and are often made to be the biggest freaks. So when they fight, and rally for tolerance and understanding its a big deal. An even bigger deal is when these issues are publicly contradicted. It's confusing for people to fathom the idea of someone who wants to be a man having vaginal sex, or a working uterus, or a fertilized egg--and still identifying as a man.

I really wonder what the Trans community feels about this, the character, the real life model, and how the world interprets and in turns reacts to this community.

Any thoughts? Leave them here . . .or email me @


Emerald said...

I have to agree, from the trans I have known, they felt more or less completely cut off from their sexual organs pre-op. I've been told the hormones can often make them non-functioning, as well. I can only imagine that by the time you were as far into hormone replacement as Max is, there would be very little sexual pleasure to be had from vaginal intercourse. I am very disappointed in the turn the series took in an effort to shove it off the air quickly. Max was my favorite character, and they turned him into a circus side show rather than a serious break through for the trans community. I feel like they've lost any ground they gained by being represented in the show.

Dylan said...

Just wanted to say...what Emerald said happens to transwomen who take estrogen...the opposite happens to transmen who take fact for the first 2 years of taking T their sexual drive is through the roof!!

it's also a personal choice which surgeries trans people choose to have. some can't take the idea that having some surgeries would mean they couldn't have biological children, so hold them off until they have children...others just arent that bothered about what's inside them, what people can't see.

DB.Dovjak said...

Being a part of the trans community myself (though not a transman) I have a few words to say to this.

While I'm not defending this nonsensical storyline there are a few things that need to be said.

Yes, there are transmen who don't have a problem using their vagina (Buck Angel anyone?).
Yes, there are transmen who don't opt for top surgery because they just don't think it's necessary.
Yes, a pregnant transman is still a man and should be referred to as such.
No, there's NO WAY IN HELL a transman who has been on testosterone for as long as this character can still get pregnant. NO.WAY.IN.HELL.
Yes, testosterone DOES shut down the reproductive system - at the very latest after 6 months. It happens within 2-4 months for most.
And even IF he could've gotten pregnant (which in reality he could NOT) - not aborting this pregnancy, no matter how long he's been pregnant - is absolutely, entirely unresponsible. Being pregnant while on testosterone would cause grave damage to the fetus. (Which is why Thomas Beatie went off of T months before. Btw, while talking about pregnant transmen - I know a pregnant transman. I'm not gonna tell you in which country or anything else though, because he doesn't want to be in the media - so, no, not all pregnant transmen "exploit" it, as you called it. Personally, I never viewed it as Beatie exploiting anything anyway though.)

DB.Dovjak said...

Oops, I meant "irresponsible", not "unresponsible".

Anonymous said...

The fact thay someonr can be pregnant, and have a working uterus, and still deny tobthemselves thay they are a womwn is just sad. We need to teach these people to be happy with the body they were born with. Only true intersex people should ever be counseled towards hormones. Our society and mental health professionals need to teach patience and acceptance not encourage body dismorphism.