Just like treat her like you don’t even like her

Frontline did a show on trans children and adolescents yesterday.

One was Alex Singh.

As he and his family navigate this new landscape, Alex also been forced to grapple with fundamental questions about gender and identity — beyond a beard or an Adam’s apple, for example, what does it take to be a guy?

“I always like see these really cool guys and I’m always like, I want to be like them,” says Alex. “Morgan and Ben were those like cool guys that I wanted to be like. Once I really realized that they were perfectly fine with me being transgender, it was like a whole new world for me.”

In the show you see the three of them hanging out and talking. One thing that one of the cool guys jumped right out at me, in a mix of sorrow and anger and frustration…

In the video below — the second in a series of Facebook first mini-documentaries from FRONTLINE tied to our new film, Growing Up TransBen and Morgan share some advice with Alex. For example, “If you have to burp, just let it fly.” And when it comes to talking to girls, “try not to really show any emotion … just like treat her like you don’t even like her.”


No, don’t do that. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t buy into the message that being a guy requires being an asshole. Don’t train yourself to have no feelings, and don’t train girls to put up with being hit on by guys who don’t even like them.

The advice, Alex says, has helped him to fit in.

“The like tactics and all the information that they’re giving me, I definitely use it,” says Alex. “People thought I was weird so I think they just kind of push away. Now that I have friends that actually like accept me and respect me, that are guys, I feel very comfortable and I feel like I’m definitely more … guy-ish, I guess. You could say. I’m more myself.”

Or more like them, which is just sad.


  1. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Did Frontline structure this in such a way that those sentiments were just left out there, with no editorial acknowledgment that there’s something wrong with that?

  2. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    This is especially disturbing in the context of a show examining how our society treats gender and gender variant people. That bit of advice is simply reinforcing the toxic-and-leads-to-violence attitudes that are at the root of victimizing trans folks, women, gays, and everyone else. Ugh!

  3. quixote says

    Ah, but, Josh, aren’t you (like me) getting the impression that transgender which seeks recognition of conformity is fine with the powers-that-be? It’s respect for diversity that’s beyond the pale. People like, say, women who’d rather not perform femininity or unsexist men who just want to be left in peace.

  4. says

    Josh, yes, it did, as far as I saw – I wasn’t able to watch the whole thing. Mind you, these are kids, so as adults we’re free to remember that kids aren’t necessarily the best source of advice…But of editorial distancing there was none. On the contrary it was framed as quite sweet…which it was, in the sense that they were accepting Alex rather than bullying him, but in other senses…not so much.

  5. Silentbob says

    @ 3 quixote

    You know, I’ve recently been defending this blog against accusations of trans antagonism, and you’re not helping.

    No, “transgender” (whatever the fuck that is, I thought that word was an adjective, not a noun) does not seek recognition of conformity, is not fine with the powers-that-be, does not consider respect for diversity beyond the pale. It’s “cisgender” that does that. Sometimes trans people have to play along to be accepted at all.

    Please read this post, and please knock off the transphobic bullshit. You’re stinking up the place, and you’re giving Ophelia a bad name.

  6. says

    @5 Silentbob

    It was my impression that quixote was saying that “the powers-that-be,” i.e. cisgender people, are the ones who are fine with “transgender which seeks recognition of conformity.” Which is true, I think, as the majority often only accepts “diversity” only as long as they do their best to fit into the preconceived boxes we have constructed instead.

  7. quixote says

    Yes, Michael @6, that’s what I was trying to say. Mainstream attention seems to go almost entirely to things/events/attitudes/lifestyles that support preconceived boxes.

    (My nonstandard use of “transgender” was an off-the-cuff attempt to find a word that implied the whole field. Notice it’s followed by “which,” meaning “what follows is a subset.” Let me know what is the right word to use to mean “every kind of transgender person, and their worldview.”)

  8. Silentbob says

    @ 7 quixote

    I apologize, I see now I have misinterpreted your comment. I think I jumped to conclusions because a past comment of yours has been cited as an example of anti-trans attitudes on this blog.

    Having said that, “transgender” is not a “whole field” and their is no right word to use to mean “every kind of transgender person, and their worldview”. That is as ridiculous as calling “gay” a “whole field” and seeking a word for “every kind of gay person, and their worldview”. Transgender is an attribute, not an ideology.

  9. beardymcviking says

    Hey, SilentBob – You that read wrong!

    Seriously though, smiles all around to see everyone trying to be supportive of trans* people without having to support damaging ‘traditional masculinity’.

  10. TTT says

    Alex and his cis friends are 13 years old. It is far more important that this generation is so accepting and trans-positive than that they should lose the longstanding young boy pride at burping. Let’s prioritize and stick to what is really feasible. It would be nicer if they were less socially awkward / clueless around girls, but the article did not make clear whether they were talking about trying to flirt with girls or just get over their nervousness enough to talk to one in the first place.

  11. says

    What? In the first place, it wasn’t the burping item that I took issue with, so why swap that for what I did take issue with? And in the second place, who says it’s more important that this generation is so accepting and trans-positive than that they should stop training each other to be shitty to girls? Why aren’t both important? Yes it’s great that kids are so accepting and trans-positive, but that doesn’t make it great that boys train trans boys to act hostile to girls.

  12. says

    I am puzzled. Since when is conforming to other people’s expectations being “more oneself”? Yes, we all want to fit in socially, especially at that age, but that goal tends to be (or certainly was for me, and obviously so at the time) rather at odds with “being oneself”. I’ve been unambiguously male for 58 years, and I don’t recall either championship eructation, or pretending to despise girls*, ever being goals I aspired to.

    Still, 13 year olds aren’t known for subtlety of analysis, so give young Alex time.

    *OK, girls had cooties up until I was ~10. But after that….

  13. says

    Alex’s reaction was interesting – he threw his head back in laughter. It’s impossible to tell, of course, but it seemed to me he saw some of the absurdity in the advice.

    I wish it were just a 13-year-old view but you hear so much of that kind of thing from alleged adults too. The guys on all the macho shows on the Discover channel are constantly telling each other to up their asshole quotient. “Man up”; “grow a pair”; “get a thicker skin.”

  14. Jennifer Chavez says

    At first I thought it was encouraging that they all did seem to realize that the advice was kind of shameful. At the same time, sexism is frequently acknowledged with momentary shame, yet the person continues right on. So no, this kind of thing must be called out even when it’s 13 year olds.

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