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When asked about transsexuals, Mildred Brown, author of True Selves quoted that it is a “dilemma of feeling trapped in the wrong physical gender.” Transsexuality is a phenomenon, which really has not been scientifically examined. Through talk shows such as Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones or the Maury Show, society tends to see a one-sided view on this matter. While watching the Maury Show, “Man or Woman”, the audience’s reaction to the transsexuals on stage were not of disgust but more of awe. They were in awe that a man could look so much like a woman and how some women showed very masculine features. The guests on this show were inevitably labeled as "freaks" regardless of whether it was verbally spoken or not.
The talk show was a brief one. Maury Povich, the host, introduced 12 beautiful women onto the stage. There were two black women, five Hispanic women, and five white women on stage. They all flaunted their flawless bodies. Some were voluptuous; others were more on the thinner side, yet none of them seemed to be any “different” than any other model/porn star. All the guests on this show were in their mid twenties to their mid thirties. The theme of this show was for the audience to see if they could tell the difference between a man and a woman.
Watching the faces in the audience, I noted that each and every one of them were judging all the guests. were 100% men, and some were 100% women. They all stood in a line and for each one, the cross-dressing guests would either prove the audience wrong or right in their judgments. On more than half of the guests, the audience was proven wrong. It was incredible to see some of these guests strut their bodies as the opposite gender. Some of the men looked so much like women that the audience was in complete shock when they revealed their true gender.
Now came the interrogation. I call this an interrogation because all these guests are individually put on under the spotlight. Maury Povich digs under their skin to try to expose how “freakish” they really are. The audience is silent and their faces are wrinkled in confusion to try to understand why the guests are the way they are and who or what made them become like this. The guests sit on their chairs with their head held up high, legs crossed, gloating under all the attention they are receiving.
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Sara, or as he called himself, a twenty four year old stripper was one guest on the show. He had a frail body and a pretty face and in no way did he show any masculinity in the way he talked. His body language was very feminine as well and when asked why he cross-dressed; he replied, “I feel more beautiful as a woman than as a man”. Perhaps the lack of attention he received as a man had changed his mentality in getting some physical attention as a woman. Sara also noted that he was not a homosexual. What did this make him? A straight man that cross-dressed.
Alicia, another guest on the show was a transsexual. She had gone under surgery two years before the show was taped and when asked what made her want a sex change, she talked about her life story as a child and as an adolescent. When other children would taunt him because he liked to play with dolls instead of roughing it out on the playground like other boys. Alicia’s situation was more emotional. Whether he was born with more estrogen in his system or not was a question, but as far as Alicia could remember, she had always liked to be feminine
Joshua Gamson states that many of the transsexuals featured on these talk shows are conned into “expressing themselves” whereas in reality, they were put on the show to be ridiculed by the audience so ratings could go up. “The producers need to keep their program as close to standard assumptions about sexuality as they can, even as they invite guests precisely because they defy those assumptions.” (Pg. 162) He points out that sometimes the guests want to be misunderstood for the attention. They like the feeling of being unique and not conforming to society’s standards or follow their values. It is what they want to do to feel alive. Gamson also points out that some transgenders want to go all the way and become the opposite gender rather than living under the pressure of being a homosexual.
In “Sounds of Silence” by Edward and Mildred Hall, the intimate look at body language also comes into view. All the guests on the show seemed to hold a certain confidence in themselves. The way they arched their backs and their hand graceful hand movements showed that they were not afraid of judgement. They all wanted to be on the show to be either understood or misunderstood. I also observed how Maury was conversing with them. I noticed that hosts like Jerry Springer or Ricki Lake would roll their eyes around a lot or give looks of disgust, or even put down their heads in the act of being embarrassed for their guests. “If you observe a person conversing, you'll notice that he indicates he's listening by nodding his head. He also makes the “Hmm” noises. If he agrees with what is being said, he may give a vigorous nod to show pleasure or affirmation ... if a participant wants to terminate the conversation, he may start shifting his body position, stretching legs, crossing or uncrossing them ... the more the speaker becomes aware he has lost his audience.