Edited to add: “Transvestite Wives” will also be shown again on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 6:00 PM, if you missed it the first time around.
Last night, I caught the premiere of BBC America’s “Transvestite Wives” episode in their BBC America Reveals series. From their website:
Transvestite Wives looks at three transvestite relationships, as seen through the eyes of their wives and partners.
In the Scottish Highlands, Sheila discovered seven years into her marriage that her husband Dennis was a transvestite. In Newark, 20-year-old Sam, is embracing her 40-year-old partner Chris’ tranny lifestyle; and in Barnsley, Robyn, who has struggled to be accepted for her weight problem, at last finds happiness with her cross-dresser husband Dean.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised from the title, but none of the relationships had the trans partner in full-time mode. The couples were shown in both same-sex and opposite sex modes, although in the case of Sam and Chris/Rachel, we saw only Rachel for the majority of the episode.
The first couple, Sheila and Dennis/Denise, were a typical middle-aged Scottish pair who had come together later in life and were portrayed as very much in love. They both agreed that they had grown closer after disclosure, and there was a very touching scene in which they drove out to a remote Loch for an afternoon of taking photos – of each other. Their major problems appeared to be their neighbors, who had tried to obtain a court order forcing them to move out of the neighborhood. There was a slightly disturbing scene towards the end where Denise encountered some younger, local women who freely told her that if they’d met her “in a dark alley”, they would have been terrified and run away. Presumably meeting her with her wife and a BBC camera crew next to a supermarket had emboldened them enough to talk to her in a civil fashion. I can only hope they were educated by the experience.
The second couple, Sam and Chris/Rachel, were obviously chosen as a contrast. Sam is a very attractive 20-year-old girl who “likes to be different” and who had worked for the much-older Chris for a while before he told her that he looked good in a skirt. She has embraced what she calls “the tranny scene” and enjoys dressing up in typical ‘drag queen’ attire for karaoke, while the less flamboyant Rachel (who takes at least ten years off hir age when dressed) stands back and admire the show. They were portrayed as having very few problems with their lives (mainly financial due to Chris’ acrimonious divorce), and at Chris’ 40th birthday party, he proposed to Sam in front of their many trans friends, and his very pregnant sister who was seeing him dressed for only the second time.
The last couple, Robyn and Dean/DeAnn, were the only ones where I could see a time where the trans partner might go fulltime in the future. Dean works in the engineering industry and told us that none of his colleagues knew of DeAnn. I’m guessing that’s not true anymore… Dean also helpfully showed us how to do “the tuck” (he was wearing underpants, but left little to the imagination!) Robyn found many similarities between her struggles to be accepted as a larger woman, and Dean and his friends’ struggles to be accepted simply as women. She runs hair and makeup groups for transwomen and said she enjoys their company more than that of genetic girls. The most touching part of their story was when they took a transsexual friend to Blackpool for the day – their friend’s first day out dressed during daylight hours. The success of their relationship was attributed to the fact that Robyn met DeAnn before she met Dean, and in fact Dean came out to most of hir family by appearing at their wedding reception in a wedding dress.
Would I recommend that you watch this? Yes, as long as you bear in mind that it shows a very small cross-section of the cross-dressing community in the UK. I am sure they chose the couples specifically for the strong bond between them and sense of support from the wives. The portrayal was positive – almost too much so, as there was no mention of the many, many others in the same situation where the wives or partners have trouble accepting the situation. Rose-colored glasses, anyone?
The BBC America web site does not indicate any future scheduled showings of this episode, unfortunately, but due to the frequency with which they repeat their other offerings, I am sure it will come around again. Also in this series is the forthcoming ‘My Secret Female Body’ which takes a look at the life of Danny, a female-to-male transsexual. (June 22, 10 p.m. ET, June 23, 1 a.m and 4 a.m. ET)
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