Saturday, 19 November 2011

My Transsexual Summer

There has been much discussion of the show My Transsexual Summer on the blogosphere, so I won't repeat it here. What I do want to talk about is the blog of Maxwell Zachs, who appeared on the show.

Here, Max reveals that no one on the show was paid, along with the fact that he has suffered great financial hardship due to the time devoted to filming, and to the pressures of being publicly outed. Max mentions that he was okay with this, as he felt he and the others were helping people to understand transgenderism, but, since seeing the show, and feeling misrepresented, this is no longer the case (I paraphrase). Max has started a petition, asking for compensation from Channel 4 for damages suffered.

This is an awful situation to be in. I don't begrudge Max seeking a share of the profits after being used, although I don't think that twentytwenty or C4 have a legal or moral requirement to provide them. It would be awesome if they did, and great for their PR, but they don't become awful people if they don't (they already were, for other reasons).

That said, I do think that the manipulative way Max has gone about this is appalling. I posted this comment on the post, though it has since been deleted (again, I don't begrudge him doing this; it's his blog, he can allow or disallow whatever comments he likes);

I wrote this comment on that post, but it's since been deleted;

Let's take your points in order;

1. You mention that you agreed not to be paid, and that you were okay with that as long as the editing reflected the idea you had of the story that was being told. This, presumably was not specified on the contract, and instead, editing rights were granted solely to twentytwenty and C4 (otherwise you'd have recourse other than a petition).

Please note that this is not intended as a criticism, just a summary. Naivety is not a crime.

2. Your personal life was affected by appearing in the show. Presumably, you were aware that appearing on national television would effectively out you. That said, one would presume that twentytwenty would ensure that you were not left in a worse position by appearing in the show, financially speaking. I admit, I always had the impression that businesses received compensation in some form, in exchange for allowing their employees time off to appear in these shows. However, again, surely this would have been on the initial contract you signed?

3. Scenes were 'set up'. Were you complicit in this? Did you refuse to take part? Again, presumably, you agreed to this in the original contract, and/or by taking part in it as they were filmed.

4. You return to the point of being misrepresented. See point 1. You signed over editing rights. Again, naivety and trusting people is not a crime, and it is unfortunate that this happened to you. I highly recommend reading Chart Throb, and reading over contracts in depth, perhaps with recourse to legal advice, before signing.

5. Twentytwenty and C4 earned lots of money. And? You knew that. You agreed that you didn't want any of it, as did Fox and everyone else. You don't get to decide to tear up the contract 'because they were dicks'.

It would be kind of twentytwenty and C4 to give you and the others involved monetary compensation. It might even be good for them PR-wise. However, they have no moral or legal obligation to do so, and none of your points give you the moral high ground, as you seem to imply.

Of course, I may be totally wrong, and twentytwenty may have totally ignored whatever contract was originally signed. In which case, a lawsuit would be a far better idea than a petition (which, in all honesty, seems to be more about blackmailing them with embarrassment as you go back on your word, rather than appealing to their better nature).

To clarify point 5; Max knew that the companies involved would be making money. This hasn't changed since the beginning. He was okay with this.

This is in contrast to the difference between how he expected to be portrayed, and how he was portrayed, in which he has more genuine grounds for grievance.

In short, the profits were not a problem until Max began digging up every thing that could possibly be construed as a problem to add emotional weight to his post and petition.

I did also suggest that Max use his blog (which appears to have been set up purely in response to the show) in order to tell the story he wanted to tell.  That comment was also deleted.

In a second post, here, Max mentions that he and the others involved 'deserve' and 'need' money because one of them was living with a stalker during filming.

This isn't relevant. The person in question didn't live with that person because of the show. She's already escaped from the situation and moved on, without the help of the show.

I'm not claiming that she is in a perfect situation now, or that she wouldn't appreciate a share of the profits. What I am saying is that Max used a totally irrelevant situation as emotional fuel to inspire people to support his own monetary gain.  He portrayed a survivor of abuse as an eternal victim for his own greed.

That is appalling.

I've been a victim of abuse. So have many other women I know, trans or otherswise. We've been raped, emotionally abused, and attacked. Claiming that, because this once happened to us, it's the fault of whoever we choose to point at and demand money from, is sick.

I would like to add that I have no idea whether or not the person in question gave permission for her quote to be used in this way.  I in no way intend to attack her for this.

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