ABC focuses on an “atypical lesbian couple” tonight

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Considering the general public’s lack of enthusiasm when it comes to granting equal rights to gay Americans, the mainstream media has been quite enthusiastic about gay issues lately — especially when it comes to transgender citizens.

Oprah’s infatuation with “the pregnant man” Thomas Beatie last year started a pretty heated public debate about transgendered parents — which may have inspired ABC to tackle the subject in an upcoming special, dramatically titled Primetime: Family Secrets.

The hour-long special, which airs tonight, tells the story of Rene and Chloe Prince, who, as ABC will surely remind you, “are not a typical lesbian couple.” That is because Chloe Prince was born Ted Prince. ABC explains further:

From early on, Ted Prince never felt completely comfortable in his male body. As a boy, he secretly dressed in girls’ clothes and wondered what it felt like to be a woman. He felt alone in his gender identity confusion, not knowing that millions of others face the same challenges. Though still confused as an adult, Ted got married and had two children, hoping it would resolve his secret. His wife Rene was aware that he had a closet full of women’s clothing, but hoped it wouldn’t affect their relationship. But when Ted had an allergic reaction to a bee sting one day, a shocking diagnosis followed that would unleash the inner female Ted always knew he had. And last spring, Ted underwent massive surgery in Thailand to become Chloe.

Cameras followed the couple for a year, as their two sons went from having a mom and a dad to two moms and Rene’s husband became her wife. While I am all for increasing trans visibility, I find the premise of the show a bit troubling for a number of reasons.

First of all, the show was filmed as Chloe was transitioning. Anyone with trans friends can tell you that is not an easy time. The show’s description mentions how the boys are “forced to adjust” and how Rene is not happy with Chloe’s new body — if you haven’t even come to terms with the transition as a couple, why would you subject your children to being the stars of a Primetime special on ABC?

Second, the show’s description is begging for a wingnut from Fox News to call in child services: This couple is “redefining” their family. Poor word choice, ABC, we have all had enough of it.

It seems to me that instead of highlighting how many happy families with same-sex parents are out there, this special aims to sensationalize and demonize Chloe:

Chloe’s transformation has brought them all into uncharted territory. During the hour, viewers see just how challenging Chloe’s transition has been on herself everyone close to her, but at what cost?

Dun, dun, dun! At what cost? Is it better to continue living what you feel is a lie? Ever since the news business started its rapid decline, we have been subjected to more shock and awe tactics by primetime channels than ever before. It’s not about increasing visibility for trans citizens, it’s about getting viewers all worked up. Soon enough, Chloe will be on The View, arguing with Elizabeth and promoting her book, and Bill O’Reilly will get people like my father on a warpath while replaying a clip of an upset child: “Look at this,” he will say, “This child’s life is ruined!”

Maybe I’m being a little doom-and-gloom considering I haven’t watched the show yet, so I suppose I’ll have to tune in. In the meantime, Chloe has taken to her own blog to ask that viewers watch the episode with “an open heart and mind”:

I ask that you … reserve judgment, and understand this is only my story, and does not represent all Transgendered or intersexed people. . . . This episode is not about exercising any agendas for the LGBT community. If you’re looking for political correctness or walls to be broken through by this story, you will be disappointed. However, if you are looking for the honesty told from compelling innocence, without bias or reservation to share, then you will want to look forward to the episode.

Will you be watching?

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