Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big Brother Argentina: Trans man Alejandro has been voted out of the house

An update, if you have been following this blog...

After surviving for three months inside the video-monitored "Big Brother" house, luck ran out Sunday for transgender man Alejandro Iglesias as viewers voted to expel him from the Argentinean version of the reality show.

Alejandro, who was only identified as a "mystery guest" before the show was aired, shocked viewers when it was revealed he was a female-to-male transgender man seeking a chance to win the U$10,000 dollar reward which could help him cover the costs of gender reassignment-surgery ("Alejandro Iglesias shocks the viewers of 'Big Brother 2011'").

Of course, this sort of stunt casting is nothing new when it comes to reality shows.  They always seem to drop a gay here, a lesbian there, and sometimes someone who is bisexual or transgender.  I assume they expect drama will ensue once their sexual identity is revealed.

What was amazing, in this case, was that - at least initially - Alejandro quickly became the viewers' favorite to win the game since he came off as sincere and down-to-earth compared to the other 18 players: A mix of showboat male assholes and big-boobed vedettes looking to make it in showbiz.

It didn't take long for Alejandro to 'come out' to the other housemates and the reaction was surprisingly great ("Alejandro tells his 'Big Brother' housemates he is a trans man").  Alejandro also bonded with a fierce ally, Luz, who also came out as a lesbian.  She later would sacrifice her stay in the house by giving immunity to Alejandro.

Turns out the one person who reacted the worst about the revelation was... a gay guy.

Emiliano Boscatto (the curly-locks guy in the image above) received some media attention in 2008 when he was elected "Mr. Gay Cordoba". And yet, in the house he tried to keep his sexual identity hidden for as long as he could.  Whether he used it as a strategy to rattle Alejandro out of the house or whether he was letting his transphobia fly, Boscatto initially insisted Alejandro was a lesbian and told him he simply was incapable of believing he was a transgender man - ultimately flipping around and questioning whether Alejandro was actually born a man and using the transgender story to move ahead in the game.

Two weeks later, Boscatto was the one who got the boot from the house.

But this is Argentina's "Gran Hermano" where contestants who get booted out apparently can be voted back in (what's the point in that?) And so, Aleandro, who outlasted Boscatto and the person considered to be the best player in the house, Cristian U., saw both of them come back.  And, on Sunday, viewers voted him out instead of voting Boscatto out for a second time (you can watch the moment he gets booted out in this clip - the image above is a photo capture of the clip).

A day after getting booted out, Alejandro sat down with a talk show host to talk about his experience in the house.  He is shown clips of the confrontations between Boscatto and him for the first time and is asked for a reaction.  I have translated the clip as follows (turn 'annotations' on).

To Boscatto's credit, he did try to make an alliance with Alejandro once he returned to the house. Alejanadro also didn't help himself by spending some of the last days in the house moping around and being miserable, particularly after Luz left.  He also proved to be a bad strategist and so picky about his tastes that the producers made fun of all the things he kept requesting from the outside - from music by Pimpinela, to foot odor deodorants, to a particular brand of menthol cigarettes.

But, this being a reality show and all, I was struck by the guts it took for this 26 year old guy to go on Argentina's top rated reality show and open up like that to millions of viewers.  He might have gone in saying he needed the money for his upcoming surgery, but - as this clip shows - he was also very aware of the potential positive impact his participation would have on others going through the same things he has gone through.

"Truthfully," he tells the talk show host, "I didn't care much about what was happening inside the house. It was all about the repercussions it might have outside... That's the only thing that mattered to me. [My participation] wasn't in vain... even if it's a single person who gives me thanks..."

Asked about what he would like to see in the future, Alejandro says "To have the [gender identity] law pass, that it won't be as hard to get to where I am, that it won't take as much time. Because persons like me might be fighting the same battle and when they see there's so much left do do, they become depressed, they shut down, they don't want to know anything else...".

Alejandro says that he received authorization for a gender-reassignment surgery last year after four years of dealing with tests and paperwork.  He expects the surgery to take place as planned.

As for Argentina, there IS a gender identity bill that has been making its way to the legislature which would guarantee the right to a legal name and gender change on official documents.

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