Transsexual Teen Beauty Queen: Jackie Green attempts to quash transgender stereotypes by qualifying as a Miss England contestant

by Matt D

BBC3 has a habit of creating documentaries about young people who are incredibly interesting whether it be Georgia in the Glamour Model Mum shows, Jasmine of the Small Teen series or more recently Bad Boy Olympian Ashley McKenzie their stories always intrigue me and make me want to know more about them. Transsexual Teen Beauty Queen has an equally intriguing subject in Jackie Green who, at 16, became the youngest person in the world to have gender reassignment surgery. Throughout the documentary we learn about her struggles from a young age when she was picking out girls clothes instead of boys and eventually her parents came round to the fact that she was different.

When she started secondary school she tried to live as a girl however got bullied by not only her fellow pupils but by older men from the local community. Jackie’s conflicting gender issues meant that eventually she wanted to commit suicide especially when she learnt that her changing body would mean she’d develop an Adam’s apple and a deep voice. Help came from a Doctor in Boston who gave Jackie the blockers she needed to curb her hormones and on her 16th birthday her mother paid for her to have gender reassignment surgery in Thailand.

Dan Murdoch’s film follows Jackie on her quest to become a finalist in the Miss England Beauty Pageant starting with two local qualifiers which would see her enter the semi-finals of the contest. Jackie’s first trip was to some pageant experts who gave her some tips on what to say at her interview, how to dress and most importantly of all how to walk. In one of the most contrived scenes of the documentary Jackie runs off crying after being told she isn’t walking the correct way however eventually she learns to take criticism and picks up some useful tips for the pageant. The first contest saw Jackie speak openly about being transgender and earned her some valuable marks from the judges however I reckon the girls sitting at her table were sick of hearing about it. Though she performs admirably throughout the competition Jackie isn’t selected to go further although her confidence is boosted when she gets voted as Miss Personality by the other girls. Her father, who isn’t mentioned or featured much during the film, pops up at the second qualifier to give her more support and somehow it works as she gets through to the semi-final and in the process her story is picked up by the media.

As a Miss England semi-finalist Jackie’s gender reassignment story gets picked up both locally and nationally before going abroad as she appears in papers both in India and Panama. At the same time she has to get ready for the Miss England semi-final which seemed like a weird contest as it involved both a sports round and a round in which the girls had to design their own eco-dresses. Jackie also had to prepare for the dreaded interview stage with the judges who included a lot of pageant experts and oddly CJ de Mooi of Eggheads fame who is the most harsh when talking to the girls.

Murdoch picks up on the fact that Jackie doesn’t discuss beings transgender during the interview however the judges must have known either through the press coverage her story had garnered or by the fact that there was a film crew following this girl around. CJ acts as the voice of the judges as he tells us he thought she was rather dull in the interview stage but became a little more animated when displaying her eco-dress which was completed with a pair of rubber gloves covering her chest area. Judging by the amount of time the documentary had left it was clear that Jackie didn’t qualify for the Miss England final, though she did come in the top half of the table, however she had found acceptance to an extent. Murdoch catches up with Jackie as she heads to Thailand, also seemingly getting a free holiday, as she gets a boob job to feel even more like a girl. At the end of the documentary we learn that Jackie has moved to London to be a hostess in a high street store while this year’s knockbacks make her even more determined to be a part of the Miss England Final next year.

I had mixed thoughts on Transsexual Teen Beauty Queen because while I found Jackie to be an extraordinary young woman I felt that the documentary occasionally manipulated events to create its own story. For example I didn’t believe Jackie’s tears were real when she ran off during her walking lesson and also that the judges at Miss England didn’t know about her past before voting for their winner. I also wasn’t a fan of Murdoch randomly inserting himself as a character into his documentary as he asked Jackie more questioned as personally I would’ve preferred just a simple voiceover. In addition I found there were a lot of parts of Jackie’s story that weren’t told such as how has her surgery impacted on her relationship with her three brothers and there was also no explanation to how Jackie afforded the breast implants.

As I mentioned though I really like Jackie, even though I think she should cut down on the mild swearing if she wants to be taken seriously as a pageant contestant, as she is someone who has few regrets about the past instead wanting to move forward. I really don’t know how this young lady who attempted suicide as many times as she did and had a horrible time at school has turned out as normal and well-adjusted as Jackie has but I think some of that has to be attributed to the excellent relationship she has with both her mother and her grandmother. Jackie’s story definitely proves that we’re not always born the way we should be and society should look more favourably on those who want to change their image to fit how they feel.

Once again BBC3 has focused on another great subject and I think Jackie Green’s story was so interesting that an hour seemed almost too short a time to tell it. I thought Jackie and her other family members were fantastic and I would’ve loved to have seen her go further in her Miss England quest. My problem was with the film as a whole which seemed overly-produced and fabricated at some points in order for those involved to tell the story they wanted to. As some of the young people covered in BBC3’s documentaries over the years have come back for a follow-up piece I wouldn’t be surprised if Jackie popped up again in a later film and I for one would look forward to see her prepare for next year’s Miss England pageant.

Did you watch Transsexual Teen Beauty Queen? What did you think to Jackie’s Story? Leave your comments below.

1 Comment

  1. Dan Murdoch on November 21, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Hi Lisa,
    Cheers for such a comprehensive review – it’s very perceptive, you were clearly paying attention! I thought maybe I could address some of your points?
    On the pageant boot camp seeming contrived/manipulated: Jackie just had a melt down. I could feel it building throughout the session (unsurprising when you’re being coached by a former miss England and a former miss GB- think I’d of cracked too!). I didn’t actually have the camera on Jackie’s face when she started getting tearful, but she just welled up and fled to the loo. I didn’t ask Laura to go into the toilet to comfort her, I just kept the camera rolling and they had forgotten to take their radio mics off (they were actually quite cross when they found I could hear them). As I learned from working with Jackie – it was close to impossible to produce her, I just had to keep the camera rolling and hope she didn’t remove her mic (which she frequently did after learning the lesson in the toilet!)
    Jackie’s dad Tim refused to do an interview- other than the brief snippet when I met him at one of the pageants. I would love to have got him on camera as I spent a bit of time with him and he’s an amazing man, an important part of Jackie’s life, and has a very compelling story. But I asked him right up to the final cut and be wouldn’t do it.
    The Greens decided they didn’t want Jackie’s brothers featured as it could expose them to bullying at school. I thought that was a good shout.
    And Jackie didn’t want her boyfriend on the programme either.
    Really disappointed not to get any of the men in Jackie’s life on screen as I thought they were all amazing – but believe me, no amount of badgering could make it happen!
    Jackie also didnt want me to ask the judges about her being trans during the competition as she didn’t want me to interfere. I suspect they probably knew, but it was never explicit.
    I did consider getting an actor in to do a “simple voice over” but decided that actually it was impossible to make the film seem objective. Really it isn’t just Jackie’s story, but mine too- it’s what I saw through the lens during five months of hanging out with Jackie (and for the vast majority of time it was just Jackie, me and a camera- no researcher, no runner, no assistant, no soundman). I hoped that by leaving my own voice in a viewer would more clearly see that and perhaps forgive some of my clumsiness, and it would also let me leave in some of the more personal asides from Jackie (like when she calls me a dickhead at the top of the film!).
    Cheers again for such a compelling review. If you would like to hear more about directing the film then I have a blog on the Huffington Post:
    And one on about me on the BBC website:

    Best, Dan

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