Originally named Bradley, Brooke Moore was assigned the male gender at birth and went to an all-boys school. But at the age of 13, Brooke – who now lives as a woman – began to develop breasts, and she never grew an Adam’s apple or facial hair. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Klinefelter syndrome, meaning she was born with an extra X chromosome.
Klinefelter’s is relatively common, affecting around 1 in every 660 males. “But it’s so rare to have it at the level I do,” explains Brooke, “where it physically will start turning a man into a woman.”
Brooke is one of eleven housemates in the new Channel 4 documentary Genderquake, which brings together people from across the gender spectrum to live together under one roof and explore their differing views on gender fluidity.
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Brooke – who is a beauty blogger identifying as a heterosexual trans female – says she wanted to take part in Genderquake to show that there are other kinds of transitioning journeys that don’t necessarily involve surgery and pills.
“I’ve always posted YouTube videos and things, and one of the biggest comments that I get is that [my subscribers have] never seen someone like me. This is even from other trans girls, saying: ‘I’ve never met anyone who’s not had to do hormones, or a boob job, or stuff like that.’
“So I thought it was good to show that there are more trans people out there, there’s not just one definitive type.”
In the virtual world, Brooke has experienced huge prejudice from within the LGBTQ+ community. Before entering the Genderquake house, she had never met another trans person face to face, only having spoken to people on the internet. “I’ve tried to break into the trans community online through YouTube, but I was pushed out of it by other trans people because I didn’t meet their norms,” she says.
“I always felt excluded from the excluded kids, I was beyond marginalised, I was out the door, down the road.”
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This problem of prejudice within the LGBTQ+ community was also recently exemplified in an episode of First Dates, where two gay men were criticised by some viewers for pursuing “straight-acting” partners, presenting themselves as typically masculine and liking football and beer.
But back in the Genderquake house, Brooke says her experience felt refreshingly inclusive. “I fully expected to go into this house and meet trans people for the first time and for them to absolutely hate me… but it didn’t happen, we were all really good friends,” she says.
“A lot of trans women don’t like other trans women who are happy to keep everything, and to be proud to keep everything, so that sort of put me on the outskirts.” Brooke has decided to keep her male genitalia, and her friends joke that she’s “a woman with a little bit extra”.
Brooke says that Genderquake was a “liberating” social experiment for her. “I’ve never let down my walls like that before, I’ve always kept myself in a very tight-knit little bubble of friends and family. I’ve never opened up to strangers before because I always thought I’d be shot down, so it was really liberating by the end.”
Genderquake also widened Brooke’s views on sexuality, in that she started to become attracted to a lesbian housemate, Howie. “I was like, ‘What the hell is this?!’ And I do not like women, period, like in that way.”
As the first episode shows, Howie turns a lot of heads in the house – it doesn’t seem to matter what sexuality people are, somehow they still fancy Howie. “When you spend that much time with people and you’re in a confined little space,” says Brooke, “you start to see more than just the outer packaging. Because if I saw Howie on a night out, I’d be like no, she’s beautiful but she’s a woman.
“But then after spending a solid week with her, her energy is so masculine but in a really beautiful way… It wasn’t just me, there were quite a few of us like, ‘What the hell is she doing? She’s turning us all’.”
These feelings of belonging and of altered perception that Brooke had when she left the Genderquake house are evidence once again that social experiments like this can be really effective. It was a success when Anne Robinson welcomed people to her country home to talk about abortion last year, Heineken’s famous ad used the same concept in its Open Your World campaign, and Channel 4 are doing it again with Genderquake. This focus-group format could be a real driving force for change – here’s to more of the same.
Genderquake begins on Monday 7th May at 9pm on Channel 4