What’s Worth Watching: Young and Transgender


Frontline, “Growing Up Trans” (Tuesday, June 30, 10/9c, PBS)

What a year for the LGBT community. Even as they celebrate last week’s historic Supreme Court ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage, one of the more traditionally marginalized segments of this population—transgender men and women—is enjoying an unprecedented amount of media attention, especially on TV. The Bruce-to-Caitlin Jenner saga, soon to be the focus of an E! reality series, has put the transgender issue into the mainstream, with series like Amazon’s acclaimed Transparent, Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black (with its breakout star Laverne Cox) and ABC Family’s endearing Becoming Us also paving the way for acceptance, or at least understanding, of people who heretofore were often objects of scorn, ridicule and prejudice.

PBS’s Frontline, peerless among TV’s longform investigative news programs, looks at a relatively new subset of the transgender community—children—in the candid, illuminating and moving Growing Up Trans. The documentary explores the difficult choices being made by kids and teens, and their parents, when an early awareness of gender dysphoria is exacerbated by the child’s desperate desire to avoid the growing pains of puberty in a body they’re not comfortable with. “This generation of kids … are pioneers,” says one doctor, as we hear from a variety of young people (from 9 to 19) who are eager to put themselves through a medical regimen of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to begin the transition. Research is limited, and parents rightfully worry if this profound decision can or should be made at such a young developmental age. But even as they struggle to accept the daughter who was born a son, or vice versa, it’s obvious that these parents want nothing more than for their child to be happy. I’d love for Frontline to return to these families’ stories in a few years. There’s still a lot of growing up to do.