Teen Angst Meets Transgender Parent on Becoming Us

Becoming Us
Jean Whiteside/ABC Family
Becoming Us

As if being a teen these days weren’t rough enough! In ABC Family’s new unscripted docuseries Becoming Us, 17-year-old Ben Lehwald navigates the nightmare that is adolescence while dealing with a drama very few—of any age—can relate to: having a transgender father. Still, the levelheaded kid is crushing the whole acceptance thing and sharing his story in hopes of helping others. His dad, Carly (formerly Charlie), must be proud.

Why put all this out there?

Really, to help other people become who they want to be and to help kids who are going through the same situation I am. I’ve always wanted to be of service and thought this would be a good way to do it, to get the message of [acceptance] across.

How did you initially handle your dad’s news that he was transitioning to a woman?

He did a lot of feminine things beforehand, and I feel like that was a heads-up in a way. So when I was told about the situation, things fell into place for me. I was more worried if my parents were going to be OK and if my dad would be OK.

This must have been tough on your mom.

She was very mad [at the beginning]. There was a lot of grieving and a lot of pain—we were both really sad and cried a lot. But we got to where we need to be with it now.

What advice would you give someone who is just starting to deal with a parent’s transition?

Start by getting in touch with yourself and your emotions, because you can’t bottle them up. When you try, it just explodes and you’ll get to a point where you can’t take it, mentally or physically, and you could end up making really bad decisions. That’s where I was.

What was harder to get used to: seeing your dad as a woman or having your life invaded by camera crews?

Both were very hard. With my dad, I was so used to seeing him [one way] for 13 years; it was like this stranger had come into my life. I was dumbfounded. She looked beautiful the first time I saw her, so that was a relief! [Laughs]

Becoming Us, Series premiere Monday, June 8, 9/8c, ABC Family