“TransGeneration”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
March 28, 2006

Told with compassion and insight, the fascinating eight-episode documentary TransGeneration focuses on the lives of four college students struggling to fit into a society that doesn’t understand why they are the way they are–that is, transgendered young adults trapped in bodies that belie their true selves. Gabbie and Raci deal with their issues in vastly different ways.

Sex-reassignment surgery is expensive, and is a procedure many transgendered folks can’t afford. But money is no object for Gabbie–the first-born son of an affluent family–and she literally counts the days until her scheduled treatment. She has no problem telling her classmates she’s transgendered and believes surgically ridding herself of her penis will complete her life.

Raci, also 19, is deaf and poor. An immigrant from the Philippines, she resorts to purchasing female hormone shots off the street because that’s all she can afford. Though she’s hopeful at the start of the school year that the kids are “tranny friendly,” Raci lives in constant fear that she will be ostracized if her true identity is found out. When people ask her about the camera crew following her around, she mumbles that she’s part of a documentary about women in college.

The two female-to-male subjects are no less complicated.

Lucas is tired of being asked about transsexuals and transgendered people, but he’s also aware that as one of the few males at an all-female school (Smith College), people are curious about his beginning college as a woman and graduating as a man. A neuroscience major, he’s worried about hormones potentially shaving years off his life.

TJ, an Armenian grad student, is self-assured and a leader on campus. But when he calls his mother back home, he’s reduced to an unsure child who doesn’t want to disappoint his family. In Cyprus, where he grew up, TJ was known as Tamar, a gorgeous gamine of a girl. He wants to return home as TJ, but is worried about the ramifications against his mother in their tight knit community.

Transitioning into adulthood is an awkward and painful phase for many teens, who’re unsure of who they are and what they want to be. The four subjects of TransGeneration know they don’t want to be what they were born as. The documentarians are careful not to present them as martyrs or perverts, but rather as full-dimensional people who’re scared, curious, and hopeful about what the future holds in store for them.

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