transgeneration-raci.jpgGrowing up is hard to do. The life of a teenager or young adults is like one giant obstacle course. Constantly thrown curve balls that force us to learn how to deal with and adapt to the many challenges we’re eventually going to run into as adults. If that’s a fair comparison, then the education system is the ‘American Gladiators’ of life lessons, sending the naïve and inexperienced through a treacherous gauntlet that finds those who survive emerging, hopefully, a stronger individual. In this tradition, ‘Trans Generation’ is a coming-of-age story that takes an intimate look at four students faced with challenges that extend beyond grade point averages and exam papers. It’s a coming-of-gender portrait of the lives of four transgendered students.

Director Jeremy Simmons focuses on four University students struggling to balance their grades and social lives all the while making the challenging transition from male to female, or vice versa. Lucas (born Leah) finds himself trying to fit in at an all girls College, constantly aware of his bending and stretching of the school’s ‘females only’ policy. He’s decided to take his transition to the next step, researching hormone therapy. Gabby (born Andrew) attends the University of Colorado and spends most of her time playing video games, as any 20 year old Computer Science major should be. A self proclaimed nerd, Gabby decides to spend her freshman year living full time as a woman. She’s well into her hormone therapy and plans to have sex reassignment surgery. T.J. (born Tamar) attends Michigan State University, along with some close friends who share the same gender identity issues. He seems to be the most open about being transgender, and ends up falling for a girl named Staci. Originally from Cypress, his scholarship requires him to return home for two years upon the end of his school term, forcing him to deal with the repercussions of living as a male. Finally there’s Raci. (born Roy) Constantly cheerful, I’d say Raci, out of the four people in this film, seems to exist most naturally in the opposite sex. Perhaps this is why she avoids any discussion with schoolmates in regards to being transgender. She can get away with existing as a girl so long as she doesn’t have to fess up. As if that wasn’t enough, Raci also suffers from a hearing disability, relying on a hearing aid to communicate with others.

TransGeneration-Lucas.jpgThis eight part mini-series, created in 2005 for the Sundance Channel, covers every conceivable roadblock that could possibly stand in the way of a transgendered person. Although the four people featured in this film do have their own individual problems, there are a number in which they commonly share. The challenge of explaining the fact that you were born in the wrong body to your family is unimaginable. Lucas takes it upon himself to write his Father a letter addressing his gender issues and the fact that he’s going to begin taking hormones. It’s an extremely emotional situation that either side cannot entirely appreciate. Lucas’ Father will never completely understand the changes his daughter is going through, nor will Lucas ever fully appreciate the emotional impact of his Father watching the girl he named Leah slowly becoming a man. T.J. finds it especially hard to deal with his Mother, whose concerns seem to revolve more around what friends and family will think when word gets out among their tightly knit community in Cypress. But it’s not just family that are faced with the challenge of acceptance. Raci finds herself in a particularly uncomfortable situation after a fellow male drama student kissed her during a class scene rehearsal. Eventually the guilt catches up with her and she ends up confronting him about it, revealing her secret to a classmate for one of the first times.

You can’t help but become wrapped up in the lives of these people. Not only is it a nostalgic trip back into the shoes of a student, but an inside look at something most people simply cannot understand. The settings are familiar, as are some of the problems; achieving both academic and social success in a school environment. It’s that extra set of challenges that make this documentary series stand out from the rest.

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