“Real Boy”: Check It Out on PBS (June 19th)

REAL BOY is an intimate story of a family in transition. As 19-year-old Bennett Wallace navigates early sobriety, late adolescence, and the evolution of his gender identity, his mother makes her own transformation from resistance to acceptance of her trans son. Along the way, both mother and son find support in their communities, reminding us that families are not only given, but chosen. Realboymovie.com

An award-winning 2016 documentary from filmmaker Shaleece Haas that hasn’t yet received wide exposure but has been seen worldwide at various festivals, Real Boy will soon be available on PBS. Check your local listings, but it seems to be slated in many markets for June 19th at 10 PM.

David Monaghan, Head Stuff, calls Real Boy “sweet and occasionally hard-hitting, offering viewers a multifaceted coming-of-age narrative that never succumbs to sensationalism.”

Much of Bennett’s support comes from his older friend Joe, whom he met at a retreat for sober youth. They also have in common that they’re both transgender and have a strong interest in music.

Finding support from his mom is more challenging. The following line from a Real Boy review resonates with me, as I’ve heard the same thing in my office: “Parents in support groups all over the country have often said, ‘I would have rather my child come out as gay instead of transgender,’ and Ben’s mom is no different.”

But Suzy loves her son and eventually accompanies Ben to his gender reassignment surgery. From the description of this scene from Real Boy:

Bennett enters the hospital for his gender surgery and is both touched and surprised that his mom Suzy came to be with him for support, despite her own reservations. She then gets supportive advice from another mom whose son made the same transition, and who reassures Suzy that Bennett will find the right person for him. ‘We don’t have to understand it completely but we have to be there, love them and support them,’ she tells Suzy. ‘There’s so many other people in the world who want to bring them down; we have to make sure we’re not those people.’

A significant part of this true story is that both Ben and his mom find support along the way, which is usually sorely needed when a family is experiencing transitioning. Whereas for trans kids and teens YouTube videos on related topics are often a great starting place, parents might turn to a PFLAG chapter nearby, use pertinent reading materials, or see a trans-informed therapist, among other alternatives.

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