Oct 16

“The T Word”: Transgender Truths Presented By Laverne Cox

“For many of us, the ‘T’ in ‘LGBT’ means more than ‘transgender’ — it also means ‘truth,'” [Laverne] Cox explained in a statement today. “The cast members in this documentary are fearlessly living their truths and in sharing their stories will send the message to other trans youth that it’s okay to be who you are.” Advocate.com, 9/18, about The T Word

Laverne Cox is currently well known for her trans character in Orange is the New Black as well as for her real-life transgender activism. Now she lends her star power to an hour-long new documentary, Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word, which will premiere on both MTV and Logo tomorrow at 7 P.M. Eastern time.

Kevin Noonan, Variety, lists the seven transgender individuals who will appear:

  • Ari, an 18-year-old man from Manhattan, who graduated from high school and is starting college.
  • Avery, a 20-year-old woman from Queens, New York, who shares her experiences dating.
  • Daniella, a 20-year-old woman from the Bronx, New York, who speaks out against anti-transgender violence.
  • Kye, a 24-year-old man in Brooklyn, New York, who became the first Division One transgender basketball player.
  • L’lerret, a 20-year-old woman attending college in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she is an active member of BreakOUT!, a group fighting criminalization of transgender youth.
  • Shane, a 22-year-old man from Baltimore, Maryland and a college student living with his girlfriend.
  • Zoey, a 12-year-old girl from California, who is supported by her mother and transferred out of her last school when the school administrators refused to acknowledge her as a girl.

According to Nicole Lyn Pesce, New York Daily News, “The special steers away from the technicalities of gender transition and reassignment surgery to instead focus on the young men and women’s relationships with their families, classmates and romantic partners.”

Cox hopes the sharing of personal stories will educate those tuning in. As told to Sarah Toce, The Huffington Post:

‘I believe this group of seven young people from the ages of 12 to 24 is so amazing and courageous. In this world it is still a big deal to come forward publicly and say that you’re trans. You open yourself up to all kinds of discrimination, potential violence, stigma, and for these young people to come forward on national television and say ‘This is who I am’ and to tell their story so openly and truthfully, I think they should be applauded,’ said Cox. ‘I love every single one of them, and I hope that this documentary can be a critical intervention in terms of how we think about trans people, especially trans young people in this country, and really just humanize them. At the end of the day, I think it’s hard to look at this group of young people and think that they should be denied anything in terms of equality and in terms of having full access to things everyone should enjoy in this country.’

Following the documentary is a “Trans Forum” hosted by Cox and news correspondent Su-Chin Pak. Questions will be received from audience members as well as from viewers using social media.

Incidentally, Cox, accompanied by the T Word youth and GLAAD, is scheduled today, Spirit Day, to light the Empire State Building in NYC purple. As stated by GLAAD, “Millions go purple on Spirit Day in a stand against bullying and to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Observed annually since 2010, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, and public figures wear purple, which symbolizes ‘spirit’ on the rainbow flag.”

Aug 13

Transgender Teens: “Beyond Magenta” Acquaints Us

Luke, one of several transgender teens represented in Beyond Magenta, inspired the title via the following words:

They told me
No.
Said, ‘What are you?’ said, ‘you gotta choose’
said, ‘Pink or blue?’
and I said I’m a real nice color of
magenta

Award-winning author and photographer Susan Kuklin‘s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (2014) is a new resource for “transgender and gender-neutral” youth and those who care about them.

Six young adults and their families are featured in the book. “Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves,” states the publisher.

VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates): “Kuklin’s book is not just a lifeline for teens who are going through something similar and need to see themselves and their lives so openly portrayed—this book is an important read for the parents, friends, and loved ones who want to understand what a transgender teen might be going through.”

Why did these kids open up to Kuklin? According to Chelsey Philpot, Buzzfeed, she says it’s simply about listening without judgment. Surely it also helped, in terms of putting the project together, that Kuklin also fostered a collaborative relationship with each one of them.

More from Philpot about the book’s structure and personalities:

Each chapter is told from the first-person perspective of one of the teens. Their experiences have similarities: Many were bullied, many were confused, and many felt trapped in bodies that did not belong to them. But their stories are also as different as their photographs. Some had supportive families and friends. Some did not. Some have arrived at a peaceful place of self-acceptance. Some are still searching…

As a group, they are racially diverse and come from a wide range of economic, religious, and social backgrounds. Mariah (who asked not to have her picture in the book ‘because I’m not comfortable with my body’) was raised by her grandmother in a poor neighborhood. Jessy is Thai; he and his family moved to the U.S. for his diplomat dad’s job. Christina grew up in a Catholic household. At home, Nat’s family spoke Spanish and English. Cameron is from Westchester County, but ‘not one of the rich, white Westchester towns you hear about.’ And Luke lives in Wisconsin with his two parents and older sister.

Three of the teenagers are female to male (FTM) and three are male to female (MTF). One is intersex, another identifies as pansexual. Furthermore, as Kuklin states, “Gender is one variable in a person’s identity, and sexual orientation is another variable. The two are not connected.”

In addition to all the profiles, there is a resources section as well as clinical info from Dr. Manel Silva of HOTT (Health Outreach to Teens), a program at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York. Kuklin, in fact, found five of her subjects by connecting with this agency. The other teen was found through Proud Theater in Madison, Wisconsin.

Vicki Cobb, reviewing Beyond Magenta for The Huffington Post: “What comes through loud and clear is their humanity, the depth of their suffering, and their courage to embrace their differences and show the world who they really are.”