"Transhood" Can Do Good

by Ellen Kahn

In October, HBO released "Transhood", a compelling and beautifully made documentary that captures the journey of four families over the course of five years and helps humanize the experiences of transgender youth.

Debi Jackson, a founding member of HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, and her daughter Avery are one of the four families, all living in Kansas City, who opened their homes to the filmmaker with the hope that their stories — their honesty, their authenticity, their struggles — will help other families who are on a similar journey to understand and support their transgender or gender expansive children.

I had the opportunity to preview "Transhood" before its official release, and I plan to watch it again during the upcoming winter break with my family. It’s that good, and it’s that important.

Our Parents for Transgender Equality Council was launched in 2017 in response to increasing anti-transgender legislation aimed at hurting trans kids and the dizzying myths and misinformation about transgender children and adolescents. We offer a platform to parents of transgender children to share their stories and to model the critical importance of parental support and affirmation. Our council members, including Debi Jackson, take a risk when going public with their stories, but when your child’s life is at stake, when their existence is being questioned and their rights being denied, you do what a parent needs to do. We are in awe every day of the mama and papa and parent bears out there — like the members of our PTEC and so many other parents who speak up for their children even when faced with hostility from their own extended family members, neighbors and total strangers who respond with transphobic hate speech and direct threats to their well-being.

If, like me, you are committed to educating yourself and others about the real experiences of transgender children — how they come to understand their gender, how parents embark on the often bumpy journey toward acceptance and affirmation, how peers and classmates and teachers and medical providers can help or hinder a smooth transition and what we all can do to create a more inclusive and loving world for trans youth — I highly recommend that you watch "Transhood." If you are the parent of a transgender or gender-expansive child, perhaps early in your journey, this documentary will help to light your path. Watch it with your children (TV-14) and consider using these resources, including a discussion guide authored by Mimi Lemay, who is also a member of HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, to build your knowledge and help your family members deepen their understanding of transgender identities and experiences.

Transgender children and their families need more allies; as we head into 2021, we anticipate a spate of anti-transgender bills, from efforts to prevent transgender children from playing sports to criminalizing access to gender-affirming care. "Transhood" is one of many tools that help to cut through the political noise and get us right to the heart of the matter — the thousands of transgender children who rely on all of us to see their humanity and walk by their side with love and acceptance.