Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word TV Poster Image
Intense interviews with transgender youth promote empathy.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The young transgender people featured in this documentary discuss their dreams and aspirations, as well as how important it is to have family support. Empathy is a major theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cox treats her interview subjects with dignity and respect, serving as a model of grace under pressure. She teases out the joys of her subject's lives, as well as the hard parts. The folks interviewed are from a range of backgrounds, but all are survivors of walking a difficult life path.

Violence

No on-screen violence, but one participant graphically describes her rape, and many participants talk about how they were bullied. Others discuss the ever-present threat of violence in the lives of trans women, as well as how often trans women are murdered. An interviewee admits she might have committed suicide without her mom's support, and the frequency of suicide in the trans community is delved into. 

Sex

No nudity, but interviewees frequently discuss genitalia and sex in the abstract. They also discuss sex work/prostitution. A couple is shown kissing in a romantic fashion. 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word is a documentary featuring transgender young adults speaking honestly about their lives. There's no foul language, nudity, sex, drinking, or drugs. However, the participants are honest about such potentially sticky subjects as sexuality, sex work, and gender, as well as the threat of violence faced by trans women. One of the participants was raped and discusses it in graphic terms, crying on-screen. The prevalence of suicide in the trans community also is discussed, with one interviewee avowing she would have committed suicide if not for the support of her mother. All participants are treated with respect and dignity, and their lives are examined with kindness and honesty. 

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What's the story?

If anyone knows about the struggles of transgender youth, it's actress Laverne Cox, whose breakthrough role in Orange Is the New Black ushered in a new public consciousness about gender identity. In LAVERNE COX PRESENTS: THE T WORD, Cox interviews seven young people about their lives, their problems, and their successes. From the importance of family support to the horrors of puberty to the words they'd prefer people not use about trans men and women, these young people age 12 to 23 allow us a peek into their worlds. We meet their family members and a girlfriend (only one of the participants has a partner who appears on-screen) and hear about what it's really like to be gender-different in America. 

Is it any good?

Calmly and with impressive aplomb, Cox addresses the camera directly to explain to viewers many of the concepts that befuddle others about transgender people. Why don't some trans men and women get genital surgery? How can you be a woman if you don't have a vagina? Why would someone want to live in a way that others sometimes respond to with hate, fear, and even violence? Given how comfortable she looks in front of the camera, perhaps it's only natural that her subjects would be natural and honest as well, opening up about their personal histories and their current struggles. Ari, for example, a teen trans man, has never had sex. He's had opportunities, but he's afraid that "a girl will put her hand in my pants and freak out. It's happened before. And it sucks." 

Even more heartrendingly, Danielle, 20, recalls her rape and how the law enforcement response changed when they learned she was trans. Was she sure she wasn't doing sex work and something went wrong? Meanwhile, Shane, 23, is over the moon at finding a girlfriend, despite being told by her mom that no one would ever love her if she transitioned. The first time Shane showed his naked body to his girlfriend, he decided to take a shower with her so she wouldn't be overwhelmed. She reproved him: "Shane, you're not an alien. You're going to have parts I'm familiar with and that's fine." With just such tiny, personal anecdotes, these interviewees show their humanity and drive home the point of Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word: There are two important words in the phrase "trans people." 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the issues uncovered in The T Word. Why would trans women face a higher risk of violence? Why would trans people be more likely to commit suicide? Why would families not accept one of their members?

  • Gender issues are having a bit of a "moment" on television, with several series focusing on transgender characters. Which can you name? 

  • Did watching The T Word give you more sympathy and/or empathy for people who are transgender? Was it supposed to? 

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