The Trans List

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Trans List TV Poster Image
Poignant documentary promotes respect, empathy, advocacy.

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

Positive Messages

Reveals struggles, empowerment, survival of transgender people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Those profiled support advocacy, and many have struggled extensively to live their lives freely. 


Narratives about being bullied, attacked; violent crimes discussed.


Intimate relationships, pornography discussed; prostitution referenced. 


Penthouse, Time, and additional publications shown in context. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol and drug abuse described as coping mechanisms. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Trans List is part of HBO's "List" documentary series; it profiles 12 notable transgender people as they share their personal journeys of transition and acceptance. While it offers many empowering stories of survival and advocacy, it does contain lots of mature content, including explicit conversations about genitalia, sexual encounters, and pornography. Violence against the trans community is addressed, as is drug and alcohol abuse. There's some cursing, too. This is another great entry in the series and offers many opportunities to talk to teens about empathy and acceptance. 

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What's the story?

An installment of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' award-winning HBO documentary series, THE TRANS LIST profiles 12 notable transgender people as they share their personal journeys of transition and acceptance. People such as activist Bamby Salcedo, Nicole Maines, the first transgender youth to win a discrimination lawsuit, and U.S. Army Sgt. Shane Ortega describe what it was like growing up before transitioning and what their lives are like now. More visible members of the community, including TV host Janet Mock, reality celeb Caitlyn Jenner, model and former Bond girl Caroline Cossfy, and Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox also are featured. From accepting who they are and learning to love their bodies to enduring state-sanctioned discrimination and fearing for their lives, collectively they highlight the successes and challenges they've faced, and continue to encounter, as they live openly as who they really are. 

Is it any good?

This poignant, honest, and informative documentary allows members of the transgender community to discuss their experiences in their own words. It shares details that many outside the community are not familiar with, from the high number of violent (and often fatal) crimes committed against them to the importance of using correct pronouns. Meanwhile, it highlights how simple things such as filling out paperwork, using a public bathroom, and wearing specific articles of clothing can become powerful or humiliating experiences. 

Their stories aren't always easy to hear, but throughout it all they collectively note the joy and freedom that comes with living openly despite the risks. For some, it's a celebration, while for others it continues to be a personal exploration. Nonetheless, all those profiled stress the importance of being comfortable with who they are if they want to advocate for others. Overall, the people on The Trans List remind us that we live in an age where traditional gender-based categories no longer define us all and that everyone, no matter how we define ourselves, should be respected. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about empathy. How do you develop a sense of empathy? What are some other character strengths that help people relate to those who are different? 

  • What are some of the stereotypes featured in the media about transgender and other members of the LGBTQ community? What is the impact of these generalizations? How do documentaries such as The Trans List affect the way people think about them?

  • Families can talk about what being transgender means. What is the difference between being gay or lesbian, bisexual, queer, or transgender? What are the controversies surrounding these communities? Why don't all laws in the United States protect their rights? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love LGBTQ-friendly media

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