Transhood

TV review by
Marina Gordon, Common Sense Media
Transhood TV Poster Image
Affecting docu focuses on four kids growing up transgender.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The four transgender children featured in the documentary all openly speak their minds about their experiences. They have parents whose responses vary widely, but the viewer doesn't doubt their love and support for their children. The wisest words come from the children themselves, such as "More than anything, love your child. Make them feel wanted and seen."

Positive Role Models

These kids are brave to tell their stories in such a public forum -- they all know that sharing their experiences may help other transgender kids, so it's a risk worth taking. The parents, for the most part, overcome fear, grief, confusion, and often shunning to support their child no matter the challenges.

Violence

A short clip of a news report on the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting is seen. One of the teens talks briefly about wanting to take his own life. Viewers see some cyberbullying and in-person bullying.

Sex

Gender -- its definitions, its spectrum, its expressions -- is the focus of the documentary. There's much discussion about managing a body that doesn't match one's gender. There are mentions of breast binding, how boys' and girls' genitalia are similar, and some details of sex reassignment surgery. Leena snuggles with her boyfriend, Jay's mother suggests he has a hickey on his neck, and she later marries her girlfriend (and they kiss).

Language

No cursing stood out in Transhood, but language is still central to the documentary. The importance and power of pronouns, how children define themselves, their chosen names, and deadnames are discussed. At a "bathroom bill" demonstration some protestors hold signs that read "Tranny sin dooms nation" and the like.

Consumerism

Aside from the usual cell phones and laptops, makeup, hair care, and clothing are visible parts of the trans experience. No particular brands are touted.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sex reassignment hormone drugs are part of the conversation.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Transhood is a documentary that follows four transgender-identified children (whose ages at the beginning are 4, 7, 12, and 15) over five years of their lives in Kansas City, Missouri. The kids and their families are generally open about the challenges of growing up transgender and how it affects their lives. Each family experiences joy, despair, relief, grief, and acceptance in their own ways. Gender reassignment surgery is discussed in limited detail and mentions that the penis and clitoris are basically the same thing. Filmmaker Sharon Liese accesses some moments that can be uncomfortable and emotionally wrenching, and she uncovers the nuance in each child's story that may have viewers question their beliefs about transgender children.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byFuzim March 9, 2021

Go elsewhere.

*contains spoilers*
This documentary was disappointing for me. It could’ve had potential if all four children had wanted to be in this documentary. But since no... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymymy2008 November 30, 2020

What's the story?

In TRANSHOOD, filmmaker Sharon Liese followed four trans-identified children in the Kansas City area over five years, revealing insights that many outside the community may not have contemplated. We meet Avery, who famously and controversially appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 2017 at age 9 with the headline "Gender Revolution." She'd been a visible trans activist for a few years at that point, guided by her mother. As we follow Avery, she becomes less interested in being a public figure, and now says she's done talking about her story. "We’re not some exotic species -- we’re human," she says. "We do human things, we have human emotions, we’re human just born a little bit different."

Leena is an aspiring model who started taking hormone blockers at 15. In some ways, Leena is like a typical teen girl who loves hanging out with her best friend, dates her first boyfriend, and embarrasses her father while shopping for a bikini. Her parents are unfailingly supportive and loving, particularly when they take her to San Francisco to see an acclaimed sex reassignment surgeon who tells Leena "In nature, God doesn’t get it exactly divided into two camps. I deconstruct genitals and build them back up -- we’re just turning back the clock, basically."

When we meet the youngest child in the documentary, 4-year-old Phoenix identifies as a "girl-boy," who over the next couple of years identifies as a girl. Phoenix's parents are confused about the shifting nature of their middle child's identity but join the activist community and remain supportive. After Phoenix's parents divorce and the children go to public school (they had been homeschooled), Phoenix announces that he wants to live as a boy (which is still true today). His mother acknowledges that she had a complete reversal in her thinking about transgender youth.

Jay's story is the most poignant, as he and his mother navigate hormone therapy at age 12, his first girlfriend, being forced out of the closet, and his mother's relationship with a woman whom Jay doesn't care for at first. In intimate talks with his mother and through doctor visits we see how important physically transitioning is for Jay and how financially and emotionally difficult it is for his mother. In a post-documentary interview Jay has advice for parents: "Listen to what [your children] want, listen to what they need. They’ll respect that and know you’re their number one supporter."

Is it any good?

Getting to know four trans-identified Kansas City children and their families over five years is a heartbreaking, insightful and sometimes just plain informative journey. With an unspoken nod to the Oscar-winning Boyhood that was shot over 12 years, Transhood filmmaker Sharon Liese has made a documentary of small moments that show us a bigger picture -- there's not a singular experience that represents what it's like growing up trans.

Though Donald Trump took office during the filming, politics is mentioned minimally in Transhood, and it doesn't make grand statements about trans rights. Instead, the message of believing, loving, and supporting kids runs through all the stories. We see that parents may be the only people in trans kids' corners when other relatives, school, the church, or friends turn away from them. Jay's mother says at one point of her son's transition: "My mother thinks I’m a child abuser, but I know in my heart it’s the right thing to do. I’d rather have a healthy son than a suicidal daughter." Following their hearts can be a painful, uncharted journey, and agreeing to share their stories in public doesn't come without potential risk. None of these children are short on bravery, but they don't seem to want to be held up as heroes. They're simply human, and they represent all the depth and complexities that define our species.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about parent-child relationships and how those relationships change -- or don't -- as kids grow to adulthood.

  • How are transgender characters typically portrayed in television and movies? In what ways do the kids in Transhood break new ground and expand the definition of what it means to be transgender in America? Do they transcend or simply reinforce existing stereotypes?

  • What kind of challenges do the kids featured here face as they explore their gender identity? What are some of the tools and support systems they use to navigate their experience? 

TV details

  • Premiere date: November 12, 2020
  • Network: HBO Max
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-14
  • Last updated: August 16, 2021

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