True Trans with Laura Jane Grace

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
True Trans with Laura Jane Grace TV Poster Image
Gender-identity issues loom large on moving docuseries.

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

Positive Messages

The value of knowing yourself and being true to your own inclinations is praised both implicitly and explicitly many times during the show. The impact of parents' acceptance or rejection is made explicit.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Grace is a compassionate, caring, and courageous individual. She talks on a personal level with many other individuals with inspiring courage.

Violence

Considerable discussion about bullying and suicide; participants frankly discuss why and how they tried to kill themselves.

Sex

Some discussion of sexuality accompanies the talk about gender issues.

Language

A few curses: "It was really s--t" or "Ah, f--k you." Curses are unbleeped.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some scenes take place at parties or bars where people drink; no one acts drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that True Trans with Laura Jane Grace is a short-form Web series about a formerly male punk singer who made headlines in 2012 by coming out as a transgender woman. The subject matter is somewhat mature, involving as it does a discussion of sexuality and anatomy, as well as more abstract concepts such as identity and one's obligations to oneself, family, and society. There is some cursing, including unbleeped four-letter words (generally uttered in casual conversation), and an entire episode that deals with suicide in which participants talk frankly about why they tried to kill themselves. Viewers will occasionally see background characters drinking and smoking when the series films at parties.

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What's the story?

When punk superstar and Against Me! lead singer Tom Gabel announced that he was really a transgender woman, he made headlines -- and new friends. In TRUE TRANS WITH LAURA JANE GRACE, Grace crisscrosses the country to meet with these new friends and explore all the issues her new public identity has brought up. In each mini-episode of approximately seven to eight minutes, Grace and her friends share moving stories from their lives, examining common experiences such as contemplating suicide, dealing with disapproving family members, keeping secrets from friends, and finding solace in art, music, and the occasional revelation that others like them exist.

Is it any good?

"Nothing is more important than being comfortable in your own skin," says one of the interviewees in True Trans, looking straight into the camera. "It's as important as the air you breathe." The men and women the viewer meets in True Trans are, at last, more comfortable in their skins, though it took a lot of suffering to get there. Each episode details a different pain point: the horror of going through puberty and suddenly realizing your body is alien and profoundly not right; the reasons why suicide is so common among transgender people; and, perhaps most movingly, the glimpses interviewees got of transgender folks as they were growing up.

Why most movingly? Because as Grace's pals describe seeing their first transgender men and women on trashy daytime talk shows and dumb sitcoms, the viewer slowly becomes aware that this show, right now, is changing that picture. Little boys and girls who only saw transgender people as giant scary messes or something to laugh at are now getting a look at gender outlaws who are proud, successful, and happy. For kids who themselves suffer from gender identify confusion, this is pure gold. But even those who are happy with their identities can glean important messages about being true to yourself and accepting others as they are.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the issues transgender people face in our society and the types of things this series is likely to bring up. Do you know any transgender people? What types of problems do they face?

  • How is the audience supposed to feel toward the individuals featured in True Trans with Laura Jane Grace? Are we supposed to identify with them? Laugh at them? Find them ridiculous or noble? How can you tell?

  • Gender issues seem to be having a bit of a cultural moment. What other movies or shows can you name that feature transgender characters or that deal with gender-identity issues? How is True Trans similar to or different from these other representations?

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