3 Ways HBO Max's Documentary Transhood Sheds Light on Issues Affecting Transgender Youth

Warner Media

An intimate look at growing up as a transgender child, HBO Max's new documentary Transhood is both eye-opening and emotional. Directed by Sharon Liese, it follows four children who identify as transgender — Leena, Jay, Avery, and Phoenix — over a five-year period.

From discussing what it's like to have a child realize they identify with the opposite sex at an early age to navigating the complicated world of hormone replacement therapy, viewers get an in-depth look at what it's like to have a family member question their gender identity.

Although the documentary is heavy and complex in terms of narrative, parents who want to discuss gender identity and be an ally to the transgender community with their family should consider the following takeaways from Transhood. Read ahead to learn more about what it's like to be a transgender child or teen in the US.

Transgender kids don't begin their physical transition until they're teenagers.

Transgender kids don't begin their physical transition until they're teenagers.

The documentary illustrates the long, emotional process of transitioning. Several years of mental health treatment are required before taking the steps toward a physical transition if the person is 18 or younger. Because many trans individuals have to wait until after they hit puberty before they can begin taking hormone blockers, they often undergo a "social transition" beforehand, which may include using new pronouns, dressing like their desired gender, and changing their hairstyle.

"Transhood illustrates how difficult physically transitioning can be."

As we see in Jay's case (pictured above), who is 12 years old when he begins taking hormone blockers, it can be a difficult road. Aside from being painful — viewers see him in tears multiple times while receiving his injections — insurance doesn't always cover the treatments. During a particularly emotional scene, his mom breaks down in tears over the cost of a hormonal implant — which is about a month's worth of income for her — and is meant to take the place of his routine injections.

Transhood illustrates how difficult physically transitioning can be and shatters the misconception that gender confirmation surgery is the only important milestone in a transgender person's journey. The social transition as well as taking hormones are, in reality, hugely significant steps.

The support of parents And family members makes a huge difference.

The support of parents And family members makes a huge difference.

Several of the participants in the documentary are homeschooled due to bullying, including Phoenix, who is just 4 years old at the beginning of filming. Additionally, Jay's mom moves him to another school across town so he can start fresh as a boy.

Despite Jay's mom's efforts, some of his classmates discover that Jay was in the process of transitioning after coming across his old school photos. The entire situation comes to a head when Jay's girlfriend, Mildred — who does not know he's trans — asks him about the rumors during a phone call. Later on, we see Jay argue with his mom about coming out. While Jay is secure in his identity, he is very concerned about violence or retaliation.

Through Jay's experience, viewers learn that just because trans individuals may truly feel like their authentic selves, it doesn't mean they want to share their backstory with the world. While many people support Jay — he has a new girlfriend by the end of the documentary — others are less accepting.

It may be worth discussing the importance of keeping a friend or family member's confidentiality regarding when or if they come out with your kids. The decision to tell others about their transition or sexual preference should be left up to the individual, regardless of what other people think.

We have a very long way to go in terms of pro-trans legislation.

We have a very long way to go in terms of pro-trans legislation.

Purposely set in conservative-leaning Kansas City, MO, we see some of the negative experiences parents of trans kids endure on a regular basis. According to Avery's mom, "This is not a pleasant time to be visibly trans," due to some of the anti-trans policies President Trump has signed off on. Not only did Trump attempt to ban trans individuals from serving in the military, but many of the families in the documentary are seen actively protesting against The Bathroom Bill.

"This is not a pleasant time to be visibly trans."

An archaic piece of legislation, The Bathroom Bill seeks to restrict "access to multiuser restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities on the basis of a definition of sex or gender consistent with sex assigned at birth or 'biological sex," which means transgender individuals could only use public restrooms that match their biological sex.

Moreover, Avery — who is 7 at the beginning of filming — and her parents receive hate mail from strangers and questions from extended family for allowing her to pose for the National Geographic's January 2017 issue, which centered on gender. Despite the pushback from others, Avery and her family remain committed to openly advocating for trans rights.

The fight for acceptance that's acutely depicted in Transhood is worth discussing with older kids. To be a solid ally to the LGBTQ+ community, cis people need to educate themselves on the ongoing challenges and discrimination that trans individuals often face in the US. Additionally, it's worth talking to kids about the direct impact of policies that discriminate against the trans community once they're old enough to understand.