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September 16, 2005

Talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation

Four transgender students have very different lives

Four colleges. Four students. Four stories. One common thread.

That is the premise behind TransGeneration, a new series premiering on the Sundance Channel on September 20 at 9 pm.

The eight-episode series follows four university students in the midst of gender transition at different universities across the country. Two, Gabby at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Raci at California State University in Los Angeles, are male-to-female transsexuals. Lucas at Smith College, the nation’s oldest active women’s university, and T.J. at Michigan State University, are female-to-male.

While there are striking similarities in the experiences of the four students, their lives are also light-years apart.

T.J., a Cypriot, comes from a family that expects him to return to Cyprus following his matriculation, whether or not it’s part of his plans. It doesn’t help, either, that his mother refuses to talk about his gender identity and expects him to be Tamar, the little girl she bore in Beirut 24 years ago. T.J. gets acceptance from the LGBT community on campus, of which he is a vital part.

On the other hand, Raci has full acceptance from her family. The Filipina worries more about other people on campus learning that her persona and her “parts” don’t necessarily match. Added into that are the challenges of speaking English as a second language and being hearing impaired, and her freshman year is not going to be an easy one.

Lucas, in part because he is going to a school that only allows women, has delayed hormone therapy, but as his best friend Kasey nears the date for his breast removal surgery, Lucas begins to feel left behind and a little envious.

For Gabbie, parents who were at first reluctant to accept her are now the ones who have agreed to pay for her sexual reassignment surgery, and she is counting down the days.

The word “groundbreaking” should be used sparingly, and perhaps it does not apply here. TransGeneration does one thing, and it does it well. It shows the viewer the reality and normality of the lives of these students and those around them, their family and friends.

From the surprise of a classmate when first learning that Gabbie is transgendered to the concern expressed for Raci by her mother, the interaction between T.J. and her best friend or the tears accompanying Lucas and Kasey’s resignation from the campus organization they led, it is a human drama that illustrates the fallacy of so-called “reality television.” This is real; Survivor is not.

Co-produced by Logo, the new LGBT cable network presented by MTV and Showtime, the series will be repeated early next year on that channel.

Both Sundance and Logo are available on many cable systems, Sundance more than its queerer sibling. For availability, contact your local cable company.


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