“I just didn’t feel right in who I was. I always thought, ‘Am I in the right body?'” That’s how Olie, a young Quebec girl, felt while she was a boy. That stunning quote kicks off Transforming Transgender, airing Thursday as part of CBC’s Doc Zone, a program that informs and educates—as Geena Rocero explains—the “T” in LGBT.
Executive producer Rachel Low and her team aren’t out to shock viewers with their documentary, but to spotlight, celebrate and produce some very interesting facts. History shows humankind likes to put everyone in one gender or another, when the reality is that isn’t true. Nature presents different variations of flora and fauna, including humans. As Rocero, founder of Gender Proud in New York City points out, gender has been blurred in Asian countries for centuries.
Transforming Transgender interviews a stunning array of transgendered individuals, from children like Olie and Wren to Dr. Carys Massarella (pictured above) and Stephanie Castle, who was born in 1925 and as a child dreamt he saw himself as a girl. Stephanie went into the navy and had a “normal” life with two marriages and kids. It was at the end of the second marriage Stephanie knew she couldn’t hide it anymore and had gender reassignment surgery at 66.
The documentary also presents some sobering stats: 97 per cent of transgendered people experience harassment on the job and 40 per cent will attempt suicide. Unemployment rates are high because of transphobia and depression is a common occurrence. And why not? As several interview subjects point out, they felt isolated from their family and friends because of who they felt they needed to act like versus who they really were.
Far from being a “woe is me” project, Transforming Transgender is also a celebration of becoming who one really is and being supported by those who love you. The most touching moments are those chats with parents who didn’t care whether their child was a boy or a girl, just that they were someone they loved.
“We have this little joke where we hear someone say, ‘Oh, we’re having a boy,'” Wren’s mom says with a laugh. “And I think, ‘Maybe. Maybe not.'”
Transforming Transgender airs as part of Doc Zone at 9 p.m. on CBC.