On October 9th, six Loomis Chaffee students, along with 30 students from other schools, joined a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) meeting at Ethel Walker School. Students gathered and watched a PBS documentary, “Growing Up Trans,” and had an open discussion regarding the life of transgender people. Mallory Kievman ’16, Erika Herman ’17, and Mahek Pannu ’18, all participants of the talk, shared some of their insights after the event. Below is a short Q&A of their experience at Ethel Walker.
What does “Growing Up Trans” discuss? Could you give a brief summary or share some of the main points made in the documentary?
MK: “Growing Up Trans” follows young people through their adolescence as they start their transition. The documentary focuses on the milestones and difficulties many of the teens face as they deal with the medical, financial, and social implications of their transitions.
EH: The documentary discusses the realities of different trans youth. Each had different situations; some had supportive family and friends, others didn’t. The documentary brought up the lack of medical research in the field, mainly how the different puberty blockers and hormones affect the body in the long term. It also showed personal struggles the kids went through, from fitting in with friends to being excited about being able to live as who they are. It showed parents struggling to accept their child, and parents who fully supported their child but didn’t know the best route to take.
What are the difficulties that young transgender people face? How do they overcome these challenges?
MK: In addition to social acceptance from their peers, communities, and families, many transgender people face financial hardships as they look to transition medically, which is often costly in both time and money.
MP: Many of the difficulties young transgender kids face is confronting their parents with how they feel and society’s judgment towards their transition. In the documentary, kids would often seek the comfort of counseling, their friends and in some cases their parents.
In what ways should the society protect, help, or encourage these people?
EH: In my group, we began to talk about how “gendered” society is – how being a girl stereotypically means one thing and being a boy means another. In the context of the documentary, we discussed how the children who were transitioning seemed to gravitate towards these definitions of gender as a starting point for identity – to make other people understand how they feel. Society shouldn’t dictate someone’s worth, and these children proved that traditional gender boundaries can be broken down so that all can be comfortable with who they are.
MK: I think the best way we as a society can help transgender people is by spreading a greater awareness of what it means to be transgender, in addition to helping dispel typical stereotypes that often accompany male and female genders (i.e. “in order to truly be a girl you must act a certain way or wear certain things”).
MP: In my opinion, society should begin to understand the concept of gender vs. sex. Along with educating others about transgender topics, society should use media as a way of encouraging young adults to express who they are.