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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

'Vice' provides powerful insight into lives of transgender young people

In addition to last week’s preview, I had the opportunity of interviewing “VICE” journalist Gianna Toboni over a video chat alongside several other university publications across the country. Within my interview, Toboni and I discussed a variety of topics, from the impact of President Trump's recent executive order to her thoughts on opponents of the transgender accessible bathrooms.

“VICE"’s second episode of its fifth season delivers a powerful look at the lives of transgender young people, specifically during their transitioning stages. The episode runs about 30 minutes and manages to cover the story of three transgender youths, each at a different stage in their adolescence. The episode also peers into the types of treatments these people undergo, offers a view of their family dynamics and touches on the current political controversy of transgender bathrooms.

I asked Toboni her thoughts on how the transgender community is impacted by President Trump's recent executive order that allows persons to use the restroom according to their gender identity into a state-level controlled law rather than a national one.

Toboni attributed this order to “a lot of misconceptions about the community.” She also noted this situation is “agonizing–they don't want to be in this conflict.”

The episode is both thought provoking and informative as you realize these youths are some of the first transgenders to receive these medical treatments at such a young age. Gianna Toboni mentioned in a thought provoking quote, “This is the first time I’ve done a story where the experts don’t know the answer.” “VICE” does well in giving the perspectives of as many angles as possible, allowing viewers to truly peer into the lives of these young people. In providing interviews with guardians, doctors and of course the adolescents, you gain an understanding of the spectrum of lifestyles the transgender community undergoes as well as how important a supportive environment is to their mental well-being.

A few caveats of the topic are also highlighted during the episode. The most frightening being that transgender youths have a 40 percent chance of committing suicide. Through delving into the psyche of a 16-year-old transgender named Charlotte, viewers come to understand how likely the risk of suicide is when young people are not receiving support from their surroundings. Unfortunately, Charlotte was abused by her parents for her transgender identity and suffered from extreme loneliness throughout her youth. Thankfully, homes like the Waltham House (an LGBT group home) exist specifically for transgender youths like Charlotte seeking a supportive place to call home.

I asked Toboni to describe the climate of the transgender youth community home. She described the Waltham House as being “supportive, raw, difficult—it was great and an incredible network.”

The episode couples the statistic mentioned above with the current push to allow transgender students into entering the bathrooms which correspond with their identity. In an emotional segment, the episodes cut to a parent of one of the transgender children explaining that this is more than a fight for a bathroom but a fight for her child’s life. She argues that her daughter's mental well-being will be directly impacted by her ability to feel comfortable in her skin. Being able to go to the restroom of her choice is essential to that necessary comfort.

Charlotte explains how, if she had been able to begin her transitioning process earlier, she would appear more feminine; something she greatly desires.

The second caveat, proposed by those against allowing these youths to receive their transitioning treatment, is that they are too young. For a teenager who is on the brink of puberty, making decisions that are irrevocable is a serious matter. From deciding if you are set on your gender identity to accepting the likelihood of infertility, these are a few of the choices that have to be made just as these youths are beginning high school.

Before the interview came to an end, I asked Toboni her thoughts on viewers who disagree with the fight for transgenders to utilize restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. “I'm not trying to convince those who don’t agree but rather the silent majority, encouraging people to discuss or look up any LGBTQ groups within their community.”

“VICE” airs on HBO Fridays 11:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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