Helen Vnuk reviews a must-see documentary.
Imagine this. You’re sitting on the couch with your young son, and he asks you, “How do I become a girl?”
It’s not just a kid’s random, curious question. Your son tells you he’s not happy as a boy. He wants to change his name to a girl’s name. He wants to live life as a girl.
Would you help him start the process of transitioning to a female…at the age of five?
Casey and Eduardo recently found themselves in exactly that situation with their son Sebastian. The couple, who appear in the Louis Theroux documentary Transgender Kids, live in San Francisco, a city where kids are being helped to transition at younger and younger ages.
By the time Theroux meets Casey and Eduardo, they have started calling Sebastian “Camille” and using the pronoun “she” instead of “he”. They only made the change a month earlier, and they both admit they’re finding it difficult and confusing.
“I’m not going to lie,” Casey says. “It’s not an easy road to travel. It’s gut-wrenching, honestly.”
Later, Casey reveals she’s had a falling-out with her father, who insists on still calling his grandchild Sebastian.
But for Camille herself, life looks to be pretty good right now. She is a beautiful child – expressive, full of energy and radiantly happy.
Theroux asks Camille if Sebastian was happy too.
“No,” she says without hesitation. “He was not happy. He wanted to be a girl and then he did not like his name so he changed his name.”
Casey and Eduardo take Camille to see Dr Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist specialising in transgender children, to help make sure they’re taking the best approach. Dr Ehrensaft says she’s seen children even younger than Camille convinced they were born into the wrong body.
Transitioning early means that transgender kids have the chance to create the bodies that feel right for them. They can use blockers to delay puberty, and then later, go on hormones so they can mature in the direction of the gender they identify with. Further down the track, surgery is an option.