When one thinks about the pressures of being a college student, undergoing a sex change operation doesn’t usually come to mind.
That, though, is precisely the subject tackled in a new eight-part documentary that debuted on the Sundance Channel last week. Transgeneration, produced by World of Wonder Productions, follows four college students as they look to change their sexual identities while dealing with the everyday hassles that come with college life.
The show’s producers hope to put a new angle on the ongoing public discourse regarding sexual identity issues.
“When you start looking at people in college who are confronting gender identity issues in dramatic ways, I think it kind of turns the discussion on its head,” said Randy Barbato, co-executive producer at World of Wonder. “It’s really an amazing series.”
Over the course of one school year, cameras recorded the lives of transgendered students Gabbie, Raci, Lucas and T.J. as their lives changed after deciding to transition fully from their birth sex. Each had to endure his or her own set of struggles.
Gabbie – originally named Andrew – at the University of Colorado in Boulder struggles to overcome deep feelings of insecurity resulting from her conservative upbringing, while Lucas at Smith College, an all-girls school in Northampton, Mass., worries about the impact his sex change could have on his career aspirations.
As they move forward with their transition, all four students face issues few college students will ever have to deal with, such as trying to seek out illegal hormone supplements and explain to their parents of their decisions to change genders.
Through the publicity the show has generated, producers are looking to encourage tolerance of transgender lifestyles among the public at large. Barbato said he hopes viewers will see that the individuals portrayed in the show are not much different from everybody else.
“While on the one hand the series is full of emotional highs and lows, there’s also something very mundane about it,” said Barbato. “These people aren’t defined by their gender identities. They’re people you can relate to.”
Activists agreed, saying they hope the show promotes greater awareness of sexual identity issues. Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the series has the potential to make a positive social impact.
“I think it’s a very important show,” said Keisling. “I think it’s going to hopefully show the general public what amazing people transgender people can be.”
Transgeneration airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern time through November 8.