Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

TransGen screening frames LGBT dialogue

<ansGeneration premiered on the Sundance Channel in 2005, it “blew people’s minds,” recalled TJ Jourian, one of the cast members of the show who visited Carleton last week. The Gender & Sexuality Center sponsored a viewing of part of the first episode followed by a question and answer session with Jourian. Jourian also gave a presentation to the staff of the Division of Student Life and spoke to Professor Sara Gorchoff’s Psychology of Gender class. 

TransGeneration followed four transgender college students for a school year as they dealt with the issues facing every college student, plus their struggles with transitioning. One cast member struggled with poverty, being deaf, and transgender. Another underwent gender reassignment surgery. A third started hormone therapy while attending an all-female college. Jourian struggled with his Middle Eastern upbringing and his family’s struggle to accept his identity as he began living as a man in graduate school in the U.S.

Jourian explained that TransGeneration was so groundbreaking when it aired because at the time other trans stories in the media followed the “40 year old male with a wife and kids,” who started transitioning late in life. Such stories typically took a clear “before to after” trajectory and focused almost entirely on gender reassignment surgery. TransGeneration was unique in depicting college students at four different stages in transitioning, from pre-hormones to post-surgery, and the process in between, highlighting the diversity of the trans community.

Jeremy Simmons, the documentary’s director, as a gay man did not initially understand the importance of this project until he mentioned it to his queer friends. His friends’ responses—which took the form of  “why would you want to do that?” and “they [trans people] make us look bad”—pushed Simmons towards the project. The filmmaker recognized the resistance against trans people within the queer community and  tried to combat this phobia with the project.

Jourian explained that as a director, Simmons gave agency to the four subjects to tell their own stories in the documentary, which the director saw as particularly important because he was a cisgender (non-transgender) man. Jourian recalls being able to tell his own story, having what he felt was important in his life filmed for the show. This power to tell their own diverse stories shows through in the documentary, as the four let the world see into their struggles in college and in transitioning.

As the night’s discussion came to a close, Jourian stressed the importance of more mainstream documentaries following diverse transitioning youth. Although the diversity of the trans community is shown in countless stories on the internet, “there is a huge need in the mainstream to spotlight [these stories].”
Since the show was filmed, Jourian has “come to terms with [his] gender past.” At the time the documentary was being filmed, he struggled with accepting his past living as a woman. This struggle is shown in some of the episodes. Now, reflecting on it, he admits that being born a woman “was a really cool gift; how many men can say they’ve had those experiences?”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *