Louis Theroux is the UK’s undeniable ‘documentary-king’ who handles a host of taboo and controversial topics in his shows which keep viewers shocked yet mesmerised by his research, interviews and discoveries. Some find him annoying and pointless, while others think him to be a brave and bold investigator who tackles subject matters that most wouldn’t dare to venture into. As a long standing BBC contributor, it’s clear he’s doing something right.
As is often the case with his work, his most recent documentary caused real conversation and really made me think. Theroux visited San Francisco to gain an insight into families with children who are certain that they have been born into the wrong body. We are talking about children under the age of ten who are adamant that they are not meant to be the sex that they were born with. An unusual enough situation for a family to deal with, you would think.
In his documentary, Louis explores the type of decision-making parents of these children have to make. Do they start transitioning a child who is still developing his/her own identity or do they wait and risk making the change once the body has gone through all the transformations of puberty?
As the programme went on, it was clear to see that this is by no means an easy decision for any parent to make. When a six year old tells a curious and probing Theroux; “Everyone was calling me Sebastian, but I was a girl,” it really does make you contemplate the very difficult situation these parents are placed in.
Gender dysphoria is a very real issue and refers to the belief that there is a mismatch between your biological sex and gender identity. Sadly, the lack of understanding around this and people’s inability to live with this condition can result in depression and even suicide. Are these parents in fact making the ultimate decision to save their children from this eventuality?
Hormone treatments being offered to these children target the transition from a very early age so that they do not have to wait post-puberty, where hormonal changes and surgery can prove more problematic. In the US, the treatment of transgender children is arguably much more accepted and advanced than anywhere else. Generally, most GPs will not prescribe hormone blockers to delay the onset of puberty until a patient is sixteen. However, at the University of California, specialist medical pioneers are offering services such as psychological counselling, hormone blockers and eventually, once a child is old enough – the possibility of sex reassignment surgery.
This decision, it seems, will make or break a family – Louis shows us a united couple grieving the loss of their son but embracing the gradual arrival of their daughter, and we also see couples divided, separated and divorced over conflicting opinions around the future of their child.
It’s a complex issue. Are these children too young to be sure and make such a life changing choice? The instant response would be ‘yes’, but as usual, Louis does a great job in making you think twice by the end of the show. Personally, I began as an unconvinced viewer, but by the end of it, I had to think about everything carefully and was certainly less convinced.
These children seem more than certain and the parents have clearly put much thought into taking this very big step. I think however, that what will continue to make the whole thing very uncomfortable for people to accept is in the very title of the documentary…’Transgender Kids‘.
Source:© ABC 2014