On Wednesday afternoon, The CW Network aired an episode of The Tyra Show focusing on transgender children and their families, titled “We’re 7 & 8 Years Old and Know We Are Transgender.” Four young transgender people and three of their families appeared on the show to discuss their identities and their families’ experiences in raising them as their true selves.
While the show, overall, did a laudable job of presenting the rarely-discussed topic of transgender children and their families to a mainstream audience using correct terminology and asking respectful questions, there was still some room for improvement.
Tyra first spoke with the family of Josie, an eight-year-old transgender girl, whose mother shared how she first learned about the word transgender and realized that the female identity Josie had always expressed was something she and her husband needed to embrace. As Josie talked with Tyra, she shared her favorite activities and various aspects of her personality.
However, at points the conversation shifted problematically to focus on Josie’s body and anatomy, with questions about her self-described “birth defect” and her level of comfort in bathing suits and getting dressed in the morning – though it does appear that the show’s producers may have edited out some of the most problematic questions that GLAAD witnessed at the live taping.
Unfortunately, with every transgender guest on the remainder of the show, Tyra’s focus in one way or another returned to issues of anatomy, surgery, menstruation, or body hair rather than highlighting the more important stories from their life experiences. Mainstream America’s tendency to reduce transgender people to their anatomy and operative status is never acceptable, but in the context of young children, such conversations become even more inappropriate.
Additionally, the end of the show featured “a heated debate” over the acceptability of parents’ decisions to allow their children to live as a gender different from their sex at birth. Dr. Marci Bowers, a transgender surgeon specializing in sex reassignment surgery, and Kim Pearson, Executive Director of TransYouth Family Allies rebutted arguments made by a professor who said that all children should be discouraged from transitioning and made to feel comfortable living as their birth sex. This segment brought an unnecessary source of friction to an issue that did not need to be framed as a debate.
Again, GLAAD thanks The Tyra Show and its producers for bringing the topic of transgender children to daytime TV in a mostly fair and respectful manner. We hope that this constructive criticism will serve to inform future episodes on transgender-related topics.