There’s been a huge boost in awareness around transgender issues of late, and with greater awareness comesgreater curiosity. Transformation Street (ITV) set out to shed a little more light on what’s involved, following a number of individuals – from a representatively rich range of backgrounds – who had embarked on this challenging journey with the help of a specialist private clinic, the London Transgender Surgery.
From the outset, this felt like an unusually relaxed and positive documentary treatment of transgender issues, compared to what’s gone before. Using the techniques of a fly-on-the-wall show, viewers were parachuted into the clinic’s waiting room, getting a sense of the friendliness of the place, of clients comparing experiences and the entertaining chatter of the staff. A sense of normality and good humour prevailed.
It wasn’t all about operations. There was a wide variety of experiences to follow. But the undoubted “star” of the opening episode was Lucas, a 22-year-old transitioning from female to male, who, having lived as a man for two years, was about to undergo breast removal surgery. There was an engaging transparency – and laddishness – to Lucas that simply invited us to see life from his perspective.
“She baked me wrong in the oven,” Lucas laughed, in one consultation, his mother sitting beside him. She was equally empathetic, admitting to grieving the loss of her only daughter but: “Boy or girl, he’s still my child”.
We dipped in and out of Lucas’s life as pre-op testosterone treatment deepened his voice, broadened his shoulders, gave him hair on his face to shave.
There were other, more painful stories. We followed Wendy, a 43-year-old former railway engineer preparing for, and undergoing, the complex surgery that saw her fully transition from male to female. And Danny, a muscle-bound, recently married former commando taking the life-rupturing first steps towards transition.
But Lucas’s story was the one that lingered. The rush of joy and relief he felt following his surgery erased any doubt that this was the right and only path for him. And it set the mood for what promises to be a series full of insight, humour and understanding.