TLC’s Lost in Transition takes on marriage, trans partners and transitioning
TLC, a channel known for covering “real life reality,” is following the lives of couples learning what it means for their marriages as their spouses begin transitioning. The new series, titled “Lost in Transition,” follows four couples and the ups and downs their relationship faces after one partner in each couple comes out as transgender.
During Sunday night’s premiere viewers were introduced to three of the four couples that will be profiled throughout the season. Each couple’s relationship is different from the others in every aspect from age to geographic location to how long they have been together but one thing remains the same, it is the husband in each couple that is transitioning from male to female as the wife struggles with what it means for her and her sexual identity to be married to a transgender person.
Each couple’s introduction begins with the cisgender partner discussing their family, daily life and what it was like to have their spouse come out to them. Every introduction concluded with the cisgender partner commenting on whether or not she was now a lesbian (which makes me wonder if that question was prompted by producers or if these women think that’s the only identity they have to choose from). Being with someone who is transgender, especially during their transition, doesn’t automatically make you go from straight to gay/lesbian. Bisexual, pansexual, queer … the list of identities goes on that could encompass a cisgender person in a relationship with a transgender person. Someone should let these couples and the show’s producers know it’s more than black and white, or in this case straight or lesbian.
The docuseries covers reactions of both support and resistance from the cisgender spouses for their transitioning partners.
“I was scared more of losing the love of my life than the love of my life being a female.”— Stacy, cisgender partner to Leslie
TLC chooses to identify the couples by their first names, using the transgender partner’s deadname as the on-screen label when switching between couples’ stories. Deadnaming is a practice shunned by the trans community so we’re curious how the trans community will react to TLC’s decision. Perhaps TLC will use the trans people’s chosen names later in the series. The couples featured on the series’ first episode have not been out for more than a few years at the longest. We see them researching the effects of starting hormones, beginning to dress as the gender they identify and discussing whether or not the laws protect them from being fired for being transgender.
Stacy shows her support by going with Leslie on her first-ever shopping trip for female clothing, her first makeover and her first trip to the local bar presenting as female. Stacy even advocates for Leslie as she comes out to her coworker from the local gun shop where Leslie works. Stacy is determined to make the marriage work because she loves Leslie and the couple has a toddler son and another baby on the way.
“I was scared more of losing the love of my life than the love of my life being a female,” says Stacy.
The reaction is not the same for Cindy. Cindy enlists the support of her friend Wanda as she tries to process what it means to still love her partner, but not want to be with her spouse, Lucy, anymore if she goes through with a physical transition. Cindy openly tells the camera she likes penis and doesn’t want to be with someone who has boobs.
But transitioning is so much more than having surgery. Surgery does not define a transgender person nor does a person need to have any form of surgery to identify with a particular gender.
The third story introduced on the first episode is that of Jennifer and her transgender partner, Lawren which includes the experience of coming out to their children. Unlike Stacy and Leslie whose son is not old enough to understand what is going on at home, Lawren and Jennifer have four children between the ages of 8 and 16. They’ve had a relationship that their friends have envied, but now Jennifer is focused on Lawren’s mental health. Lawren suffers from gender dysphoria and has attempted suicide in the past.
“I am worried [that] even if we get through the transition that she’s not going to make it,” Jennifer says through tears.
“Lost in Transition” does not shy away from the fact that coming out is filled with struggles for the transgender community—as well as for the people who love them. The stress, the depression, the mistreatment from families, the thoughts and attempts of suicide that face many transgender people are all addressed throughout the episode through testimonials from the couples.
“Lost in Transition” airs weekly on TLC at 10 p.m. EST and will continue to chronicle the relationships of all four couples as they discuss their identities and whether or not their marriages can survive one partner’s transition.