How To Be a “Guy” When You Are Young and Transgender

June 30, 2015
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by Jason M. Breslow Digital Editor

In his head, Alex Singh, sees himself as a strong, flat-chested guy with an Adam’s apple and a beard. But beginning around the fifth grade, Alex would look in the mirror, and see something entirely different — the body of a young girl going through female puberty.

“That was — that is — horrible,” says Alex. “I hate it. I mean, for any transgender, male or female, it’s probably the worst time in their life because they’re actually becoming what they don’t want to become.”

This year, at the age of 13, Alex joined the ranks of a new generation of children who are transitioning from one gender to another at younger and younger ages, often with the assistance of medical treatments that weren’t even available as recently as a generation ago.

As he and his family navigate this new landscape, Alex also been forced to grapple with fundamental questions about gender and identity — beyond a beard or an Adam’s apple, for example, what does it take to be a guy?

“I always like see these really cool guys and I’m always like, I want to be like them,” says Alex. “Morgan and Ben were those like cool guys that I wanted to be like. Once I really realized that they were perfectly fine with me being transgender, it was like a whole new world for me.”

In the video below — the second in a series of Facebook first mini-documentaries from FRONTLINE tied to our new film, Growing Up TransBen and Morgan share some advice with Alex. For example, “If you have to burp, just let it fly.” And when it comes to talking to girls, “try not to really show any emotion … just like treat her like you don’t even like her.”

The advice, Alex says, has helped him to fit in.

“The like tactics and all the information that they’re giving me, I definitely use it,” says Alex. “People thought I was weird so I think they just kind of push away. Now that I have friends that actually like accept me and respect me, that are guys, I feel very comfortable and I feel like I’m definitely more … guy-ish, I guess. You could say. I’m more myself.”

For Alex’s full story — and an in-depth look at the often-controversial treatments now available to transgender and gender non-conforming children — watch Growing Up TransTuesday, June 30, at 10 p.m. EST either on-air (check local listings) or here on the FRONTLINE website.

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