“It Was Kind of Like a Double Life”: Meet Ariel, Who Is Growing Up Trans

June 29, 2015
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by Patrice Taddonio Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist

Like many young girls, 13-year-old Ariel loved Disney princesses when she was growing up.

She even asked her family to call her by a different Disney princess’s name every day: Cinderella. Belle. Snow White.

But for Ariel, her family’s willingness to call her by those names had special significance: she was born a boy. And at the time — around age nine — she was still presenting as a boy at school and in public, fearful of what the reaction of her peers might be if they knew she identified as a girl.

“It was kind of like a double life,” she tells FRONTLINE in Growing Up Trans, a new documentary premiering Tuesday, June 30, at 10 p.m. EST on PBS (check local listings). “I think a lot of people are completely just comfortable and fluid, but for me, I was really scared.”

Ariel is one of eight kids, ranging in age from nine to 19, who share their stories in Growing Up Trans. With children transitioning at younger and younger ages, and with more medical options available to them and their parents than ever before, the 90-minute documentary explores the complicated struggles and choices facing families as they navigate the changing and complex world of gender and identity.

For Ariel, who began living publicly as a girl at age 11, the process has not always been easy.

“It’s harder, teasing and bullying-wise, when you’re a girlie boy, when you’re in that in-between stage, than when you’ve fully transitioned,” Ariel says.

But the support of her family has made a big difference.

In the below clip from Growing Up Trans, Ariel recalls how her grandmother responded to her request to be called by Disney princess names:

For Ariel’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 Trans, Tuesday, June 30, at 10 p.m. EST either on-air (check local listings) or here on the FRONTLINE website.

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