Documentaries

The Moving Story of One Teenager's Transition and His Mother's Path to Acceptance

The documentary "Real Boy" examines the complicated relationship between a trans teen and his mother.

Photo Credit: IndependentLens

In his mother's heart, trans teen Bennett is still Rachel.

"I am literally a boy with the wrong body parts," the 19-year-old explains in the film.

"I just think that there is the argument of, you're not," his mother, Suzy Reinke, tells him.

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That brief exchange is at the crux of "Real Boy," a new Independent Lens documentary examining Suzy and Bennett's complicated relationship over the course of four years. 

"What's so wrong with the opinion of, that's who you are and you get what you get?" Reinke asks her son. 

"Is that why you got plastic surgery?" he retorts. "What I have is a body that doesn't fit."

Reinke works as a speech therapist at Arroyo Vista Elementary School, about 50 miles from Los Angeles. But her confusion and misunderstanding about her son's circumstance is indicative of much of the country: Just 16 percent of Americans know a transgender person. 

"We all have accepted this for a long, long time. And that was Rachel. And that is what I've tried to explain to—" She pauses on the pronoun. "That you are Rachel. That is who you are, everyone knows you as this, they know that you march to your own drummer and you are quirky, and that's why they all love you."

Bennett came out as transgender in 2012, at 19, and started hormone treatments soon after. 

"This whole flip to, no it's not just quirky, I'm in the wrong body. I think we all have that feeling," he says.

In the film, Bennett prepares for surgery after taking hormone replacement therapy for six months. 

"All I really want is to be loved by my family," he says. "It's complicated for them." 

After being screened in 70 festivals worldwide, "Real Boy" premieres on June 19 on Independent Lens on PBS. 

Watch the trailer:

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.