If “Becoming US” is the only thing we get out of the “trans moment,” well I guess we’ve all won. Put that stupid white cis-gendered “feminist” think piece down, and enjoy the truly radical “Becoming Us” on ABC Family. First of all, I toast to the network that preaches intersectionality to the masses with a little splash of teenage soap opera. This week on “The Fosters” Jude the pre-teen foster kid claimed his own sexuality while rejecting identitarian labels, while at the same time totally honoring his boyfriend’s desire to identify as gay. Maybe, he muses, this has something to do with foster system that has stripped him down to identities like “state-ward” his whole life. OMG structures of power have something to do with sex and gender?! Preach!
And because ABC Family has apparently been endowed with a special grant to do God’s Work, we also get “Becoming Us,” in which two sweet teenage lovers bond over their transparents. One transparent, Daniel, wants to be called Dad, requests male pronouns, and is super uncomfortable in dresses, while the other transparent Carly stares down gawking waiters, prefers female pronouns, and has totally mastered bespoke bra fittings. This is not presented as a spectrum. Carly is not the good trans and Daniel the bad. As Daniel’s daughter Daniela points out, her dad is kind of “butch.”
And like “Transparent,” the trans people are part of networks. Sometimes they suck up energy, sometimes they are shitty parents, sometimes they insensitively show off their awesome hair to their ex-wives.
Unlike “Transparent,” the kids are younger. Daniela has known about her dad since she was seven, and she has grown up with a heart breaking awareness of his isolation. Even though Ben, Carly’s son, only learned about Carly’s transition recently, he exists in this totally different universe where you can find other kids with transparents, and his friends are all delightfully fluid in their reception and expression of gender. If “Transparent” flexes its premium tv muscles by positing that the next generation is actually more repressed than the olds, “Becoming Us” explores the much more likely possibility that sixteen year olds are a million times smarter about gender and identity.