“Lost in Transition”

TLC's new docuseries paints vivid portraits of trans women and their families

By David-Elijah Nahmod, July 2018 Issue.

The story line(s) of one of TLC’s newest shows, which premiered May 20, is this: Four wives have recently learned their husbands have been keeping a big secret for years. As their truths come out in the first episode of “Lost In Transition,” viewers learn that each husband wants to become a woman.

This intimate portrait of four loving couples facing follows each of the couples as they, in very different ways, move forward after coming out.

AJ (now Karen) and Beverly.

The reality series will serve as an education for viewers who don’t fully understand the steps in transitioning – many of which are on a case-by-case basis.

Coming out as trans can be a terrifying experience, as transgender individuals so often face rejection and violence. When a transgender person comes out and shares their truth, their families must come out as well. The series does not shy away from the variety of reactions that follow – some relationships are destroyed and others are strengthened.

One of the more touching stories told in “Lost In Transition” is that of Stacy and Les, a blue collar couple in rural Washington State who have one baby and with another on the way. Les is a self-described “man’s man,” and he works in a gun store (which causes concerns of its own). So, when Les comes out as Leslie, Stacy is caught by surprise. She accepts the situation with good humor and even jokes about being a lesbian.

The couple loves each other unconditionally, which is exceptionally heartwarming as the show follows them on a shopping for Leslie’s first female outfits. In a very moving sequence from the series’ second episode, Stacy and Leslie meet their best friends (one of whom is Leslie’s co-workers) in a bar. Leslie is wearing her new female clothes and is in full make-up. It’s her first time out in public while presenting as female. Leslie waits outside while Stacy prepares their friends.

“So, Les is waiting outside,” Stacy tells their friends. “He’s been looking for a way to tell you something really important and hasn’t been able to figure out how, so if you guys could be supportive that would mean a lot to both of us.”

Leslie nervously walks into the bar. Several patrons stare at her, but her friends accept her and tell her that everything is cool. It’s a wonderfully touching moment.

But not everyone has it so good.

When Beverly’s husband, AJ, comes out as Karen, their marriage breaks up. After 22 years of being in what she thought was a happy marriage, Beverly is forced to start a new life on her own. She’s also dealing with the fact that one of her kids is transgender. With her divorce pending, amid worrying about the well-being of her trans child, Beverly must find a new place to live and a way to earn a living.

Troy (Lucy) and Cindy.

Beverly’s story underscores the maturity of the “Lost in Transition” filmmakers. They realize that when a person comes out as transgender, there’s more than one side to the story. Such is the case with Cindy and Troy, who wants to become Lucy. But Cindy isn’t happy about the impending transition – she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with a woman. Troy is holding off on his transition out of deference to her and resentments escalate on both sides.

“I’m sick and tired of what I want to do pissing everybody off,” Troy says angrily, even as he and Cindy admit how much in love they are.

“Lost in Transition” is an exceptionally well-done series, save for the fact that you won’t find any female-to-male experiences here, as there is still less representation and visibility of trans men across most media platforms.

Still, the stories here are told with compassion, heart, fairness and balance. The audience sees the struggle of the transgender person coming out and accepting their truth, as well as the struggles of their families and friends who must accept a new reality.

The episodes unfold in a straightforward manner with a brutal honesty, and viewers may be surprised at the intensity of the challenges trans individuals are forced to deal with, as Leslie had to when she returns to her gun shop job on her second day living as a woman. She faced complaints and ridicule because of her appearance, but stands her ground and gets through the day.

Ultimately, “Lost In Transition” is an educational tool that offers insight into the trans experience through real stories that will, hopefully, earn our trans siblings more broad acceptance from cisgender individuals – LGB or otherwise.

The first season of “Lost in Transition” offers nine episodes and airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. on TLC through mid-July. Full episodes with also be available on TLC GO.

For more information, visit tlc.com.

“Lost In Transition” couples offer Echo a behind-the-scenes look at new series

For many heterosexual married couples, dealing with the transition of a spouse can be overwhelming – for both parties. Add in television cameras throughout the house and you have the experience that four couples faced on TLC’s new docuseries “Lost In Transition.”

Stacy (left) and Leslie (formerly Les).

Leslie and Stac

Leslie (formerly Les) and Stacy, are one of the four couples who shared their experience with the world in the new show.

“We almost didn’t do it,” Stacy told Echo of her and her wife’s decision to appear on the new show. “But then we got to talking about it. There’s so little information out there. So many spouses leave, but Leslie stayed and we became a lesbian couple.”

So the couple paved their own way – with the cameras rolling.

“When I started my transition there was a lot of high anxiety,” Leslie said. “Everyone has known me for so long as portraying male, so to tell everyone this deep secret I’d had since I was eight or nine – and not just telling family and friends, but the world – was terrifying.”

It was equally terrifying for Leslie to continue working at her job in a gun store, where she had worked prior to transitioning.

“I’m an avid gun rights advocate,” she said. “In that society transgender people aren’t accepted. So, it was really terrifying to come out in that industry – women are OK, but not trans women.”

For Stacy, the hardest part has been other people.

“I get approached by friends and they say ‘how do you deal?’ What I want to say is that it’s you that’s hard to deal with,” she said. “They want you to talk them through it and hold their hand. It’s not my job to make sure they’re OK.”

Instead, Leslie and Stacy are trying to help others who are in their same situation.

“One thing I want to do is reach out to youth and help them in their transition or if they’re questioning,” Leslie said. “I want to help them find themselves and to see if they are or aren’t trans. I had the only trans support group in our county because there was nothing here.”

Leslie added that there are about 15 people in her trans support group and that there’s about 200 people in their LGBTQ group.

Stacy, for her part, is writing a children’s book.

“I want to help kids understand that not every family has a mommy and a daddy,” she said. “There are different kinds of families out there.”

Larry (now Lawren) and Jennifer.

Lawren and Jennifer

For Jennifer, her primary concern was to keep her family together after her wife, Lawren (formerly Larry), came out as trans.

“Lawren and I have been together since September of 1993,” she said. “At this point, I am not sure where she begins and I end because it truly feels as if we are one person. Lawren is the love of my life and I believe that if she can allow herself to be her authentic self, then our whole family will benefit. We have built this beautiful family with four amazing children and I wasn’t willing to let that go without a fight.”

Still, Jennifer recalls to having mixed emotions when Lawren first announced her transition.

“My initial reaction was devastation,” she said. “I was overwhelmed with sadness because the person that I loved the most had been suffering in silence for her entire life. It was shocking because all of the sudden your life is not what you thought it was.”

As with Leslie and Stacy, the couple has a desire to be a voice for others who might be suffering.

“My original reason for going public was because I felt that if we were going through this, there had to be others out there that needed to know that they were not alone,” Jennifer said. “I wanted us to be able to save just one person from despair and give them hope. Now that the series has begun airing, I am more convicted than ever that our family was meant to do this to help others.”

Lawren told Echo that she and Jennifer are now actively involved with transgender support and advocacy groups. And the advice they offer other spouses in the same position is: take a deep breath and open your hearts.

“Please understand that your spouse did not mean to hurt you,”Jennifer said. “Your spouse loves you and didn’t knowingly set out to hurt you. They may not have wanted their own feelings to be true. They may not have wanted to have to live in a world where no one understands what it means to be transgender. This is your spouse. This is your love. If you open your heart, then you can open your mind.”

The first season of “Lost in Transition” offers nine episodes and airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. on TLC through mid-July. Full episodes with also be available on TLC GO.

For more information, visit tlc.com.