“I Wanted to Help People Understand What It’s Like to Be Trans.”

Patients and families from Lurie Children’s Gender & Sex Development Program were recently featured in the FRONTLINE documentary, Growing Up Trans. We asked them to write about their experience, and why they chose to share their story on the national stage.

By Kyle Catrambone

Let me just start off by introducing myself. My name is Kyle Catrambone. I am 14 years old. I live with my mom, dad, two younger sisters and two dogs. I like playing guitar, going camping and cooking. And I am transgender.

The reason I said all that boring stuff about me before mentioning that I’m trans, is to show that my transness (probably not a word, but whatever) is only a part of my identity as a person. When I was asked if I wanted to participate in a documentary that PBS FRONTLINE would be making, I was hesitant to say, “Yes” for that exact reason. I wanted to share my story, but I didn’t want it to define me. At the time, I was also in the very beginning of my transition. I hadn’t even decided on my name yet. In fact, when I was first asked to participate in the film, I was still going by my birth name. Then, the first time I met Karen [O’Connor, one of the directors], I had switched to the name Adrian. Later, the day of the first appointment they shot with my dad, I decided I would take my dad’s name, Noel. Finally, on July 18, 2014, I decided my name would be Kyle. I’m actually happy that the filming started at the beginning, because most people think that you pick one name and that’s what it is forever.

Kyle from the FRONTLINE documentary Growing Up Trans.
Kyle from the FRONTLINE documentary Growing Up Trans.

I eventually decided to participate in the film, because I wanted to help people understand what it’s like to be trans and to give people a more accurate and positive representation of the trans community. In the beginning of my transition, even I believed that there was a specific way I was supposed to behave, or else I wasn’t “trans enough.” I remember thinking that I had to be super masculine, hate every part of my body, never want to look at myself, and be in a constant state of depression. Yes there are people like this, which is fine, but not every trans person has to be like this. I’m not the most masculine person, there are parts of my body that I’m perfectly fine with, I have no problem looking in the mirror, and at the moment I’m fairly happy with my life. Yeah, I still have days where my dysphoria is really bad and looking in the mirror makes it worse, but I also have days where I feel great about myself.

I think that if I had seen something like Growing Up Trans I might have realized sooner that it’s okay for me to just be myself and I don’t have to be exactly what everyone thinks I should be. Now there are more and more trans people in the media telling their stories and making it so much easier for younger trans people.

When I was younger, my dad would tell me I had to wear a dress because girls wore dresses, and when he found out I was trans he didn’t believe me. Actually, the first time we talked to Karen [O’Connor] as a family, I remember being so emotional because my dad was saying how I would eventually realize that god made me a girl, so I would always be a girl, and other terrible things like that. Having Karen be there while my dad said all this, and having her listen to me and not tell me what I should or shouldn’t do, really made me feel like someone cared. My mom was totally accepting. However, she would always try to get me and my dad to compromise or meet in the middle.

Kyle with his family.
Kyle with his family.

On May 31, 2014, I graduated 8th grade. I remember that feeling of freedom. That was also the day my dad told me that he understood, that everything was fine. Then, on October 14, 2014, I started T (testosterone). Three months later, they did another interview. I had moved twice, started high school, made up with my dad, and told the rest of my family. They filmed me doing my shot and then did a short interview. Thank god they did. In the first interview I was a mess. I was going through a really hard time and I was just generally unhappy with myself and the world. The second interview was a hundred times better. I was so much happier. My voice deepened, my hairline became more masculine, my body hair thickened, and I had started growing some facial hair. I was so much more confident, and I think it showed in that interview.

Now, eight months on T, I have a very deep voice, I have some sweet sideburns that I feel way too many times throughout the day, super thick body hair, and I have gained a decent amount of muscle. I’m also trying to schedule my top surgery for later in the summer. Also, all my friends and family know about me and the documentary and we will be watching it together when it comes out.

Every day, I have at least one family member ask me when will come out and they tell me how proud and excited they are for me. It’s been an amazing experience working with FRONTLINE and I gained so much knowledge about both myself and others.

Watch Growing Up Trans online.


Your philanthropic support can help advance the work of Lurie Children’s Gender & Sex Development Program. Contact Lurie Children's Foundation at 312.227.7500 or foundation@luriechildrens.org to learn more.

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