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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Larry Discusses Transgender Individuals
Aired February 15, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FELICITY HUFFMAN, OSCAR NOMINATED FOR MOVIE "TRANSAMERICA": I will be a woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, men who've gone under the knife to become women, women who have done the same to become men and more, inside the world of transgender people.
With us Felicity Huffman, up for an Oscar for her portrayal of pre-op transsexual in Transamerica; Dolly Parton, the country legend, who wrote a song for that movie.
Race car driver Terri O'Connell, a male to female transsexual and the first person in motor sports history to drive as a man and a woman; Brenda Chevis and Aiden Key; he was born as Bonnie Chevis, Brenda's identical twin sister. Jennifer Finney Boylan, she was John Boylan, novelist, husband and father until sex reassignment surgery at age 42. And, T.J. Jurian (ph), born a woman, became a man, now featured in the TV series "TransGeneration."
They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Tonight's program is devoted to the subject of the transgender and an extraordinary new movie called "Transamerica" from our friends at the Weinstein Pictures Corporation, an extraordinary film in many ways and one of the most -- biggest ways is the actress who stars in it and has been nominated for an Academy Award and who my friends tell me got a good chance to win it is Felicity Hoffman, the best actress nominee for her role as the male to female transgender Sabrina in the film "Transamerica." She's perhaps best known as Lynette (ph) on ABC's "Desperate Housewives." Did you like this script right away?
HUFFMAN: Right away. Duncan Tucker wrote a brilliant, moving screenplay and I would have done craft service to be on it and, yes.
KING: But yet you're a beautiful woman. You can't play beautiful in this movie. You have to play non beautiful.
HUFFMAN: Yes, but that wasn't a challenge. That's a relief. The challenge was to try and get it right. The challenge was to live up to the screenplay, not whether or not I was pretty or not.
KING: All right, you're a woman being a man who wants to be a woman.
KING: Now you can't (INAUDIBLE) anything in your personal life to come up with this.
KING: So what do you -- how do you find that?
HUFFMAN: That's a great question. I found that daunting myself at first. I thought I don't know how to scale this conundrum and I decided to go with what her inner story was. What's her internal journey not becoming a woman but through her heart and that is a story about becoming who she really is, which I think is something everyone does to become who you really are in life, to come home to oneself.
KING: Everyone I've talked to that has done it one way or the other and I'm so old I remember Christine Jorgensen.
HUFFMAN: Yes, yes.
KING: Who was the first.
KING: And had it done overseas and I interviewed her in Miami.
KING: And then that was an amazing story. But I remember Dr. Renee Richards.
HUFFMAN: Yes, yes.
KING: And she said the toughest part is to be in a body you don't feel like being in.
KING: One could only wonder what that's like.
HUFFMAN: On a small scale I think you can imagine if you woke up tomorrow morning and suddenly instead of what you actually have, Larry, you have what I have and you'd wake up and go "What's this? This is not my body."
And, on a broader scale I think that transgender people are faced with an untenable choice which is if they decide not to go through with the transformation then they're alienated from their true selves. If they decide to go through with it, then they're alienated from society so, yes, I think it's a tough place to be in.
KING: This was a low budget film too right?
HUFFMAN: Yes, I think it was $2.50. KING: Are you surprised at the attention this received?
HUFFMAN: Oh, are you kidding! I'm going to the Academy Awards! Yes, I thought my mom would see it. I'm pretty sure my husband would see it, some of my friends in New York but that was pretty much it. Kevin, the wonderful Kevin Zegers who's in it with me plays my son, we'd sit in that hot station wagon where it was 150 degrees and no air-conditioning and he'd go "No one's ever going to see this movie." I'd go "Yes, I know no one's ever going to see this movie."
KING: He's terrific by the way.
HUFFMAN: Isn't he great?
KING: And William Macy is your husband right?
HUFFMAN: Yes, he is.
KING: He must be very proud.
HUFFMAN: Yes, he is, very.
KING: So he's going to the awards accompanying you.
HUFFMAN: I know.
KING: Do you think you might win it?
HUFFMAN: I don't know and this is not pabulum. I'm not just saying this because it's the (INAUDIBLE) litany that everyone says. It's honesty a win to go. I never thought I would go. I gave up the dream of being paid for acting long, long ago and the fact that I am on a TV show that I get paid for and then this, it's a dream come true. I feel like I already won and I know you want to take an insulin shot after I say that but it's true.
KING: Now "Desperate Housewives" couldn't be further removed from this movie. In fact, each episode probably costs more.
HUFFMAN: Oh, yes absolutely.
KING: Are you having fun doing that show?
HUFFMAN: Oh, it's a dream job. I love it.
HUFFMAN: On every week. It's like doing a one act play for every eight days, so I have a fantastic script by Marc Cherry and the writers, great writing. Great writing makes you look good. I love the people. I love the community.
That's why I love theater is that you get to go to the theater every night at 6:00 and you see your friends and it's the same thing on TV and I love the people I work with and I love my part. I love playing Lynette. I like to have a voice of motherhood of that genre. KING: Why is that show so popular?
KING: I mean what is it? Is it a comedy?
HUFFMAN: I think it's a black comedy. I think you'd have to ask someone a lot smarter than me why it works but I actually think it's Marc Cherry's voice because he -- he does this great thing. He holds up the icon of the American family and then very gently he pokes fun at it and is sarcastic with it but not to rip it apart, not to destroy it but just to hold it up to look at. And then he throws in a dash of wicked sauciness so it ends up like dessert.
KING: Our guest is Felicity Huffman, nominated for an Academy Award for her role in "Transamerica," an extraordinary film.
We'll be meeting other people who were -- in fact later we're going to meet Terri O'Connell, the NASCAR race car driver, author of an upcoming book called "Dangerous Curves." Before the gender reassignment she was JT Hayes, extraordinary stories.
And, by the way we'll close the program with Dolly Parton whose song is nominated for an Academy Award. It's the song from the movie.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medical procedures to date.
HUFFMAN: The usual electrolysis, three years of hormone therapy and a facial feminization surgery. After my operation I will be a woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Felicity Huffman of "Desperate Housewives" and she stars in "Transamerica." She is an Academy Award nominee. There's a lot of other factors in this film right like parenting?
KING: And the way you deal with your parents.
KING: Burt Young is sensational by the way.
HUFFMAN: Yes isn't he great? And Fionnula Flanagan and Graham Greene, I mean it's a fantastic cast.
KING: The scene when you go home.
HUFFMAN: Oh. It's great that scene when I go home because...
KING: And they slam the door. HUFFMAN: They slam the door.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in your car before the neighbors see you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Because you were a guy.
HUFFMAN: Yes and they -- some families accept it and are very supportive. I guess it's like any -- any continuum, you know. You have families that are supportive and some who aren't and the character I play in the movie, Sabrina, her family was not supportive and her mother doesn't want to see her and finds it very upsetting. Those family scenes are great not only because of the writing and the cast but everyone can relate to the dysfunctional crazy family.
KING: And a great plot having you have a son.
KING: You didn't know about.
HUFFMAN: Yes. You know you sort of go how did that work? Oh, yes, you were a guy before but, yes, played by Kevin.
KING: And the way he discovers.
HUFFMAN: And the way he discovers, yes. Can I let that out on the air but, yes.
KING: You go to the bathroom and he looks out of the rear of the car.
HUFFMAN: That's exactly right. That scene interestingly enough was supposed to be shot from the back, just the back of me and you, as an audience, infer what goes on because you see Kevin's face look in the rearview mirror. But as we got to the day of shooting, Duncan Tucker who wrote and directed it came and said "I want to actually shoot the actual thing. We want to see it" because I had an actual thing. And I actually found it very upsetting.
HUFFMAN: That's the one time I -- I broke down in the filming. I was crying and he was going "What? What's the matter?" And you would think it's a piece of rubber. Who cares what they see? But I think I lived in the skin of Bree for so long that I felt how she would feel which was it felt exposed and it felt like a betrayal and it wasn't something I wanted to have nor did I want to show people.
KING: Do you think, this would be hypothetical, you have two daughters?
KING: How old?
HUFFMAN: Three and five.
KING: So this will really be hypothetical. Do you think you could handle it if one of your daughters came to you and said "I want to be a man"?
HUFFMAN: I would hope so. I think as a parent what you care for is that your child is not in pain and that your child becomes who they really are and if that's who they really are I would want them to be that.
KING: Now what do you think this is going to do for your career, really what...
HUFFMAN: I got a pretty good day job, Larry, I don't know. I...
KING: I mean you want to do more films obviously don't you?
HUFFMAN: I would. I got to say I love TV. I just love it. So I'm not looking to move. I love staying in it and if I get to do some movies on my hiatus that would be swell.
KING: Is that where this movie came to you on a hiatus?
HUFFMAN: Well, I shot the pilot of "Desperate Housewives" and we didn't know it was going to go anywhere and like every other pilot I've done I thought it would die an early death. And then I had a couple months off and I shot the movie "Transamerica" and then I went back to work five days later.
KING: And when you saw the great reviews and that it was going to be a hit this had to be like what?
HUFFMAN: Yes, I couldn't believe it. It was in Berlin and I think it was at the Hollywood Reporter. Someone went and wrote a great review of the movie and that's what started the ball.
KING: I'm really happy for you Felicity.
HUFFMAN: Thank you so much.
KING: Good luck.
HUFFMAN: Thank you.
KING: Hope you'll win it.
HUFFMAN: Thank you very much.
KING: Felicity Huffman, she's nominated for best actress for her role as the male to female transgender Sabrina in "Transamerica."
And we'll be right back with more. We're going to meet others who, I don't want to say affected, others who have had this done or are in transition doing it. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: And the Golden Globe goes to Felicity Huffman "Transamerica."
HUFFMAN: As actors our job is usually to shed our skins but I think as people our job is to become who we really are and so I would like to salute the men and women who brave ostracism, alienation and a life lived on the margins to become who they really are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was third in the main event last night as Mainland's (ph) Raceway Park, a big welcome to JT Hayes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhere in that pack of outlaw cars is JT Hayes, Corinth, Mississippi's own. He's come to the Bay Area looking to move into the big time NASCAR.
JT HAYES: My father was a race car driver. He raced professionally for a time and then got into the amateur stats and I've just been around it all my life. I was sort of a sleeper on the benches when I was a young guy and I had little go karts when I was younger. My dad kept those going for me. So, I've been around racing all my life and I never wanted to be anything else but a professional racer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Based on the movie "Transamerica" we're looking at the subject of the transgender and we welcome Terri O'Connell to LARRY KING LIVE. She is a NASCAR race car driver, author of an upcoming book "Dangerous Curves." Before gender reassignment, before that surgery, she raced as JT Hayes. Why did you change?
TERRI O'CONNELL: Wow, this is exactly who I was, you know, from the day I can -- my father's memories back I was just a girl and I was very small and feminine anyway as a little boy but it was just there was no doubt about it that I was a girl and it just took time to work it out, you know.
KING: But that must be terrible.
O'CONNELL: Oh, it was horrible, you know, especially being from the south, you know. You live in a very small southern community that's, you know, it's very warm and friendly if you're a "normal human being," but being transgender in that type of environment was not an easy thing at all.
KING: But you take up race car driving.
O'CONNELL: I know, I know. Well my father was a race car driver, well known in the southern part of the United States and, you know, it was just a chip off the old block, you know and I loved doing it too. It was really great.
KING: What did you race?
O'CONNELL: I raced, I started off in karts and I won a national championship and I raced midgets, did the same thing, transitioned into sprint cars just like Jeff Gordon and Tony Sturrett (ph) and those guys and then got my shot at doing Winston Cup which is now (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Still race with them.
O'CONNELL: We're trying to get something back together. I got a great car out of Atlanta and we're working on trying to find sponsors.
KING: When did you decide you want to change?
O'CONNELL: Really it was 20 years ago, you know. I was just a kid. I was, you know, in my late teens and early 20s and I knew that this was going to be inevitable to do this at some point in time and so started seeing psychologists in the area and, you know, it was just one of those situations that my career was beginning to take off and I got caught up in living life. And, of course, you know my mom and my dad and it was a very difficult time for all of us because, you know, Southern Baptist, (INAUDIBLE). It was tough.
KING: How old were you when you did it?
O'CONNELL: I was 30. I was 30.
KING: Do you go through a lot of psychological stuff before it?
O'CONNELL: You do, you know. They try to make sure that this is what you should do.
KING: They don't just do it?
O'CONNELL: No, they do not, you know. I actually went through really ten years of it, you know, just trying to get my head around it because I had such a macho sport that I excelled in and they were really concerned on whether or not I could go in and have a feminine life. And, you know, of course I knew I could but they wanted to make sure that I could but ultimately...
KING: Where did you have it done?
O'CONNELL: In Trinidad, Colorado with Dr. Stanley Biber (ph) who just passed away by the way.
KING: How long does it take?
O'CONNELL: You know I'm not really sure. It was a four or five hour operation. Everything was really, it was really very easy for me, you know. Within a month I was back at work.
KING: How long in recovery?
O'CONNELL: I was back working within a month.
KING: A month.
O'CONNELL: But really a year. It took a year to really...
KING: Did you feel better right away? Did you feel like a woman woman?
O'CONNELL: Immediately. It was one of those deals. It wasn't like you stood up in bed and shouted with jubilation about, oh my God, I'm finally who I'm supposed to be. I already was who I was but it was one of those things it was like, oh finally, you know, here we go.
KING: Does the surgery take away certain -- for example are there certain things as a woman that women can do you can't do?
O'CONNELL: Well, I can't bear children by a long shot but really everything else, you know.
KING: Can you have an orgasm?
O'CONNELL: I can, absolutely can. I hate to admit that on television but I can.
KING: Why not?
O'CONNELL: Exactly, yes, and it's one of the things Dr. Biber assured me, you know, that that would be something...
KING: Breasts grow naturally?
O'CONNELL: That and breast implants as well.
KING: How much pain?
O'CONNELL: You know I think it varies on the person. For me it was really no pain. I really didn't have any pain at all, you know, so.
KING: So what was the hardest thing for you?
O'CONNELL: You know the hardest thing for me really was from a physical standpoint I really didn't find anything that was overly difficult but that changes from each human being who goes through this. The thing that gave me the most difficulty was dealing with my parents. I just didn't want to hurt them, you know.
KING: And how did they finally -- they finally accepted?
O'CONNELL: Oh, they did. I mean really from the time I was three, this was an issue in our lives. I mean it was something we dealt with from a very, very early age. They knew I was -- they knew I was small and feminine and -- but you know you still -- you still hold onto that hope. It's hope against hope that you're not going to have to cross that bridge, you know.
KING: You never feel like a man?
O'CONNELL: No, never ever.
KING: How did the other race car drivers take to it?
O'CONNELL: Well, you know, that's a -- it's a kind of a catch-22, you know. Some, it's a non issue to some people. Some people it is an issue and some people just don't care. So, it's like life. You get -- it's a whole box of chocolates and you just don't know which one you're going to open up but I treat people fairly and I get treated fairly on some degrees, yes.
KING: The male apparatus is it cut off?
O'CONNELL: No, it's -- it's something they use the whole apparatus and it's an insert and then they create a vagina through that.
KING: So they go inside with it.
O'CONNELL: Oh, they do.
KING: And they create a vagina.
KING: And then everything else becomes normal?
O'CONNELL: Normal, absolutely, beyond belief, beyond belief. It's pretty cool you know, yes. It's great.
KING: You got a book coming.
O'CONNELL: Got a book we're working on.
KING: "Dangerous Curves."
O'CONNELL: It's dangerous too.
KING: The story of your life?
O'CONNELL: The story of my life. It's got a lot of things in there. It's kind of I call it my mystery novel. It's really kind of a -- it's an adventure in life, you know. My life has been really, really incredible.
KING: How did you handle school as a kid?
O'CONNELL: School was difficult for me because I was small and feminine and the boys on the, you know, the playground bullied me and -- but one thing I always had the cache of motor sports. I always had that so that gave me that little tough thing in the neighborhood. So they'd try to beat me up but I was -- I mean I was a little defiant you know.
KING: Had that little edge because you could go around the track.
O'CONNELL: I did. They wanted to do that too, you know.
KING: Thank you, Terri.
O'CONNELL: Absolutely, Larry. It's a pleasure.
KING: Good luck.
O'CONNELL: Thank you.
KING: Terri O'Connell, NASCAR race car driver, before gender reassignment she was JT Hayes; back with more right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want out of me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because a person doesn't go around blabbing her entire biological history to everyone she meets doesn't make her a liar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn't you just tell me the truth?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you could humiliate me in public even sooner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're looking at the film "Transamerica" and the discussion of transgenders and we now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE a return visit with Jennifer Finney Boylan, a male-to-female transsexual, best-selling author of "She's not There, a Life in two Genders," working on a new book "I'll Give you Something to cry About," due out later this year. She's professor of English at Colby College in Maine. It's good to see you back.
JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN: And you as well, Larry.
KING: And then an extraordinary story, Aiden Key was born a girl named Bonnie, later underwent sex reassignment surgery to become a man, has a daughter with the woman who was her lesbian life partner for several years before Aiden's surgery.
And this is Aiden's twin sister Brenda. Brenda Chevis is his identical twin sister. She is currently married, has two children, one by her ex-husband, one by her current husband.
And in East Lansing, Michigan is T. J. Jurian, a pre-op female-to-male transgender. When will you have the surgery T. J.?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's kind of on hold right now. It will be a while.
KING: How old are you? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 24 years old.
KING: Explain Aiden how this works out the twins and how, befuddling story, you changed, you were Bonnie?
AIDEN KEY, BORN A GIRL, UNDERWENT SEX REASSIGNMENT SURGERY: Right, I was Bonnie. We were -- we are identical twins. I was born female. So was she. I'm seven minutes older. We developed -- raised in the same family, similar experiences throughout and -- but we did start to develop some different personality traits and that led to me coming out as a lesbian at around age 19 and then later on probably in my early 30s really beginning to look at my gender identity.
KING: You had a child?
KEY: Not me, I did not birth a child. I do have a daughter.
KING: From your lesbian partner?
KING: Did you father it?
KEY: No, I did not. That's biologically not possible.
KING: You can't do that.
KING: So someone else fathered it but you're the father. You're the father.
KEY: Yes. We are both legally her parents.
KING: Brenda, how did you feel about all this?
BRENDA CHEVIS, IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER BECAME MAN: When Aiden, Bonnie at the time, decided to tell me about her feelings of lesbian identity, not quite fitting right and that she wanted to transition to be male, I didn't really comprehend at first. I couldn't understand it.
Then I went through an experience of like grieving. I didn't know what to expect. I was going to be losing a twin sister, gaining a brother I guess, you know. I wasn't sure. I didn't know. I didn't know anyone that had ever transitioned, didn't have the language for it even. I didn't know how to talk about it and so I had a hard time.
KING: How are you now?
KING: How are you now?
CHEVIS: Now I just, I still have my twin, and it really doesn't feel any different.
KING: How about your parents? CHEVIS: Oh, they were -- they were wonderful. Our dad said, gee, I always wished I had a son.
KEY: Yes, within about not even six seconds, two seconds of me telling him.
KING: Now, many are lesbian -- were you a lesbian, Jennifer?
BOYLAN: Was I? No. No, back when I was a man, no.
KING: When you were a man, no. But I mean, were you gay?
BOYLAN: No, no, I was actually attracted to women. My life revolved around women. I was drawn to them in the same way that you'd be drawn to a fire in a cold room. But my relationship with women was certainly different from that of most other men. I would be on a date and I would say something like, "Well, what's it like to have breasts?" And the woman I was with would say something like, "Well, what do you want to know that for?" So as a man...
KING: But did you enjoy sex with females?
BOYLAN: Well yes, sure, why not.
KING: Why change?
BOYLAN: Well, the thing is that it's a very fundamental sense of yourself, and it's really not, it's not about who you're attracted to. It's about who you are and it's hard for people to separate gender identify and sexuality.
KING: Aiden, did you have lesbian experiences?
KING: Why didn't you just stay lesbian?
KEY: Again like Jenny's talking about, who I bring to that relationship is what was important. That's what I explored with my gender identity, so that is separate from the connection with another person. So coming into that relationship with the masculine identity felt more comfortable to me than with a feminine identity.
KING: T.J. Jourian, when did you start to have different feelings?
T.J. JOURIAN, TRANSMALE: Well that was pretty much early on. I knew I was a boy as young as three-years-old. But I didn't really start questioning my gender until I was in college and around the age of 20. So it's only been about four years now that I've really started identifying as a transmale.
KING: Transmale meaning you want to be a woman?
JOURIAN: No, transmale is another term for female to male, so transmale would be wanting to transition into a male identity. KING: Wait a minute. Are you a girl?
JOURIAN: I was born in a female body. I wish to transition to a male one.
KING: But you look like a male.
JOURIAN: Yes, because I guess I am one.
KING: But you look like a male and you sound like a male.
JOURIAN: Well, that term is actually called passing. I pass pretty well for someone who hasn't gone through the transition yet.
BOYLAN: The hard thing is keeping track of all the stuff. It's no wonder that people get confused. We don't have a good vocabulary for talking about this stuff. If you've never thought about this, it just seems like it comes from Mars.
KING: Should there be a different word for male-to-female than female-to-male.
BOYLAN: Well we say transwomen for people like me and transmen for people like our guest. But I think that it's very hard for people to understand.
KING: Isn't your surgery going to be a lot more difficult, T.J.?
JOURIAN: Well there is no point of reference because most people have not gone through both. But from what I understand, from the research that I've done, transmale surgery is a lot more complicated, but at the same token I don't speak of it as an expert because I've not gone through it.
KING: Do you feel totally like a man?
JOURIAN: Yes, completely, 100 percent.
BOYLAN: It's worth noting that it's not really about the surgery. The surgery's not most important part of this. And I think people really can fixate on that because it seems so strange and scary. But you know, feeling like a man or a woman is not necessarily the result of surgery. It's something that begins with the soul and with the spirit.
KING: Do you agree with that, Aiden?
KEY: I do agree with that and I think you'll also find that the more that we as a society learn about it, we'll find that it's not just I was a woman and now I am a man.
Because I have what I like to call a gender fluid identity. I never felt like a woman, and I don't feel completely like a man. I do feel more comfortable in my masculine body and so that's something that a lot of folks are stepping outside of the binary of just female or just male as gender options. KING: We'll in a minute add Michelle Angello, has a PhD in human sexuality and master in psychology and we'll get her thoughts as well. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOURIAN: That's Tamara (ph). The person looking back at me at those pictures looks like they're looking at me and wanting something from me. Like they're saying, where did you go, why did you leave me, because I did. I left her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now from New York is Dr. Michelle Angello, who has a PhD in human sexuality and a masters in psychology. What's your overview of this?
MICHELLE ANGELLO, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Well, I think it's an amazing topic, because right now, we're getting so much mainstream media attention with regard to transsexual issues and transgender issues that our education no longer has to come from Jerry Springer or other sensationalized kinds of media sources. So it's phenomenal for me to see transfolks stepping out and bravely coming to the forefront and allowing their stories to be told so that we can get a sense of what this is all about.
KING: If you are a lesbian, or you're gay, would you be better off being a transsexual?
ANGELLO: Well, it's one of those slippery slopes, as Jennifer stated. It's really, the two things are distinct variables. The issue around sexual orientation is who one is attracted to.
The issue with regard to gender identity is actually who am I in my brain and who am I in my heart and soul. They're two very, very different things but unfortunately as a society as soon as we hear the word sex, everybody gets so confused, that we go to, "Well, the only thing I know anything about is orientation so that must be what it this is about," and it's truly not.
KING: What kind of person in your opinion, goes the full route?
ANGELLO: Well, an individual who's genuinely dissatisfied with their body, and recognizing the fact that there's such a level of incongruency with their anatomy and with their brain that they have to proceed. And I'm not even talking about post-op surgeries, because for some folks -- for the majority of transgender individuals, surgery isn't an option. It's not a financial option, or it may just not be an option that they choose to undergo. There are so many, as with any surgery, there are complications.
So some people feel completely comfortable living as, identifying as a transperson, and either not undergoing surgery, not undergoing hormonal intervention but simply being ideally perceived by the outside world as the gender in which they know they are.
KING: Brenda, when your sister went through this, did you go with her that day to the hospital, is it a hospital?
CHEVIS: Yes. Well, Aiden ended up going to have reconstructive surgery, chest surgery, and I went, of course, because you know, that's what you do. That's what do you with your family member that you love, and you know, it was all a learning experience as I went through the process of learning and watching the change with the hormones, but it was, it was a gradual process. It wasn't like wham! All of a sudden.
KING: That would be hard for you.
CHEVIS: The change?
CHEVIS: Well, you know Larry, the interesting thing for me as a twin was I really struggled with the loss of my identity as an identical twin. I knew people wouldn't mistake us for each other anymore. And that was me. That was my identity.
KING: Also twins, having done many shows on twins. Twins have a special bonding. Twins can know when their twin is coming through the door before the door is open. Twins have a common feeling. Have you lost that?
CHEVIS: Oh, no. No, we're still who we are. As a matter of fact, I look at Aid and I don't see anybody different and that's interesting you know. At some point I may go, yes you got facial hair, you know. I don't see a different person because the change was gradual. If I go back and look at pictures when we were younger, oh, yes!
BOYLAN: You also both lucky to have each other. There are so many different stories out there, so many different -- one of the things we're learning, there are as many different ways of being transgender as there are of being gay or lesbian or straight to are that matter.
KING: What was the toughest part for you?
BOYLAN: For me the hardest thing was probably knowing that I was a source of pain for people that I love. The people that I love, did rally around me for the most part and that's the thing I kept thinking of the people that I know, the people who have survived and done the best are the ones who had their family around them.
KING: Why the tattoos?
Got to be macho. You did that when you were a girl?
KEY: A girl thing, definitely. They're old. KING: Whoa.
BOYLAN: You see we're different.
KING: T.J., why are you postponing the surgery or putting it off?
JOURIAN: Currently I'm an international student here and I have to return home to Cypress in May when I'm done with my graduate work and I'll be there for about a couple of years. My family is not necessarily accepting of me as a transmale so I need to kind of stick it out until I get back to the states or move somewhere else and kind of make my decisions then.
KING: Do they do this in Cypress?
JOURIAN: To be honest, I haven't researched it but I doubt it.
KING: Don't you want to get on it with it.
JOURIAN: If I could do the surgery yesterday, If I could start hormone therapy yesterday I would, yes.
KING: Doctor Angello, any statistics like how many transsexuals in the United States?
ANGELLO: Well, it's difficult to say because the statistics all are around people who are having surgery and as I said, the majority of transsexuals don't undergo sex reassignment surgery. So we certainly know that approximately 1,200 surgeries were performed last year but we don't know how many transsexuals are out there.
KING: Do you date women, Aiden?
KEY: Yes, I do. And one of the things you talk about when you mentioned the surgery, there are several surgical options for transmen and I've had chest surgery but I have no interest in having lower genital surgery and part of that is at least for my --
KING: You don't have male --
KEY: No, I don't, I don't and I'm not really interested in pursuing that at this point, the surgical options are still improving.
KING: We'll be back with more and then Dolly Parton who wrote the song for the movie. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOURIAN: There's a lot of shame when it comes to things like this. The Armenian community say small community and family is hugely important, so for her to have a daughter or a child that is somebody that other people don't see as human, it's the most shameful thing that can happen to her, and she's someone that has been so proud of me over the years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with our guests. By the way T.J., this program is seen all over the world. Does that bother you that we might be seen, or we are seen in Cypress.
JOURIAN: It doesn't necessarily bother me. I definitely have concerns as to how it's going to be perceived by family and friends back there, but at this point I'm very comfortable with who I am and I'm hoping that folks will find a way to support me.
KING: And wasn't there a movie that had an effect on you.
JOURIAN: Yes, another movie that was Oscar-nominated and Hillary Swank won the Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry" had quite an effect on me. In fact, it was a big turning point in my life when I was watching that movie for the third time at that point with my best friend, Jordan, who is also a transmale, and it was when I was watching that movie with him specifically that I finally put two and two together and was able to voice myself and I turned to Jordan and said, I'm Brandon, referencing the main character of the movie.
BOYLAN: It's so good that there are these movies and films and books out now that people are getting a sense that transgendered people are familiar people, we are people that people have much more in common with than --
KING: Have you seen "TransAmerica."
BOYLAN: I have.
KING: Like it?
BOYLAN: I think it's wonderful. And I think Duncan Tucker, in particular as a screen writer, not only the director but screen writer deserves a lot of credit for doing his homework.
KING: Dr. Angello are you seeing more young people doing this?
ANGELLO: I do, Larry. It's really amazing because of the media attention, I think, and also because of the Internet, what I'm seeing, and this is a phenomenal paradigm shift, is that parents used to come to my office with their child kicking and screaming coming down the hallway. They almost practically throw the child on the couch and say, fix my little boy. He says he wants to be a girl.
Well now, I get most of the parents who walk down the hallway with their child saying, my kid says that she wants to be a little boy. Can you help us support our child. Which, to me, is the epitome of unconditional love from a parent.
KING: Well, I wish you all the best. You've faced some interesting hurdles, you've come through well. And it's an extraordinary story with the twins.
KING: And it's good to see you back again. I hope everyone see this movie, it's an important movie to well, well-performed, well- acted and by the way, have you seen it Dr. Angello, before we leave?
ANGELLO: I have, Larry and actually I think that it was so well done because there was just enough levity in the movie that it didn't completely, it wasn't a downer. It was this thing that just brought right to this place of being able to empathize.
KING: You're right.
ANGELLO: But still just say, OK, I can handle this. And that is what everyday people who don't have a familiarity with transsexual issues need to see.
KING: We thank Jennifer Finney Boylan, Aiden Key, Brenda Chevis, T.J. Jourian and Dr. Michelle Angelo. Earlier Terri O'Connell and Felicity Huffman. And when we come back, Dolly Parton will sing or we'll discuss the title song, "Travelin' Thru," from the movie "Transamerica." Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you a boy or a girl?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We close the program tonight with Dolly Parton, a musical legend, multiple award winner. She's Oscar-nominated songwriter for "Travelin' Thru," the song she wrote for the movie "Transamerica," which has been the basic subject of our program tonight. How did you come to write this?
DOLLY PARTON, SINGER: Well Duncan Tucker, who is the writer/director of the film, I understood he was a fan of mine and he called me and asked if I would write this song. And so I said, I'll give it a try. I was actually on tour and I was out promoting a new C.D. of my own, the C.D. that you know about, "Those were the Days."
And so I said, I don't know if I'm going to have time to work on it, but I'll see. He said, oh please, give it a try. So he sent me a rough cut of the film and he gave me some great direction, gave me some great input and I kicked around with it for a little while and one morning I woke up and it just all come together and now here I am, nominated and I was really shocked and surprised it all happened so quick.
KING: And the lyrics are directly for the film. Example, "I'm out here on my journey trying to make the most of it. I'm a puzzle. I must figure out where all of my pieces fit." Did you like the movie? PARTON: Well actually I thought it was very touching. It was very emotional to me to see someone, you know, that really frustrated with who they are and trying to become who they are and trying to become accepted and seen and loved for that.
And I really think Duncan, the director, handled it so well, all the parts of the movie. I was very, very touched with it. Even the son, little Kevin, I thought he was wonderful. I thought his part was great. And I think just all the ways that they all played together and how tastefully it was done for such a sensitive subject. I was real impressed with it all.
KING: Were you surprised at the nomination?
PARTON: Yes, I was shocked. This is like, it just all, like I said, happened so quick because I got nominated 25 years ago with "9 to 5" but I was of course, that was my first movie and I was very involved in that. And I wrote that one as I was doing the movie.
But this one, the movie had already been written and was already put together and mine was the last piece to go in it. In fact, we barely got the song ready and they dropped it in to the end credits the next day after we recorded it. So it just happened so quick.
The next thing I know, they called and said you're nominated for an Oscar. And I just about fell over but I'm very pleased about it. I get to sing it also on the show. I get to perform it.
Of course, it's five minutes long in the movie. I have to cut it down to two and a half minutes or three, but I think we can get enough, you know, of the song and the meaning of it to make it hopefully be enjoyable.
KING: Well that's fortunate. So you will sing it at the Oscars.
PARTON: Yes, and I'm looking so long forward to going to the Oscars. I'm going to walk the red carpet and do all that stuff and get a chance to see some of those big movie stars I've always wanted to meet.
So I'm going to make a night of it. Actually my date's going to be Duncan Tucker, the writer/director, because he's just such a wonderful guy and he'll make a good escort. So my husband wouldn't go anyway, so I'd either have to find somebody else's husband or take Duncan.
KING: Why have you been -- you've been interested for a long time in gay/lesbian, transgender stories, why?
PARTON: Well, I'm not interested in anything. I haven't made any efforts to do -- I just am totally accepting of people. I really believed that everybody should be allowed to be who they are.
KING: That's what I mean.
PARTON: Well yes, I'm very tolerant of just people in general. I believe we're all God's children. I think we all have a right to be who we are. I'm certainly -- I'm not a judge and I'm certainly not God, so I just try to love the God core in all people. And I know that is in the center of us all, so I just try to accept people for who they are, whatever that is.
KING: Can you tell me how you come up with the process of writing the song, like "Travelin' Thru," where that came?
PARTON: Well, this particular song, I'll make a joke about it. I said when they first called me to write a song about "TransAmerica," I just assumed it was a nice couple traveling around in an R.V. seeing America.
So "Travelin' Thru" just seemed like a nice title, that we're all just here, we're all just passing through until we get to a bigger and better thing, trying to figure out who we are, and asking God to help and lead us.
So I actually -- I wanted to write a song not just aimed at this movie, but I wanted it to be a song that would stand on its own, even if there wasn't a movie so it's really just about asking for help, asking for guidance. And so I put a bit of a little gospel flavor to it.
And so this particular song, I had like I say some good direction and input from Duncan, but normally, the way I write songs, I just kind of sit down and just kind of all starts to flow. I write the music usually and the words, they all kind of come together. But this one, I just, you know, had all the facts and so I just tried to put them together and make them fit for me, to try to Dolly-ize it. But hopefully that it would fit well with the film and evidently it did and I'm very excited about all of this.
KING: Dolly, we'll see you March 5th at the awards. Go get 'em, girl. Hope you win.
PARTON: I will, thank you, it's always good to talk to you.
KING: Same here. Dolly Parton. She wrote "Travelin' Thru," it's the song for "Transamerica," and it's nominated as one of the best songs of the year, nominated for an Oscar. That's it for tonight. Stay tuned for "ANDERSON COOPER 360" and we'll see you tomorrow night. Good night.
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