High school can, at times, be a bottomless chasm of suck, especially when it feels like your entire life is falling apart around you. No one knows that better than 17-year-old Ben Lehwald, the teen at the center of ABC Family's groundbreaking new docuseries "Becoming Us."
"Becoming Us" follows Ben, a teen from Evanston, Illinois, as he struggles to come to terms with his father Carly's transition and decision to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Carly's decision to pursue SRS forces Ben to come face-to-face with his new reality.
"I love my mom... dad-mom, but it doesn't mean that I understand what she's doing," Ben says in the closing credits of the premiere episode (#WelcometoMyWorld). "Who knew my dad was becoming a woman at the same time I was becoming a man?"
The emotional docuseries, which premieres Monday, June 8, is already being touted as a real-life take on Amazon's Golden-Globe winning series "Transparent," but having seen the first two episodes, MTV News can you that it's so much more than that. What makes "Becoming Us" so unique is that we're seeing Carly's transition through Ben's eyes. His reaction to Carly's transition is visceral and heartbreakingly real -- we're talking scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-atop-a-building-real.
Ben isn't just dealing with his dad's transition; he's also dealing with his parents' divorce. Carly and Suzy, Ben's mom, were married for 16 years, until Carly revealed to Suzy that she had been quietly transitioning. The news turned Ben and Suzy's life upside down. Ben acted out; he skipped school, flunked classes and even wracked up 52 detentions. Part of the series documents Ben's unhealthy coping mechanisms, which also include shutting out his friends and family, and his journey to get back on track.
But Ben isn't going through this completely alone. He has an eccentric group of friends to keep him from going off the deep end, his grounded half-sister Sutton and in a serendipitous twist, a girlfriend who knows exactly what he's going through. His girlfriend Danielle's father Daniel has also been transitioning into a woman for years. (Editors note: We will use the male pronoun in keeping with Daniel's stated pronoun preference in the first two episodes.)
In one particularly moving scene from show's first episode, at Danielle's request, Carly takes Daniel bra shopping -- and Ben and Danielle begrudgingly come along for the ride. Daniel has struggled with his body image since starting his transition, and the end result is a touching moment between Daniel and Danielle, where Daniel finally looks in the mirror and sees himself as a beautiful woman.
"Becoming Us" is an important show, one that has the ability to change lives and educate the population on trans issues. It's also a show that perfectly gets what being a teenager is all about, from ignoring your parents' calls to #relationshipdrama to finding your parents completely and utterly embarrassing (this is universal, regardless of coming from a transgender family). And it's in those moments that "Becoming Us" truly shines.
There's still so much more to be done for transgender equity, especially for those still most marginalized, but "Becoming Us" is a step in the right direction.