Gianna Toboni, left, with Kai Shappley, right. Shappley is a transgender 5-year-old who spoke to Toboni for the VICE episode "Trans Youth" that airs tomorrow at 11pm. PHOTO COURTESY OF HBO
Gianna Toboni, left, with Kai Shappley, right. Shappley is a transgender 5-year-old who spoke to Toboni for the “VICE” episode “Trans Youth” that airs Friday at 11 p.m. COURTESY OF HBO

“VICE,” the Emmy Award-winning news program, has returned to HBO with its fifth season, airing on Fridays at 11 p.m., producing groundbreaking investigative pieces.

This documentary-style news show releases a new episode each week. “VICE” has gained notoriety for its compelling episodes, which have included coverage of the lives of North Korean defectors and the battle against ISIS in the Middle East.

This season, there are 30 episodes. The executive producers of the show — Bill Maher, Shane Smith and Eddy Moretti — work with a group of 12 correspondents who each take on a few issues per season.

The first episode of this season was split into two topics: Syria’s longtime dictator Bashar al-Assad, and the economic stakes of the reaction to climate change. However, the second episode, premiering on March 3, will focus exclusively on transgender youth in the United States.


The transgender community has been under a growing political spotlight as of late, particularly because of the national debate on what bathrooms transgender people should be allowed to use. In the upcoming episode, “VICE” correspondent and producer Gianna Toboni explores the emotionally-charged and rapidly-evolving subject of being a trans youth in American society. She speaks with several transgender youth and their families to learn how they cope and support one another in the midst of the intense and sometimes misunderstood process of transition.

“How do they feel? For these kids, that’s the most important question,” Toboni said. She added that she tried to make them feel as comfortable as possible on camera to draw out their free and genuine responses.

Instead of taking a general look at what it means to be transgender in today’s society, this episode focuses on the topic of how early the medical transition should begin for transgender kids.

Families and doctors are entering uncharted territory, rewriting the rules as they decide when and how to start medical intervention before transgender youth hit puberty.


“This is the first time I’ve ever done a story where the experts don’t know the answer,” Toboni said. “They just don’t know what the long-term effects of cross-hormone therapy are going to be.”

The episode follows four transgender youth as they take steps – some dangerousto transition into their full selves. The emotional weight of the journey is not exclusive to the kids, affecting their families as well. This episode demonstrates how seemingly obscure topics like transgender youth can still touch on universal human emotions regardless of political stances.

Toboni especially tried to avoid making the episode political and to instead focus on the personal stories involved.

While producing this episode, she said she discovered that there is a “silent majority” of people who agree on providing rights for the LGBTQ community. For the people wishing to see change, Toboni said, “I think it’s about speaking up. It’s about talking to peers and encouraging them to educate themselves.”

The episode “Trans Youth” will air on HBO at 11 p.m. on Friday, March 3.


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