"Trans in Texas" Comes to HBO

HBO's Vice series returns to the Lone Star State to cover trans rights

Tomorrow night, Vice on HBO refocuses its gaze on Texas’ trans youth. The 18-minute segment shares an update on Kai Shappley and her family, which recently relocated to Austin for a more accepting school district.

Vice on HBO correspondent Gianna Toboni visits Kai, a 7-year-old trans girl at her school. (Photo provided by Vice on HBO)

Now 7, Shappley received a fair amount of press during last year’s painful and painfully long bathroom bill debate. (The bill, in multiple iterations, failed.) But, with November’s midterm elections looming and the next state Legislature session convening in January 2019, Vice correspondent Gianna Toboni decided to return to Texas to check in on the new Austin residents and spotlight other obstacles faced by Texas' massive trans community.

Toboni told me over email that Vice decided to build upon last year’s story, in which Shappley was also the centerpiece, after the overwhelming response they received. During the first round of filming, Toboni and her team fell in love with Shappley and her mom Kimberly, who’s transformed from a “straight-ticket Republican, evangelical, country girl” to her daughter’s No. 1 warrior. While filming this update, Toboni said Shappley “talks about her frustrations with President Trump, but says she prays for him every day. … Together, as mother and daughter, they’ve grown and they’ve changed and they’ve survived intense adversity, while keeping their spirits high.”

This latest segment, while still focusing on Shappley, also looks at Houston’s police department, which took a lot of heat from the trans community last year after misgendering Brandi Seals, a trans woman of color who was shot and killed in December. The department is currently undergoing an LBGTQ sensitivity training. The segment captures a few moments of the training, but Toboni’s interview with one cadet probably won't make you feel much better about HPD. (Austin Police Department has also pledged to conduct mandatory LGBTQ training for all officers after misgendering Monica Loera in 2016.)

Lastly, the piece touches on the numerous anti-LGBTQ bills being considered nationwide by lawmakers this year and the growing number of queer folks running for office. Toboni said, Vice’s goal was to understand how these bills affect the lives of trans people. While most of this isn’t news to plugged-in members of queer communities, it’s a good reminder that outside the umbrella, queer and trans issues remain underaddressed. For Toboni, she hopes the episode “educates viewers, helps them understand a new perspective, and shows trans people, those who are out and those who aren’t, that there are strong communities that support them.”

Plus, those precious onscreen moments of Shappley will melt even the iciest of hearts. "Trans in Texas" airs Friday, Aug. 24, at 6:30 & 10pm on HBO.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Sarah Marloff
Protesters Descend On Leander Family Pride Event
Protesters Descend On Leander Family Pride Event
LGBTQ activists and allies turn out to support attendees

June 15, 2019

Qmmunity: On Finding Queer Joy
Qmmunity: On Finding Queer Joy
Plus, more Pride events to help you forget it’s hot outside

June 14, 2019


Kai Shappley, bathroom bill, VICE on HBO, Monica Loera, APD

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle