Lisa Ling Takes on "Ex-Gays"

BY Julie Bolcer

March 08 2011 7:35 PM ET

LISA LING X390 (OWN) | ADVOCATE.COM

Ling takes a similar approach throughout the first season of six one-hour
episodes, two of which focus directly on LGBT issues. In an earlier
episode, she explored “Transgender Lives,” with visits to the family of a 6-year-old transgender girl, a middle-aged married couple, and Ton, a
weight lifter once known as Tonya. Ling, who is married to a man, admits she
developed a crush on Ton, along with the rest of the women who work on the
show.

“Ton is an extremely good-looking man, and I think because
he understands the feminine side, he’s almost the perfect man,” she
said.

According to Ling, gay staff members at OWN provide inputfor  the episodes, and her team also consults outside experts. She said
that although Winfrey is not always deeply involved with production or
story selection, she took a special interest in the transgender episode.


“She’s very involved with, when we get to rough cut, she
watches all the shows and sends notes and so on,” said Ling. “She’s
involved in different capacities.”

While likely to prove far less
controversial than any exploration of the “ex-gay” movement,
“Transgender Lives” does lack racial diversity among the people
interviewed. Ling, a Chinese-American born in California, said the
absence is not for lack of trying.

“Trying to get people to talk
openly on camera about their lives is challenging enough,” she said,
explaining that her team reached out to hundreds of families in their
search for a transgender child, but only two were interested in going
public.

“We were just really compelled by the stories of the
people that we profiled,” she said. “They had really interesting stories
to tell and that’s how we chose those people.”

That approach
seems to work. The second episode of Our America With Lisa Ling
attracted 24% more viewers than the premiere last month, and OWN just
announced that it has ordered a second season.

“It feels so good
to be able to do programming that expands people’s consciousness,” said
Ling. “It really, really makes me very proud.”















Lisa Ling will participate in a live chat about the “ex-gay” movement with Gayle King tonight after the show from 10 to 11 p.m. Eastern. Watch a preview below. Click here for more information.

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