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Lisa Ling and EJ Johnson Tackle Gender Identity


With the help of Johnson and others, the journalist covers what she calls the "gender revolution" on her CNN show.

Lisa Ling thinks we are in the midst of a gender revolution being led by young people.

"For the first time we are recognizing that gender doesn't have to be relegated to just male and female," the veteran journalist says. "For me as a 45-year-old, it was hard for me to wrap my mind around that. Because I spent my entire life checking one particular box. Everything that has been marketed to me, everything I've always been told is that I have to adhere to all things female. What's really interesting to me is acknowledging that there are a lot of people who have never felt entirely boy or girl, woman or man."

Ling underscores this point in the "Gender Fluidity" episode of her CNN documentary show This is Life, airing Sunday at 10 p.m. Eastern. Two individuals in standout: the couple of Xander and Chandler. Ling says, "To me those two were an incredible example of unconditional love.

"We all go through changes in our lives. Some are physical and some are emotional. Loving someone means loving the person they are inside. They were such a beautiful evolved example of that. Both of them had gone through pretty significant transitions during the time they were together."

Above: Chandler receives a testsoterone shot.

Ling's most high profile subject is EJ Johnson (son of Cookie and Magic Johnson), who's paving a new path in in a more public way than most. Ling calls him a "gender icon" and says it's been an astounding experience interacting with young people like Johnson who feel confident being gender fluid. "I think they have been validated through other people who are asserting the same exact thing through the internet and social media."

Above: EJ Johnson goes shopping.

Ling notes the generational difference is significant and that if she had felt this way when she was in her 20s, "I would have had absolutely no outlet to be able to find people who are experiencing similar things. Now young people are able to feel things en masse and finding their communities."

Ling thinks it's helping people not only to come out but, "feel comfortable in their own skin. As a parent I think it's the hope and desire for all of us. I'm glad these kids have an outlet for the ways that they're feeling."

In the segment, Ling speaks to her own experience being a tomboy growing up and how her daughters took her by surprise by being into pink dresses and doll houses: "What I love about this young generation is not only are they exposed to being able to think outside the box in terms of gender but they are experimenting and the idea of not experimenting with gender seems so unfathomable."

Ling also had high praise for the parents of her subjects, saying, "Magic Johnson and Cookie, and Chandler's mom, and everyone involved showed so much unconditional love to their children -- it was really inspiring."

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