Trans body builder on fight for acceptance: ‘We just want to live normal lives’

Body builder Mason Caminiti speaks to “Nightline” about his experience competing as a trans man, finding love and building a family, and how his transition has changed his life.
9:31 | 02/18/20

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Transcript for Trans body builder on fight for acceptance: ‘We just want to live normal lives’
training. I have to weigh my food. No butter, no oil. Grilling. Reporter: At 5'4" mason Caminiti is almost a foot shorter than his hero, Arnold schwarzenegger. But his endurance and stamina are right on par. Bodybuilding was something that helped me make my body more masculine. It's the physique that I always wanted. It's the ideal man. Yeah, for me it is. Reporter: Mason's hard work often pays off. His talent and muscles so defined that people rarely detect that mason is a transgender competitor. Named Heather Caminiti at birth, a sports-obsessed tomboy, helpless in the face of social pressures. As far back as I could remember, maybe three, four years old, I thought I was a boy. And then as I got a little bit older I realized that I had a girl's name and they were trying to put me in girl's clothes and make me use the girl's bathroom, and I was really confused. How does society treat someone like you growing up? Well, for a long time it's almost like I didn't exist. There is no words to even express that. I just felt so isolated and so and I blamed myself for that. I blamed myself for being different. Reporter: Now 44, mason says he had no transgender role models during his childhood, but one moment made all the difference. I remember being in grade school, and I saw a trans man on the "Donahue" show. I just remember feeling so relieved. Like I wasn't alone for the first time in my life. You recognized yourself? Yeah. Absolutely. And it was a positive portrayal of someone that was like me for once in my life. Reporter: These days positive portrayals command attention on screens and red carpets. Mother, you should all be very, very proud. Reporter: But while shows like "Pose," "Euphoria," and "Orange is the new black" have broadened the spotlight on trans stories, the focus on trans men's stories like mason's I guess it's a different experience and there's a different perspective of life. We think of a trans story as a journey from maleness to femininity, so to speak. I would say trans men are pretty invisible. Filmmaker T. Cooper wants to change that. He spent two years following mason and his wife, Anne, for the documentary "Man made." I can't imagine being a kid and feeling one way and then having your family say that's not appropriate. Reporter: T.'s film features a trans male bodybuilding competition and athletes in varying stages of their It was just so amazing to me how the bodies differed, the expressions of masculinity and the versions of masculinity. That were represented on stage. Just ran the gamut. Capturing pivotal moments both surgical and emotional. Oh, my god. It's my chin. It's me. Reporter: Exploring complex relationships. In a sense everyone is losing a part of their identity. Reporter: And fights for I was sent to the pastor and called out in the church. Reporter: T. Also happens to be trans, which is reflected in his filmmaking. I totally like didn't expect to get so emotional, seeing him see himself. Reporter: He worked closely with his filmmaking partner and wife, Allison, mom of two and a sis-gender woman, meaning designated female at birth. My relationship with T. Forced me to get rid of old habits that weren't necessarily helping, and I just mean ideas about what a woman does, what a wife does, what a mom does. How to please a man. Exactly. Reporter: Parts of their non-traditional marriage mirror mason and Anne's relationship. Their biggest transition lately, becoming parents. Hi, baby. Did you have nice food? Reporter: Mason and Anne hope their daughter Gianna can grow up in a more inclusive world. What do you think people misunderstand? I think people are scared of the unknown. They might just think that everyone's a freak. I love mason and mason loves me and to me it's quite simple. I often forget that our marriage isn't a conventional marriage. Reporter: Anne identifies as a pan-sexual sisgender woman. The two married in 2015. He was in a comedy group my friend was nip told my friend who was this cute guy on stage? And they knew my history, my dating history. Of being similar to goldilocks in the sense that I dated men that wasn't just quite right and I dated women it wasn't quite right. So then when I mentioned I thought mason was attractive, they were like oh, my gosh, a light bulb went off in their heads, this is a perfect mix. Reporter: But not everyone is as accepting. Tonight the Pentagon has announced a new policy for transgender troops after president trump ordered a complete ban. The legislation would make it illegal for Florida doctors to offer sex change procedures to minors. Can you be fired for being gay or transgender? Have you ever been discriminated against for being trans? I just haven't put myself in that position. I've always tried to be in certain situations where I'm around people or with employers that are trans-friendly. Reporter: Mason is wrapping up his paternity leave from Starbucks, which he says has been a great company to work for. But that isn't always the case. At the start of my transition I had a really well-paying construction job, but I didn't feel like that was going to be a trans-friendly job for me to transition on. So I had to find other work. Why in this backdrop is a film like "Man made" important? This is a very challenging time. We're being held back, way behind the starting line. So we don't get to be in positions of power and empowerment and getting to make the decisions about greenlighting films like this. It's really important that the life of someone who's trans be shown in an authentic And do you think it helps that T is himself a trans male? I do. He knows how tough it can be and what you face on a day-to-day daily basis. I'm so glad you're here. Reporter: That connection made it easier for mason to reveal his most vulnerable moments. At one point the pain was bad enough that you attempted to take your life. Yeah. I didn't think that I'd ever actually grow up to be normal, to live out that life that I always wanted. So I ended up drinking some alcohol and taking an entire bottle of tylenol P.M. And what happened? My mother found me and she tried to shake me and she was calling my name. She said -- she said, "If you want to kill yourself, I'll kill and she just -- she started to beat me. And then I fell on the ground. She started to kick me. And then my father walked in and restrained her. I'll just never forget that, of course. It must have been horrible for her too to find me like that as well. Reporter: Mason's parents say they were upset by the suicide attempt and not his gender identity. After years of struggling, mason says they've come full circle. My father saw the documentary. He said, "You know, I know it took us a long time to come around, but we really are very proud of you." To think that he would ever get to that point is something I never thought would happen. What do you want the broader audience to take away from all of this? With trans and queer audiences, right in the response has been oh, my god, I've never seen my life portrayed on film and I just saw it. But a really surprising demo that has been responding to the film have been like white, you know, straight cis men who are like coming up crying and saying I've never thought about my masculinity in this way ever. And now it's like a dam burst or something. And that feels like a triumph to me. Reporter: After 60 film festivals T. Hopes to continue that momentum. His latest project, a music video. See where Charlie is? Okay. And you're going to walk toward her. Reporter: Where every single person on camera is trans. And this is showing people like hey, trans people are here, we're not going anywhere, and we're going to keep on. I felt empowered. I felt like I can be seen, I could be heard. Action. Let's go. As a trans create, writer, director, producer I want to do stories about everybody. When I'm called into the room to direct an episode of blank -- That's the moment you break through. Reporter: When people like T. And mason are no longer seen as trans men but simply men. You used to think that being transgender was a curse. Yeah. And yet you evolved on that as well. Now that I'm on the other side of my transition, I look at what I've been able to experience and learn from my transition. How many people can say they've looked at life through a female lends and a male lens? And it's really been wonderful.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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