The pains of adjusting to a transgender life were front and center at Thursday morning’s TCA panel for New Girls on the Block, a new six-part reality series airing April 2 that focuses on former men dealing with gender identity issues in middle America, specifically Kansas City, MO.

“This area of the country has blossomed in regards to transgenders,” said Caroline Gibbs, director of the Transgender Institute and the show’s co-executive producer,”It’s a mystery as to why that is. But it’s been my personal mission in life to help this population become normalized in the United States and around the world.”

Added the show’s executive producer Jay James about the series location, “I have been going to Kansas City for 25 years and it was an eye-opener knowing that the Transgender Institute is in the heartland — that’s what roped us in. If a robust group of transgenders are in Kansas City, then they are in every city.”

One couple that the series follows is still married in the wake of the husband’s self discovery that he is a woman. Macy Graham-Kimbrough, Sharon Granger’s  husband, revealed coming out, “I didn’t have the language (to say that I was a woman) until I was 18 or 19.  I reached a point where I couldn’t live with myself anymore. It was like trying to hold down a beach ball — you might hold it down, you could get distracted, but if a big wave hits you, the ball comes up with an explosive force and its hard to hold it down.” When Kimbrough was having a gender identity crisis, she emoted the pain to Granger by showing her the 1997 Belgian film My Life in Pink.

Robyn Clarke at the panel recounted that it wasn’t until she was 23-24 that she learned she was a woman. “It was something I couldn’t control, it eventually exploded into a blossom of awesomeness.”  The show follows Clarke’s relationship with a male friend, Andrew Boyce, who became her lover. Clarke explained that thanks to the internet and other forums, coming out has become a more feasible process.   However, it’s important to come out an early age she said, “because as you get older, it’s like turning an ocean liner around whereas when you’re young, it’s like turning a jet ski.”

New Girls on the Block is produced by Conveyor Media in association with Reality Road. Colin Whelan, Teri Rogers and Matt Antrim are also EPs in addition to James.