The proper depiction of those from the transgender community is unfortunately a rare occurrence in film, and yet it remains a vital need by a group craving and searching for the representation they deserve. Despite this glaring lack of transgender-centric movies, we cannot overlook the special few that have been made in the past years that deal with the genuine experience of the transgender; truthful films buried under years and years of neglect and the same sub-par heterosexual storylines. Today, we unearth these films as a show of respect, pride, and a call for more films worthy of the transgender community.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Kimberly Pierce’s biographical film is a brutally honest dramatization of the real life story of trans man, Brandon Teena. A young Brandon (Hilary Swank) is forced to leave town by his ex-girlfriend’s brother who threatens his life upon finding out he was biologically female, and relocates to the small town of Falls City. There, he meets and falls for an aspiring singer named Lana (Chloe Sevigny), and the two eventually embark on a passionate relationship. That is until everything goes south when Lana’s ex-convict friends, John (Peter Sarsgaard) and Tom (Brendan Sexton III) discover the truth of his original sex.
Laurence Anyways (2012)
Laurence Anyways spans a period of ten years as it follows the difficult life of Laurence (Melvil Poupoud) as she transitions into a woman with the support of longtime girlfriend, Fred (Suzanne Clement). The film by Xavier Dolan presents the nitty-gritty truth to transitioning under less than agreeable circumstances, the unsolicited jeers, the judging stares, and the harrowing financial setback as a result of being fired from work. Despite all this, Laurence soldiers on in order to finally become her true self, equating having to keep her identity to dying, to drowning until her lungs give in. What she goes through is undoubtedly painful and infuriating as she tries to slowly reveal her identity to colleagues and family members who, more often than not, have a difficult time accepting her. However, there is no doubt that this kind of dialogy is needed for the discourse the film is trying to achieve, begging to ask the ultimate question of who one really falls in love with first: the sex of the person, or the person himself/herself regardless of the body they come with.
Ma Vie En Rose/My Life in Pink (1997)
Ma Vie En Rose is a charming, yet hard-hitting Belgian drama by Alain Berliner about a young boy insisting that he is a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Ludovic (Georges Du Fresne) upon her declaration of wanting to be female, is humored by her family, seeing this to be merely a phase that she will eventually grow out of. However, they are proven wrong when she befriends the son of her father’s boss and promises to marry him when she’s finally a full-fledged female. Her unusual and unwelcome circumstance receives prejudice from their neighbors, and misfortune on her own family as a result, leading her family to attempt to “cure” Ludovic of her “defect.”
Tangerine is a delightfully ridiculous and chaotic buddy comedy wholly shot on an iphone 5s by director Sean Baker. The film spans an entire day as Sin-dee Rella, newly released from juvy, tears through town on Christmas Eve after finding out her pimp boyfriend has been unfaithful to her. The film itself is rightfully funny, raw, and yet as absurd as it may seem, doesn’t forget to give its characters the heart and heartbreak needed to reveal the trials and tribulations of a life perpetually uncertain. Best friends and trans sex workers, Sin-dee and Alexandra, both of whom are played by actual trans actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, find themselves conniving, bickering, reuniting, and fighting once more but eventually finding it in themselves to maintain the friendship and solidarity needed in a society that refuses to acknowledge the respect they deserve.
Tomboy is a French drama by Celine Sciamma about a 10 year old girl named Laure who after, is mistaken for a boy, decides to dress and act like one, going by the made-up name of Mikael. Sciamma forces her viewers to drown in contemplation along with her characters, often caught in silent stares and deep thought as we see the film’s young leads try to make sense of the world around them, along with their own actions. We see this especially through the eyes of Mikael (Zoe Heran) who never really seems to fully grasp the lengths he’s gone to and yet has realized that being a boy feels the most normal he’s ever been, proven by how uncomfortable and distraught he is when his mother forces him into a dress after she finds out what he’s done. Heavy with silences and subtlety, Sciamma gives us a glimpse at the duality of youth, its charming innocence and, at the same time, its unwitting cruelty, only beginning to discover the complexities of a life still in the brink of unraveling.
Felicity Huffman plays Bree Osborne, a transwoman about to undergo vaginoplasty when she finds out she has a 17 year old son from when he was still a man under the name of Stanley Schupak. Bree, after being persuaded by her therapist, disguises as a Christian missionary and bails her son, Toby (Kevin Zegers), out of jail, planning to leave him to his stepfather. She changes her mind when she finds out that Toby’s stepfather had sexually abused the young delinquent, and decides to bring him along with her to Los Angeles. Toby unknowingly falls for Bree throughout the journey, forcing Bree to figure out how to reveal the truth to her son: that she is actually his biological father.–PB&Jam