(undiverse) transmen speak
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 05/12/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A German documentary maker interviews transgendered artists and theorists in San Francisco.
This disc was inclusive in many ways. It included an intersexed person, not just complete transsexuals. It showed those people partnered with trans lovers, not just the trans themselves. It also showed that one person transitioned from a woman to a gay man, pushing aside ideas that all transgendered people want to be practicing heterosexuals.
Still, this film had no obvious people of color as transgendered interviewees. The intersexed person said she visited Costa Rica, but never said she was of Costa Rican ancestry. Joan Jett Black is in the background, but not interviewed. A butch black woman is interviewed, but at no point does she identify as trans. When a film like "The Crying Game" with a biracial lead character and a play like "M. Butterfly" with an Asian passing woman came out before this documentary, this exclusion does not make sense. After this documentary came out, academic Juana Rodriguez in "Queer Latinidad" wrote about Proyecto contra SIDA, a Latino non-profit organization in San Francisco that supports Latino/a transgendereds. Transpeople of color are in the Bay Area but the director doesn't pay them much attention. Perhaps this relates to the homogeneity of her birth country compared to the diversity of the United States.
The director focuses more about female-to-male more than she does male-to-female, though the latter are more numerous in society. As a woman, maybe she had more access to transmen than transwomen. The transmen here can pass, while the transwomen could not. I haven't processed this all but it reminds me of how female masculinity is less punished in society than male femininity. This documentary's focus on one group made me wonder if the other group suffers more or are more afraid to speak of their identities on camera. Still, there are transwomen that look "real", so I don't know why the director didn't pay much attention to them.
This film repeatedly calls San Francisco a Mecca, almost in utopic terms. This is quite an overstatement. As an African American, I thought the Bay Area was very devoid of Black people and not half as Black-friendly or Black-concerned as big cities east of the Mississippi River. African-American lesbian writer April Sinclair wrote that while many people move to the Bay Area, the region also has a high suicide rate precisely because it can be intimidating and isolating. This idea that San Francisco is a paradise really needs to be interrogated and I think had the documentary had more people of color in it, then it might have done so.
Unless I did it unconsciously, this film automatically played subtitles when it started. This is the first DVD that I've seen do that from the jump. I watched with French subtitles. It was amazing to see French adjectives given a gender when the person speaking in English is trying to express gender-neutral ideas. The word "queer" is rendered untranslatable, but "f*g" is given a translation. This disc offered French, German, or Portuguese. Its lack of Spanish suggests the disc is made for Europeans, rather than Americans. This absence of Spanish subtitles was striking and could again alienate the many Latinos/as here in the US.
This documentary was a feel-good eye-opener. It would be great for those who know nothing about the trans community but want to learn more."