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Real Talkies

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HE TO SHE SPECTRUM – Documentaries on Transgender issues

August 3, 2010 , , ,

One of my friends requested a list of documentaries on transgender issues. I made this list specifically for him. The list is random based on internet based search and is by no mean exhaustive. Please feel free to add to the list.

REGRETTERS, Marcus Lindeen (2010)

Orlando and Mikael go under the knife in hope of finding their true selves, only to realize that life on the other side isn?t as they had dreamed of. Now, well into their 60s, the two meet for the first time to talk about their lives as well as the one defining regret they both share: their sex change.

VENUS BOYZ, Gabriel Baur (2002)

A FILM JOURNEY THROUGH A UNIVERSE OF FEMALE MASCULINITY.Women become men- some for a night, others for  their whole lives. Masculinity and transformation as performance, subversion and existential necessity. An intimate film about people who create intermediate sexual identities.

THE BRANDON TEENA STORY: Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir (1998)

Brandon Teena was a handsome boy who had tremendous success with women because he always seemed to know exactly what they wanted. Perhaps it helped that Brandon Teena was born Teena Brandon, a young woman who desperately wanted to be a man. But Brandon lived in a small Midwestern town, where his sexual identity crisis wasn’t tolerated, inciting two so-called friends to brutally murder him and two other innocents. This true story, which was the basis for the feature film Boys Don’t Cry, is recounted in the award-winning (Best Documentary at both the Vancouver and Berlin film festivals) documentary The Brandon Teena Story.

AUSTIN UNBOUND, Eliza Greenwood (2008)

From the age of three, Austin knew that his female anatomy did not fit him. In middle school, he changed his name and began to dress as a boy. Today, Austin identifies as a straight man and a member of the Portland queer ASL community. Austin Unbound documents this Deaf man’s choice to get a double mastectomy. He and his best friend, James, travel from Portland to San Francisco for the surgery. This social issue film also follows Austin’s life in his local queer ASL community and includes time with his girlfriend, his mother, grandmother and sisters.

ALMOST MYSELF, Tom Murray (2007)

After finding a most unusual web site that was seeking funds to help reverse a sex change, award winning filmmaker Tom Murray set out on a fascinating cross country journey to explore just a small part of the vastly diverse transgender community. The filmmaker in trying to define the film and what he learned in making it said that it could be described as “Transgender 101 by and for a Non-transgender person”

TRINIDAD, Jay Hodges and P J Raval (2008)

TRINIDAD uncovers Trinidad, Colorados transformation from Wild West outpost to sex change capital of the world, and follows three transgender women who may steer the rural ranching town toward becoming the transsexual mecca.

THE AGGRESSIVES, Daniel Peddie (2005)

The Aggressives is a dynamic film shot in vibrant NYC on digital video, featuring intimate interviews with six lesbians who define themselves as “Aggressives”.  We show their daily lives and also highlight their participation in the underground lesbian “ball” scene.  (The female counter-part to “Paris is Burning”). The Aggressives range in masculinity but do not aspire to be men.  Nor are they “drag kings.” They have found an unexplored loophole in society’s gender tapestry and this film seeks to expose their world.

TOILET TRAINING, Tara Mateik (2004)

Toilet Training is a documentary video and collaboration between transgender videomaker Tara Mateik and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, an organization dedicated to ending poverty and gender identity discrimination. The video addresses the persistent discrimination, harassment, and violence that people who transgress gender norms face in gender segregated bathrooms. Using the stories of people who have been harassed, arrested or beaten for trying to use bathrooms, Toilet Training focuses on bathroom access in public space, in schools, and at work.

SCREAMING QUEENS: THE RIOT AT COMPTON’S CAFETARIA, Victor Silverman and Susan Stryker (2005)

Documentary about transgenders and transvestites fighting police harassment at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco’s Tenderloin in 1966, three years before the famous riot at Stonewall Inn bar in NYC.

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL, Janet Baus, Dan Hunt and Reid Williams (2006)

Prisoners in the United States are incarcerated in men’s or women’s prisons depending on their biological sex (or, more specifically, whether they have male or female genitals), and not their gender identity. As a result, pre-operative trans women are incarcerated in men’s prisons, and trans men in women’s prisons.[1] The documentary focuses on five trans women, three incarcerated and two recently released from prison. At the end of the film, one of the prisoners has been released while one ended jailed again for other offenses. In prison they are unable to continue taking hormones or to receive counseling for gender dysphoria. According to the film, transgender people are more likely than average to be imprisoned, and when in prison often face sexual violence from other prisoners. Often transgender prisoners are kept in solitary confinement to protect them against other inmates. The filmmakers set out to ask whether this situation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and violates prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights

BOY I AM, Samantha Feder and Julia Hollar, (2006)

While female-to-male transgender visibility has recently exploded in this country, conversations about trans issues in the lesbian community often run into resistance from the many queer women who view transitioning as a “trend” or as an anti-feminist act that taps into male privilege. Boy I Am is a feature-length documentary that begins to break down that barrier and promote dialogue about trans issues through a look at the experiences of three young transitioning FTMs in New York City—Nicco, Norie and Keegan—as they go through major junctures in their transitions, as well as through the voices of lesbians, activists and theorists who raise and address the questions that many people have but few openly discuss.

SOUTHERN COMFORT, Kate Davis (2001)

SOUTHERN COMFORT is a 90-minute feature-length documentary about the life of Robert Eads, a 52-year-old female to male transsexual who lives in the back hills of Georgia. “A hillbilly and proud of it,” he cuts a striking figure: sharp-tongued, bearded, tobacco pipe in hand. Robert passes so well as a male that the local Klu Klux Klan tried to recruit him to become a member.

MIDDLE SEXES: Redefining He and She, , Anthony Tomas, (2005).

Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She sensitively explores the controversial subject of the blurring of gender as well as the serious social and family problems – even dangers – often faced by those whose gender may fall somewhere in between male and female. Narrated by noted author Gore Vidal and filmed in the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America, Middle Sexes examines the ways different societies and cultures handle the blurring of gender, sexual identity and sexual orientation. Through interviews with transgender, intersexual and bisexual men and women, as well as experts from the scientific and academic communities, the film considers the entire spectrum of sexual behavior, personal identity and lifestyles among people of different backgrounds and cultures. From this, a theme of tolerance and appreciation of diversity emerges in the film.

TRANSPARENT, Jules Rosskam (2005)

Pink or blue. Male or Female. Mommy or Daddy. Categories that we all take for granted are blown wide open in “transparent,” a new documentary film about 19 female-to-male transsexuals living in the United States who have given birth and, in all but a few stories, gone on to raise their biological children.



Eight-month-old baby John was the victim of an accident during circumcision which left him with almost no penis. The next year, when he was almost two, the family brought him to Dr. John Money at John Hopkins University Medical School, who advised them to have his testicles surgically removed. The theory was that John could be brought up as a girl – that nurture rather than nature created sexual identity, a theory that had gained some acceptance in the sixties.

When he was an adolescent John learned the truth about his birth. Angry at his fate, he made several suicide attempts and refused to continue to see Dr. Money. Now in his thirties, he has put his life back together, having undergone reconstructive surgery that enables him to have a normal sex life. This unique film also includes interviews with professionals involved with psychosexual development.


Kate Bornstein, writer and performer, was born a man. This documentarypresents her frank account of her personal journey from unhappy boy child into liberated transsexual lesbian. Intercut with her satiric night club act called “Hidden: A Gender,” are the stories of a wide range of people who refused to have their identity defined by whether they were born male or female.

COLONEL JIN XING , Sylvia Levey and Pascal Vasselin, (2003).

Shanghai’s principal dancer, 33-year-old Jin Xing, is a big star. She is the first choreographer to have received recognition in over half a century of national communism. But the most amazing thing about Jin Xing is that, up until 1995, this beautiful young woman was a man, a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army.

Despite Jin Xing’s transcendence in the dance world, she is still up against the Chinese bureaucracy which refuses to give her permission to perform on the stages of the Western world. The documentary shows Chinese society in awkward upheaval as this talented artist presses for change.


As many as 60,000 people are uncomfortable with the sex they wereborn into (gender dysphoria). Gary, a 39-year-old transsexual, has been convinced since childhood that he is a woman trapped in a male body.

At age 36, Gary decided to begin the extraordinary process of changing his sex. Shot over three years, this compassionate yet unsentimental filmfollows Gary’s transformation into Gabi.

JUGGLING GENDER, Tami Gould (1992)

A loving portrait of Jennifer Miller, a lesbian performer who lives her life with a full beard. Miller works as a performance artist, circus director, clown and as the “bearded lady” in one of the only remaining sideshows in America. In public she is often mistaken for a man, an experience she handles with the wit and intelligence that characterize her stage performances. Her lifestyle suggests the impossibility of defining anyone as truly feminine or masculine. Juggling Gender explores the fluidity of gender and raises important questions about the construction of sexual and gender identity.


This documentary, part of the Investigative Reports series from the A&E cable network, goes inside the world of transsexuals. Narrated by Investigative Reports host and producer Bill Kurtis, this episode follows three transsexuals through the daily routine of their lives and talks to them about their individual experiences. First, a female-to-male sheriff talks about what he had to overcome with his fellow co-workers. Then, a male-to-female electrical designer talks about her experiences in hosting a radio program called Gendertalk. Finally, a male-to-female discusses the process of the actual sex change operation, as Investigative Reports follows her through the transformation.


This award-winning broadcast documentary is about six men who were born and raised female and chose to change their gender. You Don’t Know Dick continues to be shown on PBS stations nationwide, as well as The Sundance Channel, and Channel 4, England .

99% WOMAN (2001)

In October, 1998, forty-five year old Benjy Nelson – former high school athlete and United States Air Force airman – had a sex-change operation. However, Benjy was a family man. His wife Debbie, appears to have been totally supportive of his decision to have a sex change operation and become Bridget. Their three sons, however, a fourteen year old and twelve-year old identical twins, did not take easily to having their father become a tall blonde with stiletto heels and an almost comic sense of the female. Confused and angry, they start getting into trouble. The film finds no easy answers as it sets the freedom of individual choice against family well being.

CALL ME MALCOLM, Joseph Parlagreco (2005)

A documentary feature about a transgender seminary student and his struggle with faith, love and gender identity.


a documentary film by Rosa Von Prauheim, Germany (filmed in USA: Atlanta, Washington DC, and New York City), 1996.


!7 year old Ayden is willing to go to great lengths to alter her female body to correspond with her male self image. She is sure she wants to become a man but convincing her parents is another matter. Her father, a prominent conservative rabbi, thinks she is too young to be making such an important decision.



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