If you’ve been familiar with the concept of trans and gender for longer than 2 seconds, then you’ve most likely heard of mainstream movies like Boys Don’t Cry and Transamerica. If you’re older, or have done some research, you might’ve watched The Crying Game, or Bad Education. And who can ever miss the cult classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch? (I sure didn’t know what I was getting into the first time I watched it.)
Yet you’ve exhausted them all. You’re curious to know if there’s more out there.
Well, there is! Some can be hard to track down, not to mention the majority of transgender-themed television and films are documentaries. But there are a handful that do a decent job of portraying transgender, or gender non-conforming, gender variant, or cross dressing people, and some even do an awesome job at it.
So here’s the list of what I’ve managed to scavenge, with some commentary. If I’ve missed anything, please add it in the comments!
This french movie tells the story of Laure, who passes herself off as Mikael – a carefree boy – for an entire summer. All the reviews I’ve seen agree with namely one thing: it’s an absolutely wonderful movie – perhaps a bit slower paced than usual – except for the last 15 seconds, which completely ruin the ambiguous open tone carried throughout. (That ending made me so angry I just pretend it never existed.)
Ludovic is the youngest of 3 boys, but on the inside Ludo is really a girl, though her parents don’t understand. This Belgian film was produced more than 15 years ago and is just as relevant today. As trans youth are being thrown into the spotlight more and more frequently, the world is trying to catch up. Parents with trans kids have repeatedly told me how much this movie resonates with them as they struggle to make sense of what their young child is going through, but can’t yet eloquently articulate.
Another film based on a true story about a Thai transwoman who competes as a professional kickboxer (Muay Thai) to take care of her family and fund her transition. Other than being foreign (which to me is always a plus), it gives a rare glimpse into what it’s like to transition as an elite athlete, which there are few real occurrences of to date. This movie is bittersweet, and very honest.
In this German film, a gay transman
(played by what I can gather is a real transman) falls for a cisgender gay guy. Need I say more?
Based on a true story about Calpernia Addams (a transwoman, played by Lee Pace) and her relationship with a solider, it’s a brutal and honest viewing of the consequences of transphobia.
This independent film deals with a Latino family and their son, who is quickly becoming their daughter.
I have yet to watch it. Luckily it recently became available on Netflix (rejoice!) and I had a chance to finally watch it!
What’s notable is that the transgender character of Michael/Vanessa is actually played by a transwoman. This was Harmony Santana’s film debut, and her spirit shines through as authentic, lending a unique air to the movie.
In Iran, homosexuality is illegal, while transsexuality is not just legal but SRS is paid for by the state. However, homophobia and transphobia are inextricably linked, which means neither gay nor transgender people are safe from discrimination. I saw the screening at the SF LGBT Film Festival last summer, and also had the chance to hear from the director and producer (both women) afterwards, which was an extremely interesting complement to the experience.
The movie depicts a transgender man in the midst of transition, who is back in Iran to see his family and must struggle with being seen and treated as a woman in a society where women are literally policed. Through circumstance, he meets a woman who moonlights as a cab driver so she can make ends meet since her husband is in jail.
Primarily it’s a story about friendship. Focusing equally on both stories, and not giving any more weight nor shock value on the transgender character than on his counterpart, it’s a window into a parallel reality on the other side of the world.
This dark comedy centers around Tara, her family, and how they cope with Tara’s DID – more colloquially known as Multiple Personality Disorder. One of Tara’s alters is Buck. Buck wears tank tops, a trucker hat, baggy jeans and old boots. Buck rides a motorcycle, shoots guns, watches porn, and claims his dick was blown off in ‘Nam. Buck acts, walks, talks, and breathes like a man, so that even though he’s in Tara’s body, when Tara is Buck, everyone calls him He.
While this is fiction, and I don’t think it was the writer’s intention, I see Buck as epitomizing the transgender experience in a way – that of having a body that differs from your inner gender, of having some people deny who you are, and of the validation when others treat you in line with yourself.
I’ve made a point of watching all the clips I can find featuring Adam,
the only transgender teen in scripted television (apparently Adam is now joined by Unique on Glee as trans teen TV cast regulars). It’s worth noting this is a mainstream television show aimed at teens, and Adam’s transness is dealt with frankly and openly.
Gender Diverse Characters
While not specifically in the transgender or transsexual category, some of these films and TV shows portray the continuing spectrum of gender, be it through a gender non-conforming character, or someone who cross dresses (for pleasure, or a different purposes). Each of these sheds light on the critical issue of gender diversity.
One would think having two gay dads would give you the upper hand if you’re a boy who likes to dress in feather boas and wear makeup. That’s not necessarily the case with Scot, who winds up in foster care with his uncle and his husband, who happens to be a retired professional hockey player in the closet. Another one of those feel-good movies, made in Canada, so it’s offers a view into a different culture :P
I don’t know how on earth I found this movie, but it’s extremely cute and funny. It centers around a single mom and her flamboyant son, who is fighting for his right to be on the cheerleading squad in his conservative Catholic elementary school. When a precocious boy gets in a fight about his gender expression with a nun, you can expect hilarious yet thoughtful arguments.
Yes, this is a mainstream movie. And no, although Billy Elliot loves ballet, he is neither a “poof” nor gender non-conforming. But do you remember the best friend who kisses Billy, and likes to dress in drag? Perhaps this movie deserves a second viewing after all.
Originally a short film, this feature-length picture depicts Alike, an African-American teenager coming to terms with her lesbian identity. What I found notable with regards to gender is how her sexuality interplays with her gender presentation, as well as Alike’s attempt to find her own balance in the spectrum of masculine and feminine expression.
Fremde Haut is a German movie about a woman fleeing Iran, as she is persecuted for her relationship with another woman. Upon arrival in Germany, her refugee status is denied, but through a turn of events (no spoilers) she must pass herself off as a man.
Though she’s not trans, she undergoes many experiences that transpeople go through in everyday life, including the deliberate care put into every detail of her presentation, and most saliently, the fear of “being discovered,” and the consequences of it.
In this short lived show about a family of travelling con artists, the youngest son is gender creative. He likes to wear dresses, pink shoes, and paint his nails. His family even takes advantage of his penchant for passing as a girl during their many schemes.
Always protective of her son, it’s a heartfelt moment when his mamma tells him “Son, you can be whoever you want to be, but soon, the world is gonna make you choose.”
To be honest I watched a few episodes of this show and didn’t really like it. What got me to watch it in the first place was a series of articles detailing the main character’s gender creative son, Roscoe.
As the writer of the character explains, Roscoe is just Roscoe – a sentiment some of us try most of our lives to get through to others. And renowned gender psychologist Diane Ehrensaft reminds us of how Roscoe – and adults’ confusion of his gender and sexuality – parallels that of many transgender, gay, and otherwise gender diverse children in real life.
If you’ve seen or heard of other movies or television shows featuring a main character who shines through the gender spectrum – tell us!