Transgender experience explored in film
Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 9, 2014 21:02
The Rainbow Center hosted a screening of the documentary “Gendernauts” on Saturday in order to raise awareness of transgender issues on campus.
A 1999 documentary directed and produced by Monika Treut, a German filmmaker famous for her queer films, “Gendernauts” follows the lives of a group of transgender individuals living in San Francisco.
The film began by introducing Sandy Stone, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the founders of the academic discipline of transgender studies. A transgender woman herself, Stone serves as a narrator and periodically adds commentary in order to further develop important themes brought up by the various interviewees.
Susan Stryker, the first individual to be interviewed, is a male to female transsexual who also works as a professor of transgender history. She describes San Francisco as a “Queer Mecca” of sorts, lauding its acceptance of the LGBTQ community and its integration with the social and economic power structure. Annie Sprinkle, a sex artist and educator, later declares San Francisco the “sex capital of the world.”
Max Velario, a poet, author, and actor, describes his experience transitioning from female to male. Primarily, he chronicles his history with hormone injections, explaining the medical community has come a long way in terms of offering safe and effective care to trans individuals. At the beginning of his transition, he had no choice but to receive testosterone from a sketchy back-room clinic where patients were not allowed to do their own injections. He says he began to feel the effects “almost immediately,” later deciding to undergo chest surgery, which he shows off to the camera, expressing his happiness with the result.
He explains his desire to eventually undergo genital reconstruction surgery and his desire to acquire large testicles, saying, “I think you need big balls in a world like this.”
Hida Viloria, an intersex person, is the last person to be interviewed. She explains her experience growing up, saying she didn’t feel she quite fit in with either sex.
“I felt different,” says Viloria, “sort of in between sexes.”
Stone explains there are many more hermaphroditic individuals born than we realize, as they are forced to grow up as one distinct sex rather than embrace their uniqueness.
Overall, the film, while somewhat outdated, does a good job in portraying the variety of gender identities that are both possible and present in our community.
Anna Ebora, an 8th semester psychology major, enjoyed the fact that the film was “a positive portrayal of gender issues, whereas most documentaries focus too much on the negative.”
The upbeat character of the movie seemed to be appreciated by all present.
“The documentary was an enjoyable insight to the genderqueer community,” 6th semester history and education major Christina DeVecchis, said, “which opened the viewers’ eyes to a variety of gender expressions while maintaining a positive tone.”
The film was part of the Rainbow Center’s Rainbow Cinema series, which screens films tackling LGBTQ issues every Saturday.