Drag, crossdressing, androgyny, and gender transition have been depicted since the earliest days of cinema. Thomas Edison employed a famous performer named Gilbert Sarony, famous for portraying an unattractive old maid in some of Edison’s earliest films.
In recent years, many excellent sympathetic portrayals of transgender people have emerged. I feel all trans people and their supporters should check out the following films. Links go to purchase info at Amazon.
Ma Vie En Rose [My Life In Pink] (Belgian, subtitled)
Now out on video, I think it’s the most positive movie I’ve seen on trans youth. It puts a human face on it, through the story of a six-year-old child dealing with gender identity. Sweet and sad and wonderful all at once.
Possibly the most realistic depiction of what many white-collar trans women are like.
The harrowing story of a transman named Brandon Teena, whose murder sparked the community to take political action. Arguably the single most important film to date in focusing public opinion on the hatred and marginalization we face.
First and foremost, this is a love story. It’s the story of my friend Calpernia Addams’ relationship with Barry Winchell, who was murdered by fellow soldiers for dating her. Read my review here.
Felicity Huffman stars as Bree, a trans woman who makes a cross-country journey to help a son she just learned was hers. Quirky and sweet.
Transgender themes in film
Some other films with trans themes (I’ll organize all this soon):
- Glen or Glenda?
- Myra Breckinridge
- Myra Breckinridge/Myron
- Let Me Die a Woman
- Dressed To Kill
- Kiss of the Spider Woman
- Just Like a Woman
- The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
- Ed Wood
- The Adventures of Sebastian Cole
- The Brandon Teena Story
- Southern Comfort
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- The Badge
- Beautiful Boxer
- The World’s Fastest Indian
- Soap (2006 film)
- Dog Day Afternoon
- The World According to Garp
- Paris Is Burning
- Wigstock – The Movie
- “Soul Gender”: The Dance of Love
- Almost Myself
Transphobia in film: selected quotations
Unfortunately, public opinion of transgender women has been shaped in large part by two films, both based on a non-transgender serial killer named Ed Gein: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs. While both movies mention in passing that the killer is not really transgender, it does little to offset the image of the wig- or makeup-wearing mentally deranged killer burned into peoples’ minds
Several of the most popular films in American history have imagery that suggests transgenderism. Unfortunately, the theme is usually connected to fear and hatred of transgender people.
Which will we be this time? Prostitute, psychopath, or punchline?
For more, see my page on transphobia in film.
Zagria has a blog on Gender Variance in the Arts (gvarts.blogspot.com)