Monday, January 16, 2006

Transamerica

There is actually another LGBT movie released last year, but has received not as much attention as Brokeback Mountain. It's called Transamerica, starring Felicity Huffman (Lynette Scavo in Desperate Housewives) and Kevin Zegers.

It has won a Jury Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. For the Golden Globes, Huffman is nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama.

Kevin Zegers - Don't I look good with my tousled hair?

The synopsis (taken from here):
Bree (Huffman), a pre-operative, male-to-female transsexual, holds down two jobs and saves every penny so that she can pay for one last operation that will make her a woman at last. One day, however, she receives a strange phone call. It appears that on the other side is Toby (Zegers), apparently her son, who must be the product of a somewhat clumsy sexual encounter years ago when she was a man. He stays in New York, incarcerated.

Bree flies from Los Angeles to New York in order to get the boy out of jail. At first she is reluctant to do so, but her therapist convinces her to face up to her past. The boy is handed over to her without a word of explanation and Toby believes the woman to be some Christian missionary determined to convert reprobates to Jesus; Bree sees no reason to clear up the misunderstanding.

However, she finds out that the boy just wants to escape from her and hitchhike to Los Angeles. She persuades him to accompany her back to the west coast--secretly planning to leave him at his stepfather's along the way. Toby is happy to take her up on her offer. In the process of becoming acquainted with her son, Bree discovers more about herself and her family than she ever anticipated.

In this debut feature by Duncan Tucker, who wrote and directed it, "Transamerica" sets out to affirm Bree's dignity, to liberate her and others like her from any association with camp or freakishness. That the film succeeds without slipping too far into sentimentality or didacticism is in no small measure the result of Ms. Huffman's wit and grace. Her performance is a complex metamorphosis, and it is thrilling to watch. "Transamerica" itself does not always live up to its star, but it is touching and sometimes funny, despite its overall air of indie earnestness. Mr. Tucker is a subtle and conscientious writer; he takes care to treat Bree as a person rather than a case study. — A. O. Scott, The New York Times

Taken from here. Felicity Huffman on Her Character’s Sexuality:
How I approached her sexuality was where she’s coming from emotionally and that was that people don’t see who she really is. She feels, ‘Everyone doesn’t see me, doesn’t appreciate me. My family doesn’t know me for who I am and I can’t manifest who I am in the world.’ She felt self loathing. We’ve all been there. We've all woken up and said I just can't believe that I’m waking up in myself again. And she lives there. That’s where I took the sexuality.

It’s such a tough choice they’re given. Either you feel alienated from yourself or you actually do it and you’re alienated from society. You’re an oddball. So who can face that choice? It usually takes until you’re a little older to go, ‘I don’t care. I have to really be who I am.’ Consequently you get 30, 40 year-old guys who go, ‘Okay, tomorrow wear a dress and go work it [laughing]. And make sure you make the colors that work well on your skin.’

This seems to me like another great movie to watch. It is highly rated at IMDB (8 out of 10) and New York Times (4.29 out of 5). Not many movies can deal with heavy themes like trangenderism with sensitivity and understanding, showing that the qualities that make us human can be found in everyone, no matter the sex or gender.

Some of us may not be familiar with what transgender means, so here's a few paragraphs taken from Spot's Spot. Do read the full post, as he explained it in a very succinct and reader-friendly way.

1. The majority of transsexuals are NOT homosexual.

Most gay people don’t actually want to physically BE the opposite sex. Their preoccupation with physical appearance is more a matter of achieving beauty than one of expressing gender identity. They are men who love men, women who love women. (Actually, I'd replace "love" with "like to have sex with")

How it’s different for transsexuals is that their gender expression (how they feel “on the inside”) is the opposite gender from their biological sex (what’s on the outside, their anatomy). To oversimplify, it’s X being trapped in Y’s body. The misery of pre-operative transsexuals is a life led as mismatched halves, and surgery is the only way to psychologically and physically unify the whole.

What’s really interesting is that it is very common for transsexuals to themselves be homophobic. Brandon Teena, whose transgendered life as a pre-operative transsexual was the subject of the movie Boys Don’t Cry, was reported to have angrily denied that he was a dyke.

2. A transgendered person is not necessarily a transsexual

The term “transgender” is the umbrella group that includes transsexualism as one of many subgroups. The most accepted definition of transgender is -

People who were assigned a gender, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves.


Notice that the definition itself begs further definition.

Jessie is transgendered because she was born with male anatomy, but felt that the male gender was a false description of who she was. Specifically, Jessie is transsexual.

Martine Rothblatt is an American lawyer and author of The Apartheid of Sex. She was born Martin, married a woman but subsequently lived full-time as a woman together with her wife and their biological children, who call her Dad. Ms. Rothblatt does not desire to change sex and thinks of herself as both man and woman. SO not a transsexual.

Neither is she intersexual or what is more colourfully known as a hermaphrodite. Her biological anatomy is purely male, it’s her gender identity that is both male and female.

Quite simply, in view of the complexity of definition, she is transgendered.

3. Transvestism is NOT the same as transsexualism

Transvestism is classified (whether fairly or not) as a sexual disorder. A transvestite is a person who doesn’t actually want to be the other sex, identifies as the birth sex but gets sexual gratification from wearing the opposite sex’s clothing. This fetish usually extends to being sexual with persons of the same sex.

Cross-dressing is not the same as transvestism. Cross-dressing is more an issue of psychological identity as opposed to the purely sexual nature of transvestism. The point that clothing makes for one is to express one's gender identity; for the other, is for sexual gratification/seduction.

As expected, it will also suffer the same fate as Brokeback. You know where to get the DVD if you want to watch it.

10 comments:

MrBunnyBan said...

And of course, transgendered people aren't always attracted to the same sex as the one they were assigned to at birth. So they may not be not homosexual according to their original biological bodies. Heck, why do transgendered share the same space with the L,G and B of LGBT?

Anonymous said...

I think transgenders share the same space as L, G and B because we are all different and when we go againts the norms of so called "Nature" we are grouped together.

I would love to see who decides the norms in life and give them a piece of my mind.

ça va pas la tête said...

If you havent seen this one, try this movie - Pedro Almodovar's All about my mother!

www.sonyclassics.com/allaboutmymother/

savante said...

Another movie for me to watch! YAY!

Paul

Nige said...

Hey dude

Good blog! I've never actually searched out the blogosphere in .my before. If you'd like to check mine out, it's http://kampungkayell.blogspot.com

Thanks for an entertaining time. :-)

Nigel

Jamie said...

Just so you know, she just won the GG this morning.

Musang said...

hmmm hmmm. i need to watch this movie. but can't get any pirated dvds around this place. what more a homo oriented.

i'm depressed.

Jay said...

Tee hee. She's Bree here, but in Desperate Housewives, someone ELSE is Bree.

OK, it's not THAT funny.

Chris said...

ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! Kevin Zegers!?!?!? He's one of my favourite actor!! I must find this movie!!!!!!!!!!!! >_<

Derek said...

mrbunnyban: I think anonymous (below your comment) gave a good reason why. ;P


anonymous: Thanks for the explanation.

People decide what the norm is by what the majority does. In this instance it's sexuality.


ça va pas la tête: Thanks for the suggestion. From the synopsis, it seems like a really good movie.


savante: Yup, another one to add to the list.


nige: Welcome and thanks for coming. I will check out your blog soon.


jamie: Thanks for the update, jamie. I appreciate it. ;P

Hurrah for Huffman!


bitch: Perhaps you can try to borrow it from Holden. I am sure he knows where to get the DVDs. ;P


jay: Ok-lar, somewhat funny. ;P


chris: Yeah, yeah. Just get in line, like everyone else. ;P