DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Trans Generation, The Christine Jorgensen Story, Boys Don’t Cry, Dog Day Afternoon, Transamerica , Breakfast on Pluto , Priscilla: Queen of the Desert , A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story , Some Like It Hot, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, ABC: My Secret Self, Southern Comfort, Transfixed, Prodigal Sons, Her Name Was Steven


Title:  Trans Generation

Release Date:  2005

Nationality and Language:  USA, English

Running time: 80 min  (will also be a cable series with more episodes)

MPAA Rating: NR ; a small amount of material is NC-17

Distributor and Production Company: Sundance Channel, Logo

Director; Writer: Jeremy Simmons

Producer: Jeremy Simmons

Cast:   Kate Flahtery, Evie Blackwell, Cameron Whitemore, Bryce Abelson, others


Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:  trans-gendered issue


This film is a documentary following four trans-gendered college students, at Colorado, Michigan State, Smith, and Cal State in LA. There are two men converting to women and two women converting to men. All of this sounds clinical, but many points made by the students are quite touching. For example, one of the students (from Crete) is concerned about the effect of her decision on her family (mother and sister). The film distinguishes clearly between sexual orientation and gender identity, as any combination is possible (and all occur in the film). One of the female-male students has an acting class with an attractive male acting student (“Scott”) who does not know that she will become a he. There is an attractive feline who punctuates the narrative. Early on, one of the female-to-male students (who will get sexual reassignment surgery “SRS” paid for by her parents) points out that she is legally still required to use a men’s room, and the university has given her a room with a private bath. (No such accommodation was made for me as a gay student in 1961, when I was thrown out of school!) 

The film lets the students describe some of the physiological changes, but it never shows them. For male-to-female, surgery will invert the penis and craft an artificial vagina. For male-to-female, testosterone may be given, which will usually gradually increase the thickness of body hair in various areas and enlarge the clitoris. 

There have been other medical reports (as on NBC Dateline) that testosterone actually sometimes helps some male teenagers with slow or lethargic thinking patterns. 

In 1984 there were media reports of an Army female sergeant (Ft. Rucker, AL) who was discharged under the old military ban when she had a relationship with a female-to-male transsexual. The Army considered this “homosexual.”  

In 1993 Scott Peck (the son of a Marine officer who testified for keeping the military ban during the debates about Clinton’s proposal) interviewed, on his Sunday night radio talk show, a male-to-female transsexual who had served in the Navy for fifteen years as a man, and who was becoming a “lesbian” by the transformation.  

One reader from San Francisco provides me with this feedback: 

I was reading your review of Trans Generation, which I saw at Frameline in SF. I think you may have confused the trans terminology in describing a couple of the scenes. 
"For example, one of the students (from Crete) is concerned about the effect of her decision on her family (mother and sister)." --The appropriate pro-noun would be "he", as I believed he identified as a he
"One of the female-male students has an acting class with an attractive male acting student (“Scott”) who does not know that she will become a he." 
This student was actually a male-to-female transsexual. She had already made her transition from being a man to being a woman. So her encounter was very heterosexual. 
Early on, one of the female-to-male students (who will get sexual reassignment surgery “SRS” paid for by her parents) points out that she is legally still required to use a men’s room, and the university has given her a room with a private bath. “
Again, this student is a male-to-female who was in the process of transitioning from being a man to being a woman. SRS will complete her transition

The film “Soldier’s Girl” also deals with this topic.

 The classic film on this topic was The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970, United Artists/Edward Small, dir, Irving Rapper) in which John Hansen played George and Christine. I recall scenes where George is taunted as “Georgette” (the female name would be Georgia).

 Boys Don’t Cry (1999, Fox Searchlight, dir. Kimberly Pierce) a small-looking film that was a cult hit at the time of Y2K with its story of Brandon Teena, running from the law in Nebraska but also hiding the fact that he is really a woman (Hilary Swank, who won Best Actress in 1999 for her transgender role.). The locals get quite offended and brutal when they fund out Bradon’s “secret.” What other people think does matter here.

 Dog Day Afternoon (1975, Warner Bros., dir. Sidney Lumet) was the classic potboiler about this topic. I saw this film at the old St. Marks Theater (a dollar house then) in the East Village some time after moving into Greenwich Village. Al Pacino plays Sonny, who robs a bank to play for Sal’s (John Cazale) sex-change operation. It turns into a four-hour fiasco that stuns the entire City. This film aired about the time of New York City’s great 1975 financial crisis (“Ford to City: Drop Dead!”)

 TransAmerica (2005, Weinstein/IFC, dir. Duncan Tucker, 107 min, R) (aka Transamerica) is not just the name of a major insurance conglomerate and building in San Francisco. It’s a buzzword for the whole experience of becoming a new self, and taking one’s child on the journey. Felicity Huffman plays Bree Osburne, who will have sexual reassignment surgery in LA soon, but flies to New York when a 17-year old bisexual son Toby (Kevin Zegers) that she had accidentally fathered calls to get out of jail. Toby has been working for pimps and is addicted to coke, which he snorts on the road trip. Charismatic, likeable, agile and likeable, you know he will turn out all right with some decent parenting.  He gets bailed out for $1 and goes on a reluctant road-movie trip, to Kentucky, the New Mexico, finally California. Along the way, she bonds to her son, who accepts her reluctantly, although he is shocked when he learns of her “non secret” visually. The car gets stolen by a likeable hitchhiker played by Grant Monohon, and they get rides to California, where her mother (Fionnula Flanagan) resents her biological disloyalty. She will have the operation, and Toby will become a porn star, needing Viagra to perform. Some strategic nudity and very racy situations, as one scene where Toby actually tries to come on to her. This is one of the first major releases from the restructured Weinstein Company, that can no longer use the Miramax name that Disney took over.  

Breakfast on Pluto (2005, Sony Pictures Classics/Pathe, dir. Neil Jordam, 127 min, R, UK/Ireland) Oh, what actors go through! 29-year-old Irish actor Cillian Murphy first has to look like a handsome teenage boy and pose as a transvestite (Patrick “Kitten” Brady) in the London clubs in the 60s and 70s. It’s noteworthy how seamless the transition from handsome young man to woman can be at times. Mid-film, there is a scene with magician-proprietor Bertie (Stephen Rea, from “The Crying Game” but also “Copenhagen,” where here he still has that intellectual style of speaking), who pretends to stab him in a show.  To show the trick, Bertie reveals Kitten’s bod (not completely), but you see the shaved legs, arms, and chest. To be in this movie, Murphy couldn’t keep any of it. As a matter of personality, Kitten is also seamless, with femininity and masculinity mixing like cake batter before baking. Men go for “her” but the scenes never really get too intimate. But “she” shows a certain predilection for heterosexuality; there will be a baby at the end. Most transvestites are straight, in fact. Here, this is not gender change, but gender range. One of the main plot devices is her being implicated in a couple of IRA terrorist bombings, especially one at a disco near the end of the film. The ninth “planet” does get mentioned in the script as a cold, icy world. (Sorry, no Sedna or Claron.)

 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994, Gramercy, dir. Stephan Elliot, 104 min, R), has for a decade been a favorite at gay house parties. Two drag queens and a transsexual go on an adventure in a van through the Australian outback, on the way to a cabaret performance at Alice Springs, jumping off point for Ayer’s Rock. Then actors had to be rendered for this one (Terrence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce). This is certainly a parody of the “dress for success” concept.

 A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story (2006, LGF/Lifetime, dir. Agniezka Holland, 90 min, sug R) is a courtroom drama telling the story of the murder of Hispanic trans-gendered Gwen (who started as Eddie), played by J. D. Pardo. Gwen never has surgery, but lives and consorts as a young woman. Early in the film, she is seen by a professional who is transsexual herself, and explains to the mother that Gwen has male genitalia but a “female brain.” Gwen attracts the anger of young men she dates who begin to suspect she is male and want to “find out.” She has been found dead with ligature. There are a number of suspects. This is more in the style of “Boys Don’t Cry.” Outdoors, at the trial and funeral, there are sickening “GHF” protests. Yet the hatred goes beyond the immediate humiliation of the men who try to “date” her; her existence seems to be taken as a threat to the gender identities of the supposedly “normal” people around her.

 Some Like It Hot (1959, United Artists, dir. Billy Wilder, 122 min, sug PG-13). “By the sea, by the beautiful sea!” Hollywoodland got around all of the controversy in the 1950s by not taking it seriously, by keeping it as structured “light” entertainment. This famous film is in black-and-white, although it sounds like it could have been an early scope candidate. When two male musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) stumble on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (which looks very abstract in BW, with the white gunfire plume) they go into drag to escape a mob hit themselves. They shave their legs, their arms, and their chests, though not on camera; but Curtis especially as a girl looks like a plucked chicken. They pay their dues just like the guys in the Rocky Picture Horror Show. Marilyn Monroe (Sugar) becomes a caricature of femininity. Various comical situations encounter on the steam engine train, including one where Sugar tries to seduce a gay man (who says “I can’t fall in love”). In the last scene, Tony Curtis has to explain why he can’t marry another man, and says “because I’m a man,” and the reply is “Nobody’s perfect.”

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967, 20th Century Fox, dir. Roger Corman, 100 min) was a famous gangster film about Al Capone (Jason Robards) leading up to the famous firing squad scene, this time in color and cinemascope. Also George Segal, Ralph Meeker, Jean Hale.  

ABC 20/20: "My Secret Self: The Story of Transgendered Children", blogger review.

Southern Comfort (2001, HBO / Docurama, dir. Kate Davis) tells the story of the last year in the life of Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual living in southern Appalachia, dying of ovarian cancer. The story moves back and forth, and covers other transsexuals (one shown in an "heterosexual" scene where the female admires his now hairy chest, after showing him give himself a hormone injection in the thigh). The cancer becomes worse, leading to sudden bleeding, and hospitals become reluctant to treat.  As a man he is totally heterosexual, and his family had more trouble with the transsexualism than with previous "lesbianism."   (No relation to the 1981 thriller film by the same name from Fox).

Transfixed ("Mauvais genres", 2001, Picture This!/Pyramide, dir. Francis Girod, 106 min, R, France) A transgendered prostitute (as female) Bo (Robinson Stevenin) in Brussels had left home from a abusive, probably pedophile father. She is a suspect when a number of prostitutes turn up brutally murdered, and plays detective to clear her name. Although the concept is a bit cliched, the film is very slick, with a Hitchcockian musical score by Alexandre Desplat. Filmed lavishly (and very professionally as to lighting and advanced camera work) in scope, visually it reminds one of "Basic Instinct 2" more than of a typical Hitchcock film. I recognize the train station in Brussels, having been there (there was a lot of street entertainment inside with clowns when I was there in May 2001). Some brief shots, such as a dog eating a tongue cut out of a murder victim, are startling. For me, however, there was very little to like about the characters.  

Prodigal Sons (2009, First Run Features/Sundance Channel, dir. Kimberly Reed). A transgendered person returns to Montana and documents the history of her siblings, with ironic results. Blogger.

Her Name Was Steven (2010, CNN/Miramax?/dir. Susan Stanton?) A CNN documentary film about a transsexual who lost her job as a city administrator in Florida. Blogger.

Related reviews: But I Was a Girl;  Soldier’s Girl    The Crying Game      GLBT films   Paris Is Burning

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