I’ve just spent the last week reflecting on all of the amazing films I saw at the 3rd Annual Los Angeles Transgender Film Festival that took place the first week of November at various venues across L.A. In the three years since founder Kalil Cohen started the festival it has grown from one screening on one night to five screenings over three days. I’m inclined to think this sort of rapid growth is infrequent. Thanks to trans visibility on more recent shows like Dancing with the Stars trans people are gaining visibility in popular/mass media. Often times, however, depictions of trans people are offensive and perpetuate negative narratives that people within the trans spectrum are screwed–up, loveless freaks and social pariahs. The continued growth and success of the festival demonstrates that positive images of trans lives are in high demand and that the trans community is in full force when it comes to producing powerful images about their own lives. This years festival did an amazing job of highlighting the multivalent lives within the trans community. While recognizing the difficulties that trans people face in the world the festival chose to also focus on the ways in which trans people move in and out of love, inspire, and even laugh at themselves - breaking down many of the negative stereotypes society projects on to the trans community. A personal favorite of the festival this year was the feature length Brazilian film Elvis & Madonna, which follows the touching love story between a Transwoman and genderqueer Lesbian.
Taking home the “Audience Award for Best Short Film” was Rites of Passage by Jeff Roy which chronicles the life of a transwoman from India during the moments leading to her sex reassignment surgery in Thailand. Shot in the verite style the narrative follows her on her travels while she talks about her life, family and relationship with the divine. The jurors of the festival also handed out the “Jury Award for Best Short Film” to Getting Off by Meliza Banales & J. Aguilar, the hilarious film about a lost orgasm and the search to get it back.
While the official festival has come and gone, there are plenty of opportunities to see these great films. Organizer Kalil Cohen and the Transgender Film Fest regularly tour colleges and other venues. If you would like to host a screening or to learn more, visit http://www.tgfilmfest.com/.
If you would like to know more about transgender people you can attend a Trans 101 workshop at Beth Chayim Chadashim on Thursday, November 17th at 7pm. (6090 W. Pico, LA). Starting in December, BCC will also be launching a special monthly Torah Study aimed at exploring sacred texts that specifically address trans issues. If you like to know more about Judaism and trans issues visit TransTorah or pick up a copy of the ground breaking book Balancing on the Mechitzah, winner of a Lambda Literary Award.
November is also a month recognized by the trans community as a time to education people about trans people and trans issues. On Sunday, November 20th for Transgender Day of Remembrance trans communities around the world will be taking time to remember trans people who have been killed simply because of who they are, or trans people who have committed suicide as a result of bullying. This year Beth Chayim Chadashim, the world’s oldest LGBT synagogue, will be leading a special Transgender Day of Remembrance Service on Friday, November 18th at 8pm.