6 Transgender Films to Watch

Boys Don't Cry

Boys Don’t Cry

Director: Kimberly Peirce
Release: 1999
Running Time: 118 minutes
Language: English

After he is discovered to be anatomically female, Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank), a non-operative transgender man, moves to Falls City, Nebraska, to escape harassment from his hometown. There, he becomes friends with some of its wayward citizens, and finds love in the form of Lana Tisdel (Chloë Sevigny). His past threatens to destroy his new life, and sure as lightning, tragedy strikes.

Based on a real-life story, Boys Don’t Cry is virtually a fundament in trans cinema. Teena’s tragic story is a hypnotic and heartbreaking look at going “stealth,” the self-important need of straight people to “correct” trans people by any means necessary in the name of their personal beliefs, and how social institutions ensnare trans people in systems of exposure and abuse.

For her role as Brandon Teena, Hilary Swank won an Oscar for Best Actress in the 72nd Academy Awards. Likewise, Chloë Sevigny earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Swank would later win a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama), and both actresses won Satellite Awards.

Laurence Anyways

Laurence Anyways

Director: Xavier Dolan
Release: 2012
Running Time: 161 minutes
Language: French

On her 30th birthday, Laurence Alia (Melvil Poupaud), a successful literature professor, divulges to her girlfriend Frédérique Belair (Suzanne Clément), whom she deeply loves, that she feels she has been falsely living as a man and desires to begin living as a woman, and as her lesbian girlfriend. Fréd is at first overcome with rage and resentment, but decides to be supportive to Laurence. Fréd welcomes to her person the humiliations that Laurence also receives from the world, and what follows is a decade of deep struggle and inexorable love for the two.

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If there is scant representation of male to female (MTF) trans people, it is even more so for MTF trans lesbians. Laurence Anyways remedies that and more with an epic love story in a whopping 161-minute early Kubrickian naturalism and moody music cherry-picked by Dolan. The story luxuriates in peeling the layers of Laurence and Fréd’s love affair, from the heavy smoke of shared daydreams, to the stark disaster of love in the verge of surrender. Throughout are short bursts of wonder, from a trans-friendly family taking Laurence under their wing, to a fanciful vision of underwear falling from the sky as confetti from heaven.

6 Transgender Films to Watch

Tomboy

Director: Céline Sciamma
Release: 2011
Running Time: 82 minutes
Language: French

Laure (Zoé Héran), a 10-year old girl, moves to Paris with her family one summer. Lisa (Jeanne Disson) invites her to play with friends from their neighborhood, except Laure introduces herself as a boy named Mikäel. She tries to keep up with her newly made identity, emulating the other boys’ bad manners, despite a noisy little sister who wants to join her and a heavily pregnant mother who wants her to dress in girly clothes. Then Lisa develops feelings for her.

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Tomboy is a raw but kind look at children’s gender expression. It is so tenderhearted that it makes no judgments about its young protagonist – there is no preemptive, explicit statement that Laure/Mikäel is transgender. All that is shown is her wish to be known as a boy, and director Sciamma declares that enough, and it is. It is hard not to root for Laure as she tries to pass as a boy on a summer swim, or when she is powerless to defy her mother’s edict on clothing. And as Laure learns that being a boy at that age is behavioral more than it is physical, one learns how infantilizing it is for others to define who you are.


What do you guys think of these selections? Have you seen any of them already? Do you have other films that you’d like to recommend? Let us know in the comments!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The second half of this article was published in the November 2015 LGBT Special Issue of Arellano Law Gazette.

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Abdul Rafi O
Abdul Rafi O
Not a comedian but definitely a cringe. A walking argument for Shift-Ctrl-T for the brain, this dork likes to wallow in shallow pools of soft, pillowy cake where he can read and geek in peace. His life's dream is to be a Mashrou' Leila groupie. Caps lock rage at him: @vecordy
Abdul Rafi O

Abdul Rafi O

Not a comedian but definitely a cringe. A walking argument for Shift-Ctrl-T for the brain, this dork likes to wallow in shallow pools of soft, pillowy cake where he can read and geek in peace. His life's dream is to be a Mashrou' Leila groupie. Caps lock rage at him: @vecordy

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