Friday, April 27, 2007

The Ultimate Identity Crisis

I was moved by this LA Times article by Mike Pennar.

I broke the news to Tim by beginning, "Are you familiar with the movie 'Transamerica'?" Tim nodded. "Well, welcome to my life," I said.

Tim seemed more perplexed than most as I nervously launched into my story.

Finally, he had to explain, "I thought you said 'Trainspotting.' I thought you were going to tell me you're a heroin addict."

Transexuals have the ultimate identity crisis, often involving decades-long struggles. My heart aches for the few stories I've come across. The doc Southern Comfort by Kate Davis is a brilliant look at a man who died of ovarian cancer. When she was finishing it, Kate thought she was making a film about the prejudices of the medical system against transsexuals. I didn't see it that way. Hell, everyone dies of ovarian cancer. To me, Southern Comfort was really about the deep search and struggle to be who you are, no matter what the odds. It's about how some people have to work so much harder to find their community and love. About what it's like to be shunned for just being who you are.

Years later I came across She's Not There, by Jennifer Finney Boylan, a wonderful book which has remained one of my favorite reads and which I still recommend constantly. Funny, desperately sad, and beautifully written; it's the first person narrative of Jennifer's transition from James. I love the book so much I figured out a way to contact her (isn't email grand? It's made real Holden Caulfield's old dream. ) And orchestrated a face to face meeting after a Reel Paradise screening at the Maine International Film Workshop some years ago. We didn't stop talking for hours. It was a true thrill for me.

I'm the ultimate what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of gal. Bluntness and honesty are my trademarks. I can't imagine the torment of creating a public face at odds with an inner reality. Can't imagine how it's done or the toll it takes.

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