Last April 10th, I watched a feature-length documentary about one of the first attempt to explore the issues of female-to-male (FTM) transgender experiences. A film by Sam Feder and Julie Hollar, three young transitioning FTMs in New York City were followed and documented as they go through major moments in their transitions. Nicco, Norie and Keegan went through the issues by discussing the relationships with their own bodies, and the junction of race and class while dealing with their own transgender identity. The stories of the three major characters were supported with interviews of lesbians, activists and theorists who engage in litigious issues confined in queer and feminist communities, but ironically not discussed openly in the public.
The individual life struggles of sexuality and identity of Nicco, Nories and Keegan, is just some of the many other stories which links with the long struggles of the queer and lesbian communities. “Boy I Am” is an empowering documentary which challenges the viewer to listen and understand the concepts of forward activism and identity (Kartali, 1).Nicco is a 30 years old queer transgender male who was raised by Jewish immigrant parents in New Jersey. He is has been working hard since graduating from high school, and struggles to raise and save money for chest surgery. Nicco began taking testosterone hormones five years ago and fully changed into a man. His struggle to save and earn money for the surgery entailed his long dream to fully pass his transition. Nicco felt the security from having the surgery because it fully equipped him with the confidence as a man.
Norie is 22 years old and identifies himself as a straight transgender male. Raised in Queens, he questioned his identity in 2004 while starting college. The movie showed Norie starting hormone treatments and contemplating on coming out at work and at home. Norie went through chest surgery with the help of his girlfriend, Lucey, who sold her eggs to pay for the surgery. Norie went on the struggles of having to deal with his sexual and racial identity. Keegan is a 23 straight transgender male who grew up in a devout Irish Catholic family.
His identity as transgender started in the fall of 2002. The documentary followed him in his first surgery in San Francisco. His appearance made people believe he was a man, and this constant situation made him tired of confronting the issues with other people. He was contemplating in taking hormones during the course of the documentary, but eventually starts taking it for as he mentions, “no apparent reason”. His surgery empowered him to take control of his body, and his family was very supportive of his decision.“Boy I Am” is a groundbreaking film which captures the issues some women in the feminist and lesbian communities view as a trend or an anti-feminist act (Kartali, 1). The documentary provides an avenue for lesbian, feminist, and transgender communities to engage in communication and promote understanding of transgender issues to the general audience.
While the visibility of FTMs has increased in the country, many issues are still resisted by the lesbian and feminist communities who question the transitioning as an act to enjoy male privileges (Boy I Am Official Site, 1). The speakers in the movie, some are lesbian and feminist activists and theorists, related the conflicts emerging from feminists and lesbians regarding transgender. One important note taken by the editor of the film, Jules Rosskam, mentions that the conflict emerged after the second wave of feminists failed to address the need of the transgender sector to be heard.
Some speakers expressed their concern of young people making decisions at a very young age. In the case of chest removal procedures, speakers felt that the pressure to have their chests removed is evident to fully make the transition as part of the great consideration in coming terms with their own body.The speakers in the movie mention that 43% of transgender males have experienced violence in the country. The issue to secure the rights of women, gay men, and other marginalized groups has prevailed over the years. As Richard Parker in his 2007 study mentioned, the concern for public health is also significantly affected by the development of feminist and women’s health movements. Understanding of the most pressing issues of not only feminists and women’s health movements, but also the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) movements has led to further analysis of gender, gender power differentials and sexual fields (Parker, 1).
These movements of the marginalized sector in the country has called the attention of the public towards sexual diversity and made us realize the need to explore the different categories and classifications of sexual fields in the country. Sexuality can not be taken apart from the influence of social, economic, and political structures, and with reference to the cultural and ideological discourses which ultimately contextualize the meaning of sexuality. The challenge to address the problems of structural violence does not only concern the marginalized sector of the community, but must also evoke a sense of synergy among different sectors in the society to shape key sexual problems in specific communities, and engage to help abolish various forms of oppression (Parker, 2).
The issues presented in the documentary can be analyzed in the realm of sexuality and human rights. The role played by social movements of the feminists, and LGBTQ groups in general, has involved other broader struggles for human rights and social justice. The documentary showed the discrimination and oppression among the marginalized groups in public health offices, and such lack of focus on the many health issues of transgendered male has emphasized the need to empower, socially engage agencies in the country, and to provide approaches and methods to reduce risk and vulnerability of the marginalized sector in the society.“Boy I Am” made me appreciate the efforts of the filmmakers to voice out conflicts and experiences of FTMs.
Many ideas presented in the film have touched on the essence of the issue by contrasting personal experiences of the three characters with present feminist theories. The realistic exploration of transgender issues and conflicts has in turn contributed to the film’s goal of making feminists believe that people should have the control and right to own their bodies, and promote acceptance, rather than discrimination and criticism for transgendered people. The film was emotional. It evoked a sense of fascination and even intellectually-stimulating with the issues presented.
In the end, I felt the film delivered its objective of making the film not just for the transgendered subjects, but also to promote understanding in the wider public. It provided convincing argument to support and fight for transgender rights, and fundamentally, human rights of all social sectors in the society.