(Photo: “Mulan: Rise of a Warrior”)
Academic LGBTQ publisher Harrington Park Press has just made available a free and public database of over 180 films and television shows celebrating the diversity and richness of transgender lives.
The sortable “Films and Television Featuring Transgender People or Themes” was compiled from the “Films and Television of Interest” lists found at the end of each chapter of “Introduction to Transgender Studies.” Published in February 2019, it is the first ever introductory textbook intended for transgender/trans studies at the undergraduate level.
In “Introduction to Transgender Studies,” author Ardel Haefele-Thomas not only explores transgender lives in historical and political contexts, but shares dozens of intimate personal stories and essays from around the world, and celebrates the art, literature and cultural contributions transgender people.
The inclusion of the film and television lists was part of an overall effort to insure the book’s impact reaches far beyond “Transgender 101” and courses in LGBTQ, queer, and gender/feminist studies.
“I have often found that students experience a good deal of anxiety, trepidation, and confusion when studying issues pertaining to sex and gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation,” said Haefele-Thomas. “I wrote this book to create a safe space for the full spectrum of undergraduate students, ranging from those who have never thought about gender issues to students who identify as transgender, trans, nonbinary, agender, and/or gender expansive. In short, the language and the artwork in this book are meant to be welcoming.”
The free and public “Films and Television Featuring Transgender People or Themes” list is available via the “Introduction to Transgender Studies” page at www.harringtonparkpress.com. Also available be this week are the “Introduction to Transgender Studies” companion “Instructor Resources” •
Below, “Introduction to Transgender Studies” author Ardel Haefele-Thomas recommends thirteen films featuring transgender subjects, characters or themes. Don’t know or understand transgender people? Take yourself to the movies!
1 Southern Comfort
This teaches beautifully. And, it is one of the most perfect documentaries. The filmmaker is incredibly respectful of the community she is filming. And although the subject matter is heavy – a trans man dying of ovarian cancer because clinics refused to care for him because he was trans – the film itself is so full of love, simplicity (not in a bad way), and beauty.
2 Georgie Girl
Another documentary – this one about Georgina Beyer – the first trans member of Parliament in the world. As an out Maori trans woman, this documentary is wonderful to use for discussions of the continuing effects of colonization and for discussions on intersecting identities.
3 A Place in the Middle
A PBS short film that explores a middle school student who is Mahu. This is a perfect film for in-class and for discussion.
4 Leitis in Waiting
A wonderfully complex documentary that looks at trans people in Tonga. This film shows the effects of incoming evangelical missionaries who are calling for the eradication of the Leitis (trans women). A beautifully researched and filmed documentary.
5 Two Spirit People
This film is quite old now, but it still beautifully explains third gender identity (sometimes fourth and fifth gender identity) in Indigenous cultures of the Americas.
6 Mulan: Rise of a Warrior
The original title was Hua Mulan – such a beautiful film from China that is a meditation on war and on the legend of General Mulan. It is really interesting to compare this to the Disney version where the “gender reveal” is what is sensationalized. This Chinese film, though, is complex and rich as it looks at the fluidity of gender.
7 Still Black: A Portrait of Black Trans Men
Outstanding documentary that looks at intersecting identities and the stereotypes around Black masculinity.
8 Rocky Horror Picture Show
So, once this book was finally “put to bed” the first thing I wanted to watch was the scene with Tim Curry coming down the lift in those fishnet hose tapping his heel. Is the language outdated? YES! But this film continues to empower gender outlaws in their small towns where they cannot be out – but they can go to the midnight show and feel at home for a couple of hours. I still have students tell me this film changed their lives. It sure changed this trans and queer Okie’s life when I saw it in OKC in 1982!
9 Queen Christina
So, Hollywood tried (with the Hays Code) but they could not erase all of the gender slippage in this one! Greta Garbo. Dressed as a man. An amazing film.
10 Dream Girls and Shinjuku Boys
I am cheating and putting these two together. But they need to go together to see a fully rounded look at gender diversity in Japan. Both are stunning.
11 The Believers
This is an outstanding documentary of a trans choir in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are an incredibly diverse group of trans people who have come to a progressive Christian church where they and their choir are welcomed. An outstanding documentary.
The iconic Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is featured in this fabulous documentary. The film honors our amazing trans elder – and all of her fight and strength and beauty come shining through in this film. •
13 Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria
Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman’s documentary about the 1966 San Francisco Riot that pre-dates Stonewall by three years is an outstanding look at the trans community in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco in the late 1960’s. The film beautifully studies the nuances of political difference and disagreement between Vanguard, a radical queer youth group, and many of the trans women in the Tenderloin who were trying to get through each day in the face of racism, transphobia, and police harassment. This film is also really inspirational in an academic context because it exemplifies the ways that a seemingly small find hidden in archive can lead to a major documentary film and the recovery of a nearly lost history.
More about “Introduction to Transgender Studies” on the Harrington Park Press website at www.harringtonparkpress.com/intro-to-trans-studies/
Harrington Park Press, distributed by Columbia University Press, is an academic, scholarly, and professional book publisher devoted to emerging topics in LGBTQ diversity, equality, and inclusivity. www.harringtonparkpress.com
Other recently published books by Harrington Park Press include “Trans Sex Work and Society,” Gay & Bisexual Men Living with Prostate Cancer,” and “LGBT-Inclusive Hospice and Palliative Care: A Practical Guide To Transforming Professional Practice.”