My ex recently happened on a tasty little trans movie I was not familiar with called ‘Different for Girls’ (linked, so I don’t have to write out the whole synopsis), and I was remarkably impressed. Trans movies have come far since the old days when we were characterized as either extraterrestrial mad scientists with a penchant for gothic schlock, or super duper creepy bug collecting serial killers attempting to make a woman suit out of skin. I’m sure the trans folks coming out at that time really loved having to constantly explain that the moth wings on their blouses came from walking too close to the bug zapper as wide eyed relations prepared to flee while screaming that they never lotion. This was way different.
In most recent trans movies, there is by rule a narrative by which either the trans person or someone close to them has to come to terms with the trans person’s identity. I don’t think there is any way of getting around that. Confusion, misunderstanding, and chaos inevitably give in to acceptance and understanding, at least in those with a happy ending. The exception of course is when the trans person is killed before the end, like in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. I was hoping this was one of the former as I was in the mood for a pick-me-up when we turned it on and not looking for a good cry. Um, in case you haven’t seen it, chances are I’m going to spoil this even more for you, so maybe you should watch it before reading this. Just saying.
It was a well done movie and had a compelling story line aside from one of the protagonists being trans, but there were two aspects of this that I really wanted to talk about. I was absolutely thrilled to have the trans woman in the role of a female love interest. I don’t care that this was used to make the film more avant-garde or interesting, or that one of the main obstacles that had to be overcome was the male lead, Prentice, learning to look at Kim as a woman, and not his old prep school pal Karl. The other obstacle of course was that Prentice was mentally and socially stuck at 14, and that the love of a good woman forced him to grow up. Through the latter, Kim, like any good female love interest, played the more mature, professional, adult with reservations that focused more on his overall immaturity rather than his struggle with her gender identity. You have to love that. For once, the trans person was the character who had it all together.
The other thing I really loved was easily missed. Kim is employed as a greeting card verse writer in a primarily female office. One of the other workers, apparently an admin who sits near her, seems to have a touch of cattiness toward Kim. She is quick to bring the boss over to Kim’s work station when she spies something inappropriate. She is even faster to hand Kim an empty box near the end when we are all certain she is about to be canned after being exposed in the tabloids as Prentice’s “shocking” ex-male girlfriend. What I loved is that the root of this is never explained. It could be Transphobia, or it could simply be office politics and a standard personality mismatch. Due to the lack of clarity, I would be very interested to see who saw the movie and perceived it as one over the other.
Kim is neither the primary protagonist nor the victim. She is mistreated at the start of the film when portrayed as an adolescent boy who tucks to take a shower and gets tormented by the others. She is likewise mistreated by the police who first attempt to reach up her skirt, then keep her in a cell overnight and threaten to have drunken disorderly men put in with her, and finally hint that she could be sent to a male prison. While the skirt reach is clearly an anti-trans action (the aggressive cop thinks she’s a “transvestite”), the remaining actions are an attempt to influence her to convince Prentice to drop charges against one of their own.
All together it’s a great little love story, even though I feel she really settled by ending up with a hyperactive man-child. Through it all, however, there is clarity that the writers and director intend for the character to be a woman with her transgender status as merely a component of her character and not the sum of it.