Thursday, September 23, 2010

Forgetting the Past.

The latest big "trans" movie that I've seen is Prodigal Sons, a documentary/partial autobiography by filmmaker Kimberly Reed.  It follows the stories of Kimberly (born Paul), and her older adopted brother Marc, as they try to make sense of their relationship and their senses of self.  The story begins with Kim's return to her hometown of Helena, MT for her high school class reunion.  This is the second time she'll have visited her hometown as a woman, and the first time that most of her class will meet her as a woman (the first time was for her father's funeral several years prior, and a few of her closest friends met "Kim" then).  Surprisingly (to me, who as someone not from Montana has a certain expectation of parochialism from the Western Plains states) they seem to accept her quite well.

Obviously one story line is her transsexuality, but equally interesting is a completely non-trans storyline about Marc's search for his birth family.  I don't want to give anything away, so just go rent it, or watch it via Netflix streaming.

There was one point in the movie though, that really made me think about the differences between us transsexuals.  NO DUH, you're thinking.  Well, yeah that seems obvious, but many times people (including ourselves) sort of lump all transsexuals into a homogeneous group of presumed experiences and feelings.  Anyway, in this scene, Marc is showing friends of his birth family a bunch of pictures from his childhood.  They naturally include some with his brothers, including Paul/Kim, who is looking on with a pained look on her face.  It appears that there is a little bit of giggling and smirking from some of the people, but  on the other hand, they were very friendly and welcoming to Kim from what we could see on film.  So, in private later, Kim confronts Marc and tells him that showing pictures of her was very hurtful to her and that she really wanted to forget that early part of her life, that she is Kim now, and really didn't want to be reminded that she was ever Paul.

This is so different from how I think that I was shocked.  I can empathize and understand what she meant.  It is painful to live in constant fear of discovery and self-doubt, sometimes even self-loathing.  I wouldn't mind erasing some of that from my memory either.  But perhaps because I have lived so much more than her prior to transitioning (if I ever do) and have experienced parenthood, love, etc, in my male presentation, I cannot begin to contemplate cutting myself off from all of that.  I get that high school, despite the external success, was internally a struggle for her, but it has been a struggle for me all my life too.  I'm sure part of it is that I'm mostly a laid-back personality, and with a few exceptions, I tend to go with the flow, aware of my decisions, and accepting the consequences of those decisions.  I don't know - I'm certainly not judging her and I think she is a very talented filmmaker and courageous woman for telling the story.  I guess my point is just that "all of us" trans-folks don't have a single "all of us" story.  That's the cool thing about blogs though - I've been fortunate to have read the experiences of many, and hopefully contribute my own thoughts to the collective history (herstory? :-) as well.

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