Brooke Guinan’s second-generation New York City firefighter father is a hero. He was one of the first responders who worked tirelessly at the site of the World Trade Center for weeks after 9/11. Brooke, a firefighter too, is also very much a heroine for a very different reason. She is the only openly-trans member of the NYFD who, by her example and her commitment has becoming a leading LGBTQ activist and an outspoken advocate for the trans community.
This new heartwarming documentary by filmmaker Julie Sokolow is an affectionate profile of this young New Yorker’s journey as she claims the right to her real identity. Always an extremely articulate youth as even at the age of 12 as George Guinan VI he presented his quite conservative mother Susan with a very well-thought-out letter explaining the reasons why he thought he was gay.
Despite what young Georgie’s parents may have thought initially, it is very clear that they, and his grandparents, in this tight-knit family totally accepted this, as they also later did when as Brooke she explained that she wasn’t gay but actually transgender. The latter was by no means easy on them, and Susan admits to being devastated when first presented with the news.
The events of 9/11 had a major impact on them too as not only did Brooke then resolve to follow the family tradition and become a firefighter too, but as her father reevaluated his own life as he recovered from the aftermath, he decided he needed to go his own way and move out of the family home.
With Brooke now a qualified firefighter the documentary merely hints that everything has not been some sailing for her ….. it took the 44 Women Firefighters in the Department six months of debate before they allowed Brooke to join then ….. but it is otherwise light on details on any other problems that she may have encountered. Likewise Jim a heterosexual man who is Brooke’s boyfriend, at one point lets slip in passing his reluctance to commit to their relationship, and yet without any further explanation is very soon buying a house with Brooke and making wedding plans.
Brooke is an extremely likable and charismatic woman and is easy to understand that when people such as Jim’s parents see her for who she really is, their initial ignorance on the whole transgender issue, is totally irrelevant. That too is the message that the documentary is clear to make about the NYPD who were certainly extremely supportive as a Department of Brooke’s whole transitioning time, but it does beggar belief that in an organisation that is over 99% male, and mostly white, that she didn’t encounter some transphobia.
Nevertheless Brooke’s story is uplifting and so full of such positive energy that just increases more and more as she reaches her goal and ends up married to Jim and living in their dream house together. It would probably have all been so easy for her if she had kept a low profile and maintained her privacy, but by going public and becoming a role model for the community, makes this story that much special, and all us fall in love with her just that little bit more.
So many transgender stories lack supportive families and loved ones and sadly have far from happy endings, so its an added joy when we come across a enchanting one like this that does.