Just Gender from writer/director George Zuber must easily qualify as the most successful documentary on explaining the whole transgender spectrum in a language that perfectly articulates the phenomena, and in such a manner that enlightens and educates us all. The first surprising discovery is the very fact that Zuber made this in 2013 and although since then the whole dialogue about the trans community has had a considerably higher public profile, much of information is still very current and relevant.
The film opens with the most heartbreaking story of a young transgender girl whose sad story is all too frequently the same, especially for trans women of color. She was rejected first by her school and then by her evangelical mother who actually told her ‘either you commit suicide, or I will. I cannot have a gay child‘. Joined the Navy and was sexually abused, then homeless before becoming a sex worker etc etc. It is nothing short of a miracle that she survived, especially as the rate of trans youth that commit suicide is as high as 41% in the country, and they also account for a large proportion of murders, most of which seem to go unsolved.
It’s a very sobering start to the film that then begins a whole explanation of how different people deal with varying degrees of some form or another of gender dysphoria. The very precise narration by Tony & Emmy Award winner Bebe Neuwirth helps explore the diversity of persons under the broad umbrella of transgender people, including cross dressers, gender questioning, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, and female-to-male and male-to-female transsexual.
Alongside the explanations are the interviews of people who attest that the journey for them to acknowledging their true identity has not only had more than its share of fraught moments, but equally as important is the fact that no two situations are ever the same. How a individual chooses to present themselves and be authentic to their own identity is a very personal issue, and as the film pointed out, this is the main area that we as outsiders must learn to both understand much more and accept too. It goes a good deal further to help dismiss several of the misconceptions that many of us still ignorantly have .
Despite all the talk of intolerance, confusion and outright hatred, the documentary’s central core is one of the joy, happiness and complete fulfillment that is finally achieved by these brave souls who have embraced their own identity. Their stories are the ones that thankfully resound the loudest, and give hope that others that follow may one day have a much easier path.