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Tribeca Protested for Ticked Off Trannies With Knives

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A group of transgender women and their allies gathered Tuesday evening outside the Tribeca Film Center in downtown Manhattan to demand that film festival organizers drop four scheduled screenings of Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives in late April.

"We want our humanity to be respected, and to shake the toxic and oppressive stigma off our community, stigma like this film inspires," said Ashley Love of Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Trans People (MAGNET), which organized the protest with other transgender advocates. Love said MAGNET met with festival organizers in late March, but Tribeca refused to remove the film.

Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives, billed as a "revenge fantasy" by director Israel Luna, follows a group of trans women who get even for hate crimes committed against them because of their gender identity. Critics including GLAAD say the film trivializes the real-life discrimination faced by trans women and uses exploitative marketing, but others in the LGBT community say the criticism amounts to censorship and advise detractors to take the film lightly.

The nearly 15 women gathered blocks from the Holland Tunnel at rush hour Tuesday evening felt indisposed toward laughter one week after Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar was found strangled to death in her Queens, New York apartment. New reports indicated a trans woman was beheaded in Chihuahua, Mexico this week.

"Trans people are never taken seriously as women or people," said Melissa Sklarz of the New York Transgender Rights Organization. "It's tragic that finally a movie starring trans people is about violence, rape, and murder. The transgender people of America deserve better."

Sklarz, who appeared in the 2005 film Transamerica, contrasted the "real efforts" by director Duncan Tucker to represent transgender people with the "unfortunate" portrayals from Luna at a time when few transgender images exist in media.

Last week, in response to pressure, Luna said he would remove references to murder victims Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado from the film's trailer. He maintained that real-world violence against the trans community inspired him to make the film.

"It seems that the association between their brutal stories and the revenge/thriller content of the film in its entirety has been difficult to connect," said Luna in an e-mail to The New York Times.

The trailer edit did not satisfy the transgender advocates, who with banners and speeches implored the prestigious festival not to give the film its seal of approval with a world premiere.

"We're sisters, mothers, daughters, and we're wives," they chanted above the whir of traffic. "Please don't make a joke of our lives."

"We're protesting Tribeca because it's in competition for an award," said Denise Le Claire, executive director of the International Foundation of Gender Education. "It doesn't deserve an award. Everything about this film is offensive."

Le Claire said she does not oppose Luna's right to make the film, although she finds the idea of a revenge fantasy in the style of Inglourious Basterds premature for transgender people under siege. The Academy Award-winning film by Quentin Tarantino tells the story of Jewish attempts to assassinate Nazi leaders during World War II.

"It's taken how many years for people to have any sense of humor about the Holocaust? This is still going on for us," said Le Claire.

Some protesters said their toughest objections came from within the LGBT community, where Love said many gay men and drag queens have called her protest of the film an attack on free speech. She finds the criticism misguided.

"We don't take it off," said Love. "We don't have male privilege."

Contacted for comment, a spokeswoman for the Tribeca Film Festival referred The Advocate to a statement released on March 25.

"The filmmakers provided a copy of this film to GLAAD in February, and for weeks the organization had been supportive to the filmmakers. In fact, GLAAD representatives advised the film's producer, director and cast on how to describe the film to its core constituency.

"Tribeca is proud of its ongoing commitment to bring diverse voices and stories to its audiences, and looks forward to the film's premiere at our festival next month."

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