Recently, academic LGBTQ publisher Harrington Park Press has made available a free and public database of 183 films and television shows celebrating the diversity and richness of transgender lives. The sortable "Films and Television Featuring Transgender People or Themes" was compiled from the "Films and Television of Interest" lists found at the end of each chapter of Introduction to Transgender Studies. Published in February 2019, it is the first ever introductory textbook intended for transgender studies at the undergraduate level.
In Introduction to Transgender Studies, author Ardel Haefele-Thomas not only explores transgender lives in historical and political contexts, but shares dozens of intimate personal stories and essays from around the world, and celebrates the art, literature, and cultural contributions of transgender people.
The inclusion of the film and television lists was part of an overall effort to insure the book's impact reaches far beyond "Transgender 101" and courses in LGBTQ, queer, and gender/feminist studies.
"I have often found that students experience a good deal of anxiety, trepidation, and confusion when studying issues pertaining to sex and gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation,” said Haefele-Thomas. “I wrote this book to create a safe space for the full spectrum of undergraduate students, ranging from those who have never thought about gender issues to students who identify as transgender, trans, nonbinary, agender, and/or gender expansive. In short, the language and the artwork in this book are meant to be welcoming.” The free and public "Films and Television Featuring Transgender People or Themes" list is available via the Introduction to Transgender Studies page at harringtonparkpress.com. Also available be this week are the Introduction to Transgender Studies companion "Instructor Resources."
Below, Introduction to Transgender Studies author Ardel Haefele-Thomas recommends 12 films featuring transgender subjects, characters or themes. Don't know or understand transgender people? Take yourself to the movies!
This teaches beautifully. And, it is one of the most perfect documentaries. The filmmaker is incredibly respectful of the community she is filming. And although the subject matter is heavy — a trans man dying of ovarian cancer because clinics refused to care for him because he was trans — the film itself is so full of love, simplicity (not in a bad way), and beauty.
Another documentary — this one about Georgina Beyer — the first trans member of parliament in the world. As an out Maori trans woman in New Zealand, this documentary is wonderful to use for discussions of the continuing effects of colonization and for discussions on intersecting identities.
The original title was Hua Mulan — such a beautiful film from China that is a meditation on war and on the legend of General Mulan. It is really interesting to compare this to the Disney version where the "gender reveal" is what is sensationalized. This Chinese film, though, is complex and rich as it looks at the fluidity of gender.
So, once this book was finally "put to bed" the first thing I wanted to watch was the scene with Tim Curry coming down the lift in those fishnet hose tapping his heel. Is the language outdated? YES! But this film continues to empower gender outlaws in their small towns where they cannot be out — but they can go to the midnight show and feel at home for a couple of hours. I still have students tell me this film changed their lives. It sure changed this trans and queer Okie's life when I saw it in OKC in 1982!