Films and shows that capture the trans experience with an empathetic lens
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Films and shows that capture the trans experience with an empathetic lens
Shilpa S
Oct 11, 2021

For the longest time, cinema and TV shows have perpetuated stereotypes about the transgender community, and minimised their experience. Trans people have been the subject of comedy or they have been villainised. However, cinema is slowly and steadily involving and there are many notable films and TV shows that capture the trans experience with sensitivity and empathy.

These stories feature artists from the trans community, which helps capture their stories accurately and authentically.

There have still been some setbacks, especially the recent controversy linked with the Dave Chapelle comedy special on Netflix. The comedian came under fire for his derogatory comments targeting trans people.

In light of the incident, here are a few silver screen works where trans lives have been portrayed with the sensitivity and understanding the community is owed.

Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen
8OTTplay Rating
This Netflix documentary takes viewers through on screen depictions of transgender characters in Hollywood media. It features appearances by several noted trans filmmakers, media personalities and actors including Laverne Cox, Mj Rodriguez, Angelica Ross, Trace Lysette and Lilly Wachowski, among others. They dissect popular media works featuring trans characters, giving their take on them and tracing how far Hollywood has come in its portrayal of such characters. Their analyses are supplemented by their own personal experiences in the industry, leading to a film that gives an enlightening experience on what it means to be a trans person in the media.
A Fantastic Woman
7.6OTTplay Rating
This Spanish drama tells the story of a young trans woman, Marina, who is thrown a curveball in life when her elderly boyfriend dies unexpectedly. The film portrays, in excruciating detail, the various ways Marina faces harassment by not only her beloved’s family, but also the authorities, as a result of her trans identity. Although not an easy watch, the film features some compelling performances by its cast, which just supplements it’s raw story. The lead actress Daniela Vega is also a transgender woman. The film was a hit with fans and critics alike.
9.1OTTplay Rating
Set in the 1980s and 1990s, Pose focuses on the tale of the African-American and Hispanic queer community in New York City. The series explores the ball room culture of the time, which served as a safe haven for gender non-conforming people to openly express themselves without fear of judgement and persecution. The series was lauded for not only its engaging story and stunning visuals, but also for its positive and authentic representation of trans and queer identities. Featuring a trans character, played by trans and non-binary actor Indya Moore, the show also handles the storyline of the character wonderfully, showcasing their struggles while not ultimately turning it into a tragic tale of woe.
7.6OTTplay Rating
Transparent revolves around the story of a family whose lives take a turn when their elderly family patriarch comes out as a trans woman. The show is a breath of fresh air, where viewers get to see a trans person embraced by her family, albeit with the baggage that is found in most dysfunctional family structures. It also delves into the lives of the other members of the family, who are spurred into questioning the state of their own lives on the announcement of their loved one. The show is helmed by a non-binary person who took inspiration from their own parents’coming out story for the series’premise.
Boys Don't Cry
7.7OTTplay Rating
Based on true events, Boys Don’t Cry tells the gut wrenching tale of a trans man in a rural town, whose life becomes riddled with hardship after his identity is discovered. The film is inspired by the life of Brandon Teena, an American transgender man who was grusomely murdered as a part of a hate crime. The film stars Hilary Swank in the lead role, her performance earning her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Although the film featured some incredible performances from its cast, it was criticised by some trans activists for casting a cisgender woman in the role of a trans character.

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