Recently, I was sent a copy of a film entitled "Ticked off Trannys with Knives". I was furious.
And then I watched it.
And I wasn't so furious.
GLAAD has come out against the film, and as it's on it's way to the Tirbeca Fim Festival, there's a huge movement to stop that from happening. I decided to write a letter and spread it across the interweb.
Here's that letter:
Let me start off by saying how much I abhor the term “Tranny”. It’s demoralizing, and pejorative. It doesn’t belong in my life nor any of my Transgender friends lives. And strangely, I was having a conversation with a pal of mine from out of State (Utah of all places) with whom I was discussing this very thing. As I went on my rant about Tranny and its offensiveness and how hurtful it was personally and morally, and how hate crimes are almost born from the foundation of that word, she had a quizzical look in her eyes.
“Why do you look like you’ve just seen Doris Day in the backyard?” I asked.
“Well…don’t take this wrong, but I never knew that term was offensive.”
This wasn’t done from a place of malice or forethought, this was an innocent statement said by someone who had no preconceived idea about our Trans history. She just simply didn’t know it was hurtful.
This isn’t about backlash, this is about education.
When I heard about “Ticked off Trannies With Knives” I was furious. I was angry and wanted immediate retribution. How, in this day and age, can we accept a film by our own community with that word in the title? What’s wrong with us? I was hysterical. Susan Hayward Hysterical.
And then I was sent the film. And I watched the entire thing.
Before the first word is spoken there’s a famous quote by Helen Keller flashed on the screen:
“Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”
This sets up, and quite frankly, sums up the heart and soul that is this movie.
In a scene in a crowded bar, about 10 minutes into the film, we get what is probably one of the most beautiful and spiritual explanations of who we are as Transgender women I’ve ever heard. A small speech done in exquisite off the cuff style about God, Adam, Eve, and the third sex: Ava- who in this version is a combination of both Adam and Eve.
When “TransAmerica” hit the theaters and Felicity Huffman (a wonderful actor) tipped and gestured and whispered her way into an Oscar nomination, I was livid. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know one Transgender person that walks, speaks, or acts the way she did in that film. This was an actresses “idea” of how Trans women are. In Israel Luna’s film, these women may be crass, they may be uncomplicated, they may be verbose, but coming from that community, I actually know people that actually behave, sound, and act that way. And let’s face it, when you have a Trans person playing a Trans person, it just makes more sense. We don’t have to act it. We ARE it.
We are doctors, lawyers, housewives, entertainers, construction workers, policemen, and authors. There’s also one of us in the White House. We are mutli cultural and diverse. There’s no such thing as the One Transgender Experience. Was “Precious” the ultimate Black experience?
As a working actress in Hollywood I know the box and I know how it fits and after 35 years in show business, I know what it’s like to bust it open. I’m sick and tired of our community being portrayed as victims, or hookers, or having Hollywood actresses take voice lessons so they can sound more like a man pretending to be a woman. That’s more dehumanizing than anything in this film.
Toward the end, the protagonist tells Bubbles why she can’t ultimately kill him:
“You don’t have it in you…” he says menacingly, “…you NEED me. You need a man to tell you you’re worthless, to beat you, to hit you. There’s a part of you that’s attracted to me. Face it.”
Those words rang in my head and were words I lived by in my early twenties that caused years of self abuse and drug-filled weekends. I ran from that truth. And in the end (without spoiling the film) Bubbles has a moment of clarity and self-worth that’s absolutely gorgeous.
The film is violent in both its content and its language. But it’s supposed to be. It’s an old fashioned revenge chick flick beautifully and skillfully directed by Israel Luna, who at every moment has the Transgender girls on the right track. And safe in his heart.
They win. They conquer. And they do not go gently into that good night.
Before we start silencing people, let’s get past our own prejudice, and remember where and by whom this whole movement was started: By a bunch of Trans people in big wigs and sequins in a local New York bar. This is part of our Gay history. It may not be the only part, but it is the truth. And that’s Art. Speaking your truth and doing it loudly and clearly. You may not like it, you may not appreciate it, you may not agree with it, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be heard. And it certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t Art.