I am proud to be an LGBTQIA+ ally. Or at least, I try to be an ally as best as I can. But despite my best intentions, I know there’s still so much more I could do. I’m pretty good with the G’s in that acronym. Some of my closest friends are gay and I’m very plugged into their culture. I’m friends with some B’s and L’s, but I don’t know too many others that make up the beautiful pride rainbow. What this documentary made me realize is how far I’ve fallen short when it comes to supporting the T’s–the transgender community. I’ve especially failed simply by doing what I love most. Watching movies.
Disclosure is a documentary about the portrayal of the transgender community in the media, specifically film and tv. The stat that’s being given right now is that 80% of Americans don’t know anyone who is transgender. I’ve known a few transgender people, but none that have been more than acquaintances. No particular reason, just not every person you meet is destined to be your best friend. Therefore, for most of us, our greatest exposure to these beautiful people is thru the media. And the portrayal that they’ve been given is often not only wrong, but dangerous.
The film interviews members of the transgender community in the film industry. Mostly actors, but some writers and other filmmakers as well. People like Laverne Cox (who produced this), Alexandra Billings, Lilly Wachawski and others. They go thru various films and tv series, many of which were very highly acclaimed, and talk thru the impact that their depicitions of trans individuals had.
First we see trans people as the jokes. Comedians donning drag just for laughs at their expense. Then there’s the films where people (usually men) are disgusted at meeting a trans person. From there it gets really dangerous as we see trans people as psycho killers or as perennial victims. Films that I’ve known and loved that I never realized had such far reaching negative consequences on real people’s lives. It hurt to understand how complicit I’ve been, but I’m sure that hurt is nowhere near the pain that the trans community feels.
Let’s take The Crying Game as an example. (Skip this paragraph if you don’t want that spoiled). I saw it for the first time maybe ten years ago, and I loved it. I was actually excited to see a transgender character on film, stupidly thought that was victory enough. But when the new boyfriend finds out that his girlfriend is trans (not that it even uses the proper terminology at all, another shortcoming) he reacts by vomiting and getting sick. Now think about how many movies since where you’ve seen that reaction? First one that came to mind for me? Ace Ventura.
I’d actually just rewatched Ace Ventura recently. When I remembered the homo and trans phobic ending, I felt disgusted myself over how much I used to love and praise this film, without fully understanding how hurtful it was. The first time I saw it after watching The Crying Game, I remember laughing even harder at the scene where Ace figures things out, because The Crying Game theme song was playing. Now I get that it’s not funny, and not something we should condone any more.
There’s so many examples like this throughout the doc, things I’d never even thought to notice. I can only hope that I’ll be more mindful and sensitive going forward, and that I’ll do whatever I can to lift up the trans community. Give my money to Hollywood for films that portray them in realistic manners instead of those that disparage them. And just understanding how a seemingly throwaway joke or moment in a movie can have far reaching impacts on real people’s lives. I’m not gonna be perfect at it, but I can try.