Genderation Profiles San Francisco’s Pioneering Transgender Community – San Francisco Bay Times


By Gary M. Kramer–

At the Berlin and Beyond Film Festival, taking place March 11-16 in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Berkeley, moviegoers will have the opportunity to see filmmaker Monika Treut Kind, a sequel to his 1999 documentary Gendernauts: a journey through changing identities. The film will be screened at noon on March 13 at the Castro Theater.

This new film revives several – but unfortunately not all – of the subjects of the first documentary. Here Treut interviews Annie Sprinkle (and his wife Beth Stephens), Stafford, Susan Stryker, Max Wolf Valerio and Sandy Stone.

Here, the focus is less on establishing gender identity and more on how the subjects have lived in the world with their trans and genderfluid identities over the past two decades. Some of the sightings are gratifying, such as when Stafford says people who know him well from having worked with him are surprised when he reveals he is transgender. Others, like Susan Stryker, who has made critical breakthroughs in academia with transgender studies, show how far the discipline has come during a scene from her presentation at the National Women’s Studies Association conference. .

Kind is particularly sensitive to how San Francisco has changed over the past two decades. There are multiple discussions among multiple interviewees about how the tech boom has crushed the arts, raised the cost of living, and gentrified neighborhoods. It’s certainly not new to anyone living in the Bay Area, but the nostalgia participants feel for the past when San Francisco was an exciting scene for trans and non-binary people and artists is palpable.

Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens attempt to continue the effort of staging “ecosexual” events, and the film features scenes where they literally commune with nature. An episode of the couple looking through bins of costumes from past art events is lovely.

Some viewers might wish to see more contrast between the subject matter then and now, to illustrate the changes that have taken place in the years since. Treut includes some images, but for those unfamiliar with the individuals featured in Kindit may seem like a downside to have a learning curve.

There is also an imbalance regarding interviews. Max Wolf Valerio gets minimal screen time here, which is disappointing. The author of testosterone files is an engaging presence and only appears in the first part of the film before fading away entirely. Also, no people of color are depicted in this sequel.

Sandy Stone, who narrated the first film, probably has too much exposure. During an interview, she is interrupted by a phone call from her ex, Darcy, a real estate agent confirming that her purchase of a house has gone through. It may be a significant moment, but it’s not very illuminating. She also tells a long story about how she met Cynbe online and how after a long process of emailing and eventually meeting, they became lovers, partners and married.

The story is interesting when it comes to how transgender Stone found herself attracted to a man after having sex with women. And her observations of gender fluidity and identity are detailed in a photograph of her extended family, where she recounts each one’s bond to finally arrive at a statement that this is a “normal” American family.

The point about the normalization of the trans experience is salient, but it’s made much more succinctly as Stafford creates a desert community and appreciates that it’s not exclusively LGBTQ. While he and others are concerned that the Trump administration is rolling back the rights of the transgender community to health care, military service and toilet bills, the world is much more tolerant than it seems. was when these subjects made the transition years ago.

Kind is also notable for featuring older trans people who have survived and thrived, and who have formed loving, stable, long-term relationships. (Annie and Beth have been together for 15 years; Susan and her partner Mimi have been together for over 23 years.) They care about preserving a legacy and making the world a better place, not just for trans people, but for everyone. . Whether Annie and Beth speak at groups on global warming or Susan speaks at a trans studies politics conference, they’re productive and disruptive, much like they were when they first started their activism. .

Treut’s film offers a sufficiently interesting portrayal of its subjects that its flaws are forgivable. The opportunity to see what happened to a handful of members of San Francisco’s pioneering transgender community is invaluable, even if it may leave viewers wanting more.

For tickets and more information, visit Berlin Film Festival and Beyond

© 2022 Gary M. Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is the author of Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews and co-editor of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

Posted on March 10, 2022

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