TV Review – America in Transition
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
International Transgender Day of Visibility, or Trans Day of Visibility, is March 31st. Rachel Crandall Crocker of Michigan founded the day. Crocker is a licensed psychotherapist, LMSW, who has consulted for corporations, universities and government agencies. She runs the Transgender Michigan help line, the first transgender help line in the United States. Trans Day of Visibility is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by trans people worldwide. The Trans Student Educational Resources spearheads the day, which was first celebrated in 2009. This March 31st marks the 10th anniversary of Trans Day, and ahead of the anniversary, the streaming network Revry is releasing this series of four, incredible and exemplary stories about transgender people of color.
The first episode is about Nina Chaubal and Greta Gustava Martela, two trans-women from Chicago who are the co-founders of Trans Lifeline, the first national crisis hotline for trans people by trans people. The second episode focuses on Dezjorn Ray Gauthier, a trans-man who is a fashion model. The third episode centers on Tiommi Luckett, a trans-woman who is a HIV-positive activist from Arkansas and healthcare advocate. The fourth episode spends time with Z Shane Zaldivar, a trans-man who is a military veteran, former U.S. Marines, living in North Carolina.
Directed by André Pérez, the series not only focuses on trans-people but it specifically focuses on trans-people of color. It’s strange though. Pérez is a trans-person of color himself. He’s Puerto Rican and went through female-to-male transition. However, aside from one story, the majority of what we get in the four accounts is not really endemic to trans-people. Also, aside from one or maybe two stories, the majority of what we get here isn’t even endemic to people of color.
For example, the first episode is less about being transgender. It’s more about the issue of immigration. Being transgender is an added wrinkle, but it could almost be taken out or not mentioned and that wouldn’t change the power of that first episode. The second episode is less about being transgender and more about religiosity and cancer. Yes, it’s about a trans-person coming out to his mom, but that almost feels incidental as the subject could be an occupational change as much as a gender change. The third episode is more about the criminalization of being HIV-positive. Being transgender is again an added wrinkle but the episode is more about the stigma of HIV.
It’s only the fourth episode that really is all about being transgender. It’s about a trans veteran who is discharged from the marines, not for being trans but for being lesbian or what would have been perceived as same-sex attraction under the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. The main thrust is Zaldivar’s protesting of 2016’s House Bill 2 or HB2 in North Carolina, which specifically bans transgender people from single-sex bathrooms that don’t correspond to the sex on their birth certificates.
The thrust though isn’t really about the protest of that transphobic legislation. The episode isn’t about debating or deconstructing it. The episode lingers on just depicting Zaldivar’s family, hanging out with them as they go to the beach, to archery or to church. Unlike the other three episodes, this fourth doesn’t try to make the argument with facts and figures. It instead tries to make the argument by just showing us the humanity and the normalcy of Zaldivar as just a regular person who’s kind and loving and a family man who fishes.
All the episodes and stories are compelling. Luckett’s account in the third episode though is probably the biggest knock-out of them all. Her dilemma is one that I’ve never heard before. It goes beyond being stuck between a rock and a hard place. What Luckett expresses would puzzle even Mariska Hargitay’s character in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, even though that series hasn’t been that great with the issue of HIV criminalization.
Not Rated but for general audiences.
Running Time: 17-24 mins. / 4 eps.
Available March 29th on Revry.
If you’re interested in this series, also check out TransMilitary (2018).