A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Just Gender is a documentary about transgender people and the struggles they face to be accepted by both society in general and the LGBTQ community. There are some emotional interviews with transgender individuals who share upsetting stories about discrimination and abuse, but there are also some upbeat stories about supportive parents and spouses. Although there's occasional strong language (typically in the form of interviewees talking about slurs they've been called), the documentary is educational and sheds a light on a group that's often ignored or misunderstood.
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What's the story?
JUST GENDER, as the title cleverly indicates, is about both the transgender community's need for equal rights and members' desire to help others understand that "just" because they want to change or challenge society's two-gender paradigm doesn't make them any less human. Narrated by stage and screen star Bebe Neuwirth, the documentary offers in-depth interviews with transgender individuals, as well as social workers, psychiatrists, neurologists, and historians who explore the history of transgender individuals' struggle to be who they want to be, even if it means that their biological gender and their chosen gender don't "match." The interviews provide both personal histories and expert testimony on how the "T" in the LGBTQ community is statistically the most discriminated against and misunderstood.
Is it any good?
Director George Zuker's stirring documentary explores what the film calls the new civil rights frontier. As the film points out, the transgender population is a diverse one, and it's a mistake to assume that all of them are on their way to surgically altering their bodies to officially switch genders. That's not how it works for most trans individuals; the issue at hand, they say, is about coming to terms with their self identity without fear of societal rejection and prejudice. The individuals interviewed included an Chinese-American woman (born a man) who recalls her father saying that he'd rather have a convict for a son than a son who wanted to be a woman, an African-American male-to-female who details life as a call girl after her mother threw her out of the house, and a woman who was able to stay in a formerly heterosexual marriage to a woman after transitioning from male to female.
The interviews tell both hopeful and heartbreaking tales about life for transgender individuals, who are more likely to consider and commit suicide than others who identify as LGBTQ. But as sad as many of the fllm's anecdotes are, Zucker also imbues the documentary with a focus on moments of acceptance, like the spouses who stuck around because they loved their significant other regardless of their gender or parents who came around despite initial misgivings. Regardless of what you think you know about transgender persons, Just Gender will prove how little the majority of the population understands about those who feel trapped in the wrong body.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the nature of documentary films. Does Just Gender have a particular message? Is it a fair and balanced take? Do documentaries need to be objective?
What did you learn about the transgender community that you didn't know before? What's the difference between "gender" and "sexual orientation"?
What is the film's message about transgender individuals and human rights? Why do they consider themselves more marginalized than the rest of the LGBTQ community?
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