Documentaries, Shows, Films, and Games.
Invisibility of trans men is perpetuated by documentaries like Disclosure (2020), which erased or glossed over many of the documentaries, shows, and films that deserved recognition and critique. This site is an effort to collate media which often goes unmentioned, resulting in generations of loneliness among trans guys.
My primary aim is to review trans male media, and promote the visibility of trans men. However, this site also features transmasculine and AFAB non-binary media.
These reviews are my own opinions only. I have included warnings related to violence, assault, misgendering, and other content that I consider important to forewarn. If you want to avoid spoilers, you can just read the titles. This site features reclaimed slurs, as they are common in gender-diverse media. There are also images of pre-op trans male chests and pregnant trans men. If you have concerns about specific themes, I recommend doing your own research into media before you engage with it.
Some modern butches identify as transmasculine (as seen in this thread and this video) so a few reviews have been written with those transmasc butches in mind. If you are one such butch, I highly recommend the film Pariah for deep insights into stud, butch, AG, and MoC lesbian experiences, which may benefit some questioning visitors to this site. Especially if you're trying to untangle gender feelings as a person of colour.
Man Made (2018)
Trans men of many different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities, and experiences gather for a bodybuilding competition. Man Made doesn't shy away from the realities of being trans, doesn't sugarcoat what it's like to be assigned a gender that you innately can't connect with, but ultimately offers a message of love and acceptance. Everything is discussed: Transitioning, sex, love, work, fitness, family, ethnicity, suicide, depression, euphoria, homelessness, and so much more. Plenty of content warnings apply to this film, but only because the trans director wished to give his interviewees ample chances to share their stories. There is so much wisdom, pride, and complexity in this documentary. WARNING: This documentary includes graphic, uncensored footage of surgery being performed.
Sullivan Interviews (1988-90)
FTM pioneer Lou Sullivan discusses transitioning and fighting for the rights of gay trans people, which was a controversial concept in an age when all trans individuals were expected to be heterosexual. To get some perspective on the work done by previous generations, to fight for the right to self-identify in any way preferred, I would highly recommend giving this series a watch. Thank you to Kasper for reaching out and providing this resource! These interviews are groundbreaking. Hearing Sullivan's voice and story is so important. Trans men are often erased from retellings of trans history, but we've always been here, and we've always made an impact.
I Am Kai (2023)
Kai Clancy, the subject of this documentary short, has long been an advocate for First Nations gender-diverse people. For those of us who have seen his videos in the past, when he was much younger, it is wonderful to witness him as his bearded, older self. This short film opens with the words of Kai’s father. He says, “Kai is a strong First Nation warrior. Wakka Wakka, Wulli Wulli.” He goes on to say, “Amongst our tribe, the wedge-tailed eagle is one of our totems. It means guardian and keeper of the law, for family and language. And Kai does that well. He is a great warrior.” It was so beautiful to hear Kai’s father speaking those words, and to watch as he ceremonially painted Kai. Kai speaks about his relationship with his culture, how his gender is received by his community, his marriage and relationship, and his transition. All in all, a very sweet and sensitive portrayal that I wish was longer!
You Don't Know Dick (1997)
You Don’t Know Dick: The Courageous Hearts of Transsexual Men is a wonderful documentary. It stars trailblazers Jamison Green and Loren Cameron, who have been frequently erased as trans pioneers. I would highly recommend watching it. It features interviews with trans men, discussing all aspects of their lives: Romance, surgery, families, parenthood, aspirations, coming out, mental health, sex, religion, libido, etc. At least one of the men is a bisexual, one of them is gay, and several are straight. The documentary features interviews with family members of the trans men, most of whom are supportive. Unfortunately, you may need an academic login to watch this one.
Finding Kim (2016)
Overall, I really enjoyed this documentary. It's so rare to get this extensive an insight into a mature-aged FTM transition. WARNING: This documentary includes graphic, uncensored footage of surgery being performed. Kim, at the beginning of the documentary, is aged 48. We get to see him starting Testosterone, grappling with coming out, and having top surgery. I am so proud of Kim for showing his pre-op chest, especially considering his dysphoria about its size. Later, we get to see Kim swimming shirtless, post-op, and it's such a beautiful moment. Dr. Tony Mangubat, who performed Kim's surgery, is an Asian man. In a very beautiful (but sad) interview, he compared discrimination against trans people to his experience of using “coloured” versus “white” water fountains. I loved seeing his empathy on display. There is some misinformation from gay journalist Dan Savage about phalloplasty and the ability to orgasm, namely that female-to-male bottom surgery options are inherently inferior and unsuccessful. It's worth noting that his opinions are outdated and incorrect. Savage also offers a perspective on coming out which doesn’t take into account abusive families who put trans people in genuinely unsafe (and deadly) situations. He also places the onus on trans people to answer all questions from cis people, even “the average Jo Blow on the street”. I reject that onus, thank you Mr. Savage. Jamison Green (an FTM pioneer) offers a more considered view of coming out to parents and family, and has a beautiful conversation with Kim. Green's interviews are far more valuable, in my opinion, than what Savage has to offer. It's worth noting that Buck Angel is interviewed in this documentary. I stopped following Angel's career a while back, as an FTM transsexual myself, because I found his confrontational and aggressive manner quite anxiety-inducing. However, in this documentary, he is very calm and relatable. He doesn't say anything confrontational at all, and describes feeling positively about the direction that the trans community is heading; having a “glass half full” attitude about the trans movement (an outlook which has clearly changed). He discusses his own experiences with top surgery and choosing not to have bottom surgery, which is definitely valuable. Any negative commentary you might associate with Angel isn't included in Finding Kim, so I still highly recommend this film. One comment I will make is that not all trans men, contrary to some of Kim's comments, hate our chests. Not all trans men want surgery, even some trans men with bigger chests. And that is totally okay. One other comment... Kim says that he was inspired by Stone Butch Blues, which is wonderful in itself, but he does label it an FTM book. I would say that's a misinterpretation of who Jess Goldberg is.
Then and Now (2015)
This is a heartbreaking and lovely look into the lives of two older trans men, named Dale and Andrew. It's an extended interview, not a full documentary, but it's worth so much nonetheless. Dale describes coming out in the late 60s and 70s, and then being confined to a corrective institute by his parents. He was there until he was eighteen, interspersed with periods of homelessness. At the institute, he was forced to wear dresses and would be inspected to ensure he wasn’t wearing shorts below the dresses. If he was found to be wearing shorts, they would be forcibly removed. He was given estrogen to ‘fix’ his male gender identity. Dale also discusses trans male invisibility. When he was trying to transition, the local medical opinion was that the so-called “gender-dysphoria gene" was on the Y chromosome and, according to him, “we spent a lot of time in the eighties waiting for that to change” so that trans men could even be believed to exist. In the modern day, he talks about being refused medical care and being abused in medical settings. Andrew describes being deprived of food by medical staff in 2014, on the basis of his gender identity. These men’s experiences are an important, crucial reminder that trans men are vulnerable to abuse and discrimination. Especially as we get older, another topic discussed by Dale and Andrew, relating to receiving aged care. Andrew, a younger man, insists to Dale that he won’t allow Dale to be put into an aged-care home.
Twiz & Tuck (2017)
This bonkers series is six episodes long. It follows best friends Twiz and Tuck as they embark on a chaotic, unpredictable, roadtrip. Twiz is a masculine gender-variant person with Tourette's syndrome. Tuck is a trans man with a past career in adult films, who loves adopting dogs. The series oscillates between crass, explicit jokes and activities, and softer, more meditative scenes. They talk about finding family beyond your biological relatives, affirming yourself through surgery, and being in the grey area between (and outside of) male and female. This documentary really allows the personalities of the interviewees to shine through, and is the furthest thing you can imagine from the sanitised, one-dimensional, stereotypical depictions of transmasculinity that movies like 3 Generations offer. The final episode includes some heartbreaking moments, particularly when Twiz discusses his father's transphobia and hostility.
From Daddy's Tummy (2015)
This is an amazing documentary about an Australian man who postponed his hormonal transition in order to carry his own child. I would really recommend watching, and (surprisingly) this film didn’t trigger my dysphoria at all. I could never do what AJ did, but I admire him so very much for his commitment to being a father.
Venus Boyz (2002)
This documentary features drag kings of all kinds. Some are women who do drag for political/social reasons, rather than being motivated by gender. One is a self-described butch who also identifies as trans, recounting a childhood where he identified as a boy, empathising with Brandon Teena and describing similar experiences of small town violence. One mixed-race trans king describes a queer upbringing, with a crossdressing bisexual father and a lesbian mother, and meditates on the complexities of gender and ethnicity and class. I really enjoyed interviews with Mildred/Dréd, a black king who offered a rare and very nuanced look into her life and identity. One king's daughter criticises her mother's portrayal of men, and takes issue with stereotyping of men as inherently aggressive and bad. Many viewers may feel similarly about some aspects of the kings' routines. Regardless, this documentary is valuable. People of all ethnicities, backgrounds, sexualities, and genders are interviewed, including a non-binary person who is transitioning on Testosterone, and trans men who have affirmed themselves medically. Trans guys are shown using STPs, discussing intimate transition experiences, and displaying bottom growth images. This definitely isn’t a documentary which prioritises trans men such as myself. As a female-to-male transsexual who feels utterly disconnected from his assigned sex, I don’t see myself in most of the interviewees. But I love witnessing the diversity which has always existed in female-born masculine spaces and, while I didn't agree with some of the views expressed, I'm glad I bought the film. WARNING: Includes seriously unsafe chest binding with duct tape and bandages.
Don't be fooled- this isn't just a documentary about clothing! It's about so much more than that. Filmmakers take the time to interview a range of trans people, who have different identities and are at varying stages of their transitions. Family life, transitioning, employment difficulties, gender dysphoria, and a huge range of subjects are discussed. The majority of the interviewees are transgender men and transmasculine people. Mental health, suicidal ideation, and bigotry are discussed, but nothing graphic or too confronting; just people sharing their life stories and struggles. One interviewee reclaims the f-slur, so if that will be upsetting for you, be prepared for that. A trans man is filmed as he goes in for his hysterectomy, and is interviewed while sitting in his hospital bed. Fair warning, he uses potentially dysphoria-inducing anatomical terms for his organs and genitalia. Overall, I'd say this is a pretty positive and diverse film! And I liked that the documentary concluded with praise and adoration of masculinity. That's shockingly rare in LGBT+ discourse, lately. It was nice to watch something which reminded me that being masculine is wonderful.
This film is shockingly refreshing in its depiction of a cis mother’s relationship with her trans son, Vincent. This is another documentary (partly) about the military but I found it easier to watch, probably because there is less focus on the military itself as the film goes on. I was surprised and delighted, actually, by how involved Vincent’s mother was with his journey. The only point of conflict that was ever discussed was an assumption Vincent had made, when he was a teenager, that he had been born intersex and had secretly been operated on by his parents. With no information about being transgender and in response to gender dysphoria, he built up that fiction in his mind as an explanation of why he felt like a boy, but had to live as a girl. Due to that, he carried a lot of resentment. In retelling the story, he apologises for the resentment he had, and his mother laughs and says that she understands. It’s clear they’ve moved past that difficult time of non-communication. He shows his mother STPs, packers, and prosthetics that he uses, and explains to her the ways in which he has sex. It’s a very open and honest dialogue, one that very few people (cis or trans) have with their parents. It didn’t seem unnatural or forced in the slightest. In fact, very natural and lovely. Vincent’s relationship with his grandmother is also very positive. Vincent’s best friend, another trans man, is also interviewed. He provides insight into life, as a parent who has given birth to three children, and how that impacted his dysphoria and gender certainty. I would definitely recommend this documentary. One caveat, though, is that it’s a very binary perspective on transitioning. This does not bother me in the slightest, in terms of my own personal journey. I empathised with almost everything that Vincent said, particularly his comment that the goal of transitioning is to pass. For me, yes, that was (and is) true. But that is not the case for everybody, so be prepared if you are a trans person for whom passing is not the goal, or even achievable. That said, I still feel that this documentary matters, for those of us with similar journeys to Vincent. WARNING: There is unsafe binding in this film (Vincent binds while lifting weights and exerting himself).
Change in the Family (2017)
This documentary is pretty tough to watch, because unaccepting cis family members are allowed long monologues that involve misgendering Zo and using his deadname. That said, their perspectives are balanced out by scenes where Zo talks about what he went through, and is currently going through (good and bad). The film feels messy, upsetting, difficult, and complicated in a way that is very authentic to the early-transition stages. I wouldn’t call it a cautionary tale, in the typical sense of the term, but it is a very unvarnished look at the ways a family can react when a trans man begins his journey. Ultimately, the documentary ends on a positive note, and you’re not left feeling depressed or hopeless. I almost view the film as gentle warning to early/pre-transition guys, who might not know what to expect from their family members, and may not be able to see beyond conflict to the more accepting feelings that cis people might struggle to express. If you're in the mood for a sweeter, more comforting look at the early-transition period, I'd suggest watching Krow's TRANSformation instead. (Krow's mother mourns privately, while also actively supporting her son.) That being said, I'm always in support of films that show the journeys of trans men of colour, and that's what Change in the Family is.
Our Baby (2020)
Our Baby: A Modern Miracle (2020) follows Jake and Hannah Graf, a trans man and trans woman in a heterosexual marriage. They conceive a child with the help of a surrogate, all the while dealing with lockdowns and the pressure of publicity. Overall, this is a good documentary, but not quite what I expected. I was disappointed by some of Jake Graf’s comments. While discussing pregnancy and surrogacy, he says, "there's nothing men can do that's similar [to] carrying someone's baby for nine months", aside from "wanking into a cup", referencing the donation of sperm. In saying this, he completely disregarded and erased the trans men who do, in fact, choose to become pregnant. I found these cisnormative comments quite bizarre, especially considering the fact that Jake's own frozen reproductive material was used in the surrogacy process, and surely his long career as an activist has educated him about FTM experiences different to his own. Just because he found pregnancy utterly incompatible with his maleness doesn't mean all trans men feel similarly. As he was in conversation with a cis woman when he made such cisnormative comments, I did wonder whether he'd have said such a thing when exclusively in the company of trans people. Either way, I found it disappointing. But maybe I'm misinterpreting without conversational context, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. This isn't the most moving documentary I've ever watched, but it was good. Many aspects of Jake and Hannah's relationship, and their separate lives, are discussed. Jake's struggles with alcohol addiction, family dysfunction, and gender dysphoria are explored. Hannah's father is interviewed, tearing up as he describes being proud of his trans daughter. Jake and Hannah, while filming the documentary and waiting for their surrogate to give birth, go public with their journey and do a news interview. Following this, transphobic social media comments are read out by Hannah, so you should prepare for that. I feel that there should've been more footage of the surrogate herself, and the pregnancy actually occurring. I got the sense, just from watching, that the film crew had been prevented from getting all of the pregnancy-related content they'd desired, due to COVID restrictions. I really wanted to hear the surrogate's feelings about carrying a baby for a trans man and a trans woman, and to get a deeper look at the process of birth. But, much like the Graf couple themselves, viewers are locked out of that process by the pandemic. Even if the birth was never going to be captured on camera (I can definitely understand if the surrogate felt some reluctance in that department), I think the baby could've been more of a focus. This documentary may be more fulfilling for trans women than trans men, as Hannah's anxieties about motherhood are explored more than Jake's feelings. But, even then, we don't get to see how Hannah fares in the raising of her daughter, and whether these anxieties go away. This feels like an unfinished film, if that makes sense.
Passing: Profiling the Lives of Young Transmen of Color (2015) features interviews with three men. They discuss invisibility, transitioning, sexuality, relationships, and feeling erased within LGBT+ spaces. It is an absolutely wonderful short documentary that I highly recommend watching. Everybody should connect with the insights that these men can offer, no matter your gender or sexuality or ethnicity. Trans men are historically (and currently) very erased, and this is especially an issue for trans men of colour. This documentary is an efficient and eloquent way to push back against that erasure, and dismantle limited rhetoric about what being trans looks like, and who has a voice in trans spaces. Trans men of colour, and all trans men, deserve to take up space and be listened to.
Shinjuku Boys (1995)
This documentary follows three Japanese people, one of them a hormonally transitioning trans man, as they work in an LGBT bar. Gender identity, sexuality, and complicated relationships to gender roles are discussed in honest, unflinching interviews. All three interviewees identify as "onabe", which is a term that not every Japanese trans man is comfortable with (so do your research before using it to refer to others). Shinjuku Boys is a wonderful film that, while sad at many points, is an enriching insight into a unique trans culture. I highly recommend it. This is a part of FTM history that should be more widely appreciated. Partly because the documentary is translated into English, and partly because of cultural differences, Shinjuku Boys presents a beautifully complex portrait of the participants in this documentary. A complexity that is lacking among many Western documentaries. Kumi, a trans woman and drag queen who goes by she/her, is a partner of Kazuki, one of the onabe-identifying guys who are central to the film. She explains their relationship by saying, “He’s a woman who likes women, I’m a man who likes men, so we understand each other.” A simplistic, Western interpretation might view such a statement as ‘misgendering’, but that would do a disservice to the unique glimpse into Japanese gender variance we’re afforded by this wonderful documentary. Gaish, one of the main interviewees, describes feeling trapped by his cultural reality, saying that an ex-girlfriend of his would’ve been “an outcast” if she’d committed to living her life alongside him. “It was better for her to marry and lead a normal life,” he says, “rather than be with me. That’s what I thought. So we split up.” He goes on to explain that this experience has permanently impacted him; “By law, I’m alone. If I think about that, where’s the fun in living? If I think about it, I wish I’d never been born.” The whole documentary isn’t as heartbreaking as that scene, with Tatsu (a hormonally-transitioning man) describing a much happier romantic situation, but it’s important to acknowledge the intimacy and vulnerability we’re afforded in the more sobering moments of Shinjuku Boys. The worth of this documentary cannot be overstated. WARNING: Includes the use of unsafe chest binders.
Southern Comfort (2001)
Robert Eads was a transsexual man who died of ovarian cancer, after being denied cancer treatment by transphobic doctors. This documentary follows him in his final year of life, and is both heartbreaking and beautiful in its honesty. Robert’s friends and partner are all interviewed, along with his parents and other members of the community, making this a valuable snapshot of an important moment in FTM history. Relationships, sex, transitioning, parenthood, and family are all explored. The DVD has an extra interview where Eads clarifies that he wasn't allowed to attend a trans medical centre because he was a trans man. Specifically, his male appearance would "embarrass" the trans women in attendance. Despite the fact that he had cancer and desperately needed care, he was not welcome because trans men were considered too rare and unsightly to warrant inclusion. This example of FTM-specific discrimination is usually left out when people discuss Eads' death. A note regarding the interviewees' views on bottom surgery: options have improved a great deal since Southern Comfort was filmed, and many trans men have undergone satisfactory operations.
Girl Who Became A Man (1937)
Peter Alexander, interviewed in Sydney, speaks of his transition from female to male. He discusses the aspects of his personality which influenced his decision, his view of women in society, and his plans for the future. Remember- trans men have always existed, and we deserve to be included in trans histories!
Sexing the Transman (2011)
In this documentary, trans men of many different backgrounds are interviewed, including mixed-race men, black men, gay men, straight men, etc. The main topic of conversation is sex, including how interviewees' orientations have evolved alongside their bodies. It is absolutely an explicit documentary, and uncensored footage of trans men having sex is shown. This is a Buck Angel production. Though this documentary preceded his more combatative and aggressive views, Angel still labels the term "cisgender" as being somehow "politically correct" (whatever that means), and confronts an FTM interviewee about the use of such language, which I found uncomfortable and quite ridiculous. This documentary is definitely outdated, too, when it comes to discussions of bottom surgery and how functional genitals are after such procedures. As a female-to-male transsexual who is very intimidated by Buck Angel and the way he engages with people, I absolutely understand why many people wouldn't want to watch this documentary. He's said many things that I do not agree with, especially recently. However, there were some awesome interviews in Sexing the Transman that are really revolutionary, especially for 2011. Notably awesome, for me personally, were interviews with two trans men (Sean and Dan) in an ethically non-monogamous relationship. It was really cool to witness the pair's sexual energy and romance, and to see a t4t relationship that included a plus-size bear and a bloke who was pre/non top surgery. Overall, the production quality is not great, and the editing is very poor. But I can see how this may have transformed the lives of trans men who watched it in 2011. Nowadays, if you would like to access inclusive, high-quality, trans-positive adult films with racially diverse performers, I'd rather recommend Crash Pad Series episodes instead. That'd probably be a better use of your money. I've included a link to their site below.
No Ordinary Man (2020)
Rather than a straightforward documentary about a historical figure, much of No Ordinary Man features auditions where trans guys read a script and put themselves forward as candidates for the role of Billy Tipton. It's not clear whether this hypothetical film will actually be made. No Ordinary Man tries to walk the line between this odd premise and a genuinely insightful commentary on transmasculinity and trans manhood. Much of the time it succeeds, although I think it's somewhat bogged down by the strange approach it took. I found it weird that many of the guys auditioning to play Tipton did not look like him in the slightest. But I think the inclusion of drastically different trans guys is more of a statement about FTM diversity than accurately portraying Tipton. All that being said, this is a film that features heaps of trans guys at many different stages of their transitions. It is unparalleled in terms of what it offers for our community. Marquise Vilson, Amos Mac, Scott Turner Schofield, Jamison Green, and Ryan Cassata are among the cast. Billy Tipton Jr. is interviewed, and he is very affirming of his father's identity. One thing is for certain; if filmmakers say they can't find trans male actors, No Ordinary Man is evidence that they just didn't try!
Krow's TRANSformation (2019)
This one is sweet, genuine, and lovely. Krow Kian, a male model, documents his journey and his modelling career pre-transition and post-transition. His friends are also interviewed, and they share their own stories. Suicide, self-harm, dysphoria, and other struggles are addressed, but through the lens of a happy ending. Family members interviewed are supportive, and viewers get to see progress beyond early-transition turbulence. I'd definitely recommend this documentary to early-transition men, and to their families. Many steps are shown. Coming out, starting Testosterone, having a mastectomy, having a uterectomy, getting married, etc. I really liked an interview Krow's mother gave, referencing an emotional moment that she had while her son was having surgery. She says, "I sat down, poured myself a drink, and said goodbye to my daughter. Then I poured myself another drink, and said hello to my son." I liked that the mother's grief didn't affect her support for Krow, and that she outwardly advocated for him and supported his decisions, while also nursing her own complex feelings. The concept of grieving your child while they're still alive is a tricky one, because it's so often used as a weapon against trans people, to prevent us from transitioning and make us feel guilty for identities we can't control. That isn't what happens in this documentary. What Krow's mother shows, in a moment of profound maturity, is that it's possible to support and love your child while also commemorating who they used to be. She shows that a sense of loss doesn't mean you've actually lost your child, and you can still be there for them. I liked that this film made space for that nuance, all the while showing Krow being loved, supported, and defended by his mother.
Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth is very beautiful and is wonderfully filmed, if a little slow-paced for my taste. It is a unique and very special look into the journey of a trans man who chose to carry his own child. I would personally recommend From Daddy's Tummy over Seahorse, but it's still an important and touching production.
Coby is about trans manhood, and features extensive interviews with a now-deceased trans man (Jacob), his partner, and his family. The film alternates between modern, feature film-quality footage of himself in his daily life, and archives of video diaries that he took throughout his transition. Viewers get to see him in his youth, with a higher voice and a smaller body, and his subsequent boyhood as he began to grow facial hair and change into a man. I’d definitely recommend this documentary to other trans men, and to families who are trying to adjust. His mother's transphobia was difficult to watch, but very realistic to what many of us face from our own mothers. My hope would be that transphobic mothers might pause before rejecting or attacking their own trans sons, if they see the impact Jacob's mother had on him. Christian Sonderegger, Jacob's brother, directed this documentary, and would later co-write the film A Good Man (2020), with characters based on Jacob's own transition and journey. Having watched A Good Man and absolutely hated it, that does cast this documentary in a slightly odd light, but it's still good in isolation. Especially considering the fact that Jacob has since passed away. It's a gift that we get to see his life in such detail.
This is a good documentary, and I say that as someone who has deeply negative relationship with the army. TransMilitary captures a key moment in history, and a struggle to defend the professional and personal worth of trans people who are discriminated against for no justifiable reason. If you believe in the mission of the military, you will likely be more moved by this documentary than I was, but even I was emotionally affected by the interviewees' struggles and victories. I am very glad this documentary exists, and I recognise its value. Beyond the reasons I struggled to watch this documentary, there are scenes which are undeniably beautiful. A trans man's deeply faithful mother describes seeking out a religious leader within her community and begging for guidance, and being told to love and cherish her son by that same religious leader. A trans woman's colleague defends her and recognises her plight. Senior officials take trans people's struggles seriously. Allies appear where they aren't expected. Cis friends passionately reject the oft-repeated cynicism about trans genitals, declaring that they don't need to see a woman's vagina to know that she's "really" a woman. A trans woman's wife tells the story of their relationship, and how they stayed together. Whether the military is good or not... that's an entirely different matter, I suppose.
One thing that deeply disappointed me about Gendernauts: A Journey Through Shifting Identities was a discussion about Brandon Teena, wherein a gender-variant person claimed that they couldn't know how Brandon Teena identified, because he was dead and therefore couldn't be asked. This betrayed a willing ignorance of Brandon's identity, and a determination to ignore his own words. In The Brandon Teena Story (a deeply-distressing documentary released one year before Gendernauts), several interviewees insisted that Brandon identified and lived as a man, and wished only to be known as a male. One of Brandon’s ex-girlfriends, when interviewed, said, “he just wanted everybody to know him as always having being a man”. Another of his ex-girlfriends described him rejecting the idea that his relationships were lesbian, insisting instead that they were straight, because he was a man. Brandon, according to testimonies, would say that he had begun sex change surgeries, to make people believe in the legitimacy of his male identity. Therefore, I was disappointed that a gender-variant person in Gendernauts made an art project speculating about Brandon’s gender. It felt invasive, much in the same way that cis people refused to take Brandon’s maleness at face value. The motive seemed to be to use Brandon, in death, as a platform to project the artist’s own non-binary experience, rather than respecting his binary maleness. That said, I do somewhat recognise the value in Gendernauts. I enjoyed the interviews with trans men, ally doctors, and an intersex non-binary person who was particularly articulate and expressive. One of the interviewees I was most impressed by was a woman of colour, named Chrystal Weston, who worked for the DA’s Office as an advocate for LGBT people. I really liked that her education about transgender people included, in her words, transsexuals, transvestites, and both pre-op and post-op individuals. A very progressive understanding for the time. This documentary definitely gave me mixed feelings. I didn’t like that a trans female interviewee compared all trans people to cyborgs, as part of the “genderfuckery” theme underlying the whole film. I found it dehumanusing and invalidating of my own binary male identity. Plus, one of the interviewees (a cis woman) shamelessly misgendered a trans man. Her key reason for doing so was that he still had a vagina. Overall, this film is not for binary trans men. The disrespect shown to Brandon Teena is enough to make that clear. I found many of the non-binary interviewees genuinely interesting, but that interest wasn't enough to compensate for the way my own identity was treated.
Girlz to MEN (2019)
Despite the poor production quality, these are some worthy and insightful interviews with three black trans men. However, one of the interviewees (Chevy) makes some very questionable comments which warrant deeper discussion. The positive things, first... I really liked Chevy’s response when asked if he identified as a man or as a trans man. He said, if he had to choose between society’s labels for him, he would just choose man. I feel the same way, so I enjoyed this comment. Gino had the same response and also added, “I don’t think anything can singlehandedly define a man. Or masculinity. We are what we know we are. We are what we speak.” I really loved that. I would say that Gino's interviews were my favourite, including a beautiful, considered response to a question about God and whether transitioning is right or wrong. I appreciated Jaye’s discussion about how his needs changed as he transitioned, and the consequences of being outed. When he was still received in society as a stud, he needed his girlfriend to tell her family that he was actually a trans man, but once he was passing as a man, he needed girlfriends to respect his privacy and not out him. Now, the negative stuff... Chevy, after asserting that his journey had been made harder by "fad" trans men who were only transitioning because it "looked good", revealed to the interviewers that he binds with duct tape. This, he said, makes him a "real" trans man, compared to men who don't go to such unsafe lengths. He even said that men who use binders or elastic bandages aren't as "real" as he is. By the logic that he offers in this documentary, another of the interviewees isn’t a “real” trans man because he has an unbound chest beneath his clothes. Any documentary that promotes duct tape chest binding, or even bandage binding, is dangerous. I worry about newly-exploring trans men, or even gender non-conforming women and non-binary people, who might be influenced by Chevy's comments. Binding unsafely, and potentially cracking your ribs, doesn't make you any more "real" than trans men who choose not to do that. I chose not to do that to mysef, pre-surgery, after being seriously harmed by that practice. I didn't become any less "real" by making that choice. Chevy's experience is what it is. It is good that he had the opportunity to speak authentically about his journey. But this documentary presented duct tape chest binding with no warnings, no disclaimers, and certainly no concern for vulnerable viewers.
Watched. Review pending. I have a lot of complicated feelings about certain interviews and scenes in this film. Warnings aplenty. There are some great interviews with Masen Davis and Jamison Green, two FTM pioneers, and I liked excerpts of a speech that Zander Keig gave as part of his Phalloplasty educational talk. I wish we knew more about Yavante Thomas-Guess, a trans man of colour who is interviewed too.
9-1-1: Lone Star
Brian Michael Smith made history when he became the first out, black trans man in a series regular role on a national television series. I really like how this show handles trans representation, how his character is depicted, and how strong he is. It’s absolutely wonderful to see myself represented by Paul (Smith’s character). I would highly recommend 9-1-1: Lone Star as a refreshingly progressive (and inclusive) procedural firefighter show. I'm so glad this series exists! Paul's struggles with dating, transphobia, disclosure, and family acceptance are thoughtfully handled. He's a straight trans man who is fully transitioned when the series begins. Overall, the show has a decent number of gore/accident scenes, and the occasional self-harm depiction. Drug addiction and alcoholism is also tackled. Depending where you're located, you should be able to watch this show on a number of different platforms.
Tales of the City (2019)
I barely even know where to start with Tales of the City and its contribution to trans male representation. Jake Rodriguez (a trans man) is played by trans actor Garcia, who does an amazing job of communicating the complexities of transitioning to male whilst still in a relationship with a lesbian. Beyond the stellar acting and being able to see a body like mine onscreen, I think I was struck by Jake's storyline because it brought to mind Jess T Dugan's interview with Mitch, a 55 year-old guy who had remained with his lesbian partner, despite now identifying as a gay man. We get to see Jake exploring sex with men, juggling the new gender roles he's been landed with, and trying to reconcile his love for a woman with everything he's learning about himself. Importantly, the show gives equal time to Margot, Jake's girlfriend. I highly recommend watching Tales of the City for their storyline. It should be available on Netflix.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Theo, who began the series as Susie, is a transgender boy played by trans actor Lachlan Watson. The series itself is a weird mix of juvenile and violent (I'm still not sure what its target audience is), but many young folks will likely relate to depictions of dysphoria, same-gender attraction, and masculinity in an AFAB kid. Theo is pretty savagely beaten at the start of the show, and faces transphobic/lesbophobic bullying which does cease as the series progresses, so prepare for that. In the first episode, Theo is found crying after a sexual assault, and in season 2 he's sexually harassed while trying to use the boy's changing room. He's also targeted with the d-slur. After coming out, he gets a boyfriend who respects his identity and is intimate with him. Their arc is just as cheesy as the rest of the show, but it's pretty lovely nonetheless. Especially for those of us who never got to have such experiences in our youth. It's worth noting that the show features a cis male character who is abandoned to suffer alone after being tortured, leading to a horribly-handled allegory for male rape. He begins abusing alcohol, drugs, and unsafe sex in the wake of his experiences. He is sexually harassed by women who mock his trauma and suggest that he wanted to be abused. If you have experienced victim-blaming or been distressed by the erasure/mockery of male survivors, that storyline may distress you. Proceed with caution. It's a somewhat fun show, but it's not without plentiful flaws... and gore. It touches up againt serious subjects and doesn't always handle them well.
Umbrella Academy (S3 Onwards)
Elliot Page has been extremely public about his transition and, following this, his character on the Umbrella Academy has transitioned as well. Page reportedly had a good experience on set and contributed to the transition plot. I did not enjoy The Umbrella Academy in earlier episodes, so I won't be watching it, but the trans aspect of the show appears to be solid. I feel obligated to mention the reasons I stopped watching the show originally. Not only did a main character (Allison) abuse a man by using mind control to make him love her, it was heavily implied that she had sex with him while he was in this altered state, leading to her becoming pregnant. He was portrayed as the 'bad guy' for holding her accountable, and for protecting himself and their daughter, which I found disgusting. In season 3, Allison escalates to attempting to rape her adopted brother. My personal opinion is that Page's character is not worth the repeated mishandling of sexual abuse storylines. Showrunners have defended Allison's characterisation, saying she ought to be sympathised with because she's in pain. Not an excuse that tends to sell nowadays when male characters attempt to rape women, is it? I'm not inconsistent in my judgement of such characters. The cultural obsession with Breaking Bad passed me by entirely. When I did try to watch it, years after it ended, I found myself unable to continue beyond the S02E01 scene where the protagonist tried to rape his wife, despite her pushing him off and telling him to stop. The broader (lacking) cultural conversation around consent, plus the popularity of the show, caused audiences to disregard the assault when the show originally aired. I see a similar thing happening with The Umbrella Academy. Much of society still doesn't want to believe men can be raped or sexually coerced, especially cis men. So, the writers believe a man being sexually assaulted is okay. It's just a woman expressing her sadness and frustration, right? Just like Walter White did in Breaking Bad. I'll say this... I really doubt the writers would've dared to make Elliot Page's character the target of Allison's unwanted sexual advances, and still asked audiences to sympathise with the predator.
Orphan Black (S02E08)
This show is a science fiction thriller focussed on a group of clones trying to wrestle back independence from their creators. Midway through season 2, a new clone (who is assigned female at birth) is introduced, with facial hair and a deeper voice. His name is Tony Sawicki and he is secure in his male identity, even when confronted with the truth of his conception. I really, really enjoyed this brief representation of FTM experiences. Within one episode, they showed Tony injecting Testosterone, wearing a safe chest binder, and flirting with a cisgender man. Most trans representation comes alongside triggering scenes, and Tony was a refreshing example of casual FTM characterisation. While (ideally) trans actors should be the ones to play trans roles, this was quite a unique situation, as Tony was a clone, and all clones are played by the same actress. So, the actor obviously wasn't going to be trans. Some trans viewers disagree with that take, and believe he should not have been included in the show at all. Each to their own.
The Good Doctor (S04E09)
This episode uses an Autistic character as a vehicle to show what is, and isn't, acceptable to say to trans people. A trans man who is in hospital to have a brain tumour treated is discovered to be pregnant, which complicates the treatment options available to him, and prompts some inappropriate comments by the Autistic protagonist. I did like some aspects of the episode. The trans man is in an established relationship with a gay man, he is played by a trans male actor of colour, he discusses his desire for fatherhood, and the seriousness of his dysphoria is addressed. The Autistic protagonist overcomes offensive views and apologises for invasive comments, which was good. It was very sweet to see Rio (the trans man) say "we're going to be dads" to his partner. Rio's partner initially insists that it's impossible for Rio to be pregnant, because Rio is on Testosterone. This is misinformation, as AFAB people can fall pregnant even while on HRT, so birth control (like condoms) is still recommended.
Golden Girls (S03E07)
Gil Kessler's transition and gender identity is played as a joke. From the beginning of the episode, a main character states that she could tell something was "wrong" with Gil, and this is apparently confirmed when he outs himself as a transsexual, needlessly revealing his birth name to a room of people. He is characterised as wimpy, effeminate, and weak, the implication being that he is neither a real man nor a particularly impressive one. This is an offensive depiction of female-to-male transsexuals.
Dead of Summer
I watched this show purely because I heard there was a trans male character in it, and I wouldn’t repeat the experience. In particular, I was disgusted by the awful depictions of suicide and self-harm. I did enjoy the trans male characterisation in this show, up to a point. The actress did her best to be respectful and portray a trans male well, but the plot turned his gender identity into a sinful secret that he was hiding from those around him, which is an old (and harmful) trope. He spends much of the show being blackmailed for his gender, dealing with his transphobic mother, or being haunted by a ghost of his past self... but he does get a nice gay romance, too.
NOT YET WATCHED. Trans boy Nao Tsurumoto played by actress Aya Ueto. I really recommend watching the video available at via link below, to get more context about why the casting of an actress doesn't necessarily disqualify San-nen B-gumi Kinpachi-sensei from having been very impactful. That said, be prepared for dangerous chest binding and confronting themes, including a sexual assault by Nao's father, and a very graphic self harm scene that's pretty horrifying. Despite that, the video provides a very good summary, and has a timestamp in the description that will allow you to skip the self harm scene.
NOT YET WATCHED. Lachlan Watson plays both Glen and Glenda, non-binary twins that are human versions of a single magical doll, split into two souls. The pair both use they/them pronouns. Watson (who is non-binary) influenced the twins' characterisation very closely behind-the-scenes, encouraging the writers to reject the concepts of masculinity and femininity, labelling them as "outdated". It doesn't sound like characterisation I'll personally relate to, as I consider masculinity a very sacred and diverse concept (among trans men and butches and transmasc people of all kinds), but for TGD individuals that feel similarly to Watson, you may enjoy how they portray the non-binary twins.
Work in Progress
Work in Progress is very sweet and authentic, right down to the casting of main and side characters. A 45 year-old, self-identified "fat, queer dyke" (who also identifies as "not a lesbian") falls in love with a 22 year-old trans man after meeting him at the restaurant where he works. Chris, the trans man, is played by Theo Germaine, a trans actor. The series tackles issues including family conflict, suicide, death, STI stigma, bathroom safety, OCD, and dysphoria, but it's not depressing to watch (for me, anyway). It's one of the most unique shows I've ever seen, and it's very funny! I would not trust many shows or films to portray a romance between a "dyke" and a trans man, without delegitimising and invalidating the manhood of the trans guy involved. As it is, Work in Progress is very respectful and emphasises that Chris is happy to enter into the relationship. Abby sees Chris as a man, and refers to him as such. I really enjoyed Abby and Chris' discussions about sexual preferences, and dysphoria.
Billions (S2 Onwards)
For a full review, see the link below. Taylor Mason, a non-binary main character, very much breaks the mould of an otherwise typical drama show, and is played by a non-binary actor (Asia Kate Dillon). Their adversaries, even when plotting how to take them down, continue to use they/them pronouns. The consensus is generally that Taylor’s business practices and dealings are fair game to criticise, but their gender is not. I really enjoy that aspect of the show, and the fact that Taylor is portrayed as an intelligent, capable person who isn't afraid of conflict. They are misgendered a few times by antagonistic and ignorant characters, and also by their father, who is struggling to accept their gender.
The OA does get points for casting a trans person (Ian Alexander) in a trans male role. Be prepared for a confusing premise, misgendering, deadnaming, and violence if you give it a go. Also, a ridiculous (and inappropriate) scene that implies magical hand-waving can deflect bullets during school shootings. This show is confusing at best and insulting at worst. I stopped watching season 1 when a tortured cis man was forced into sex with a woman. Despite the fact that he was utterly unable to consent, the female protagonist was offended that he'd been unfaithful to her, rather than caring about his trauma. (Victim blaming, much?) The transgender representation was not enough to keep me watching, especially when the plot is so thin and tenuous. The show labels itself as being progressive but doesn't take the sexual assault of men seriously. Go figure.
Y: The Last Man (2021)
In this rebooted series, Elliot Fletcher plays Sam Jordan and Harrison Browne (famous FTM hockey player) briefly plays Silas. Both of these men are trans. The premise of Y: The Last Man is that everyone with a Y chromosome has died. Rather than mimicking the source material and leaving it at the idea that "all men are dead", the reboot clarifies that cis men, trans women, non-binary people, and some intersex people all died, because they had Y chromosomes. Whereas cis women, trans men, some intersex people, and many non-binary people survived. The title of the show references the survival of one final cis man, who did not die when all other cis men did. (He is a main character, and not a particularly compelling one.) Why they chose to retain the title, when he is evidently not the last man left alive in this new trans-inclusive reboot, puzzles me. I didn't like the show for reasons beyond that contradiction, and dropped off after the first two episodes. It wasn't very compelling in terms of acting and writing, but that's just my opinion. I might update this review when I give the show another try.
Faking It (S3)
Overall, I found Faking It so insufferable and poorly-written that I skipped around and exclusively watched Noah's (Elliot Fletcher's) scenes. It's pretty stereotypical, but still good in terms of the representation it offers. All of Noah's dialogue is as cliché and predictable as everything else that every character says, but issues referenced throughout his storyline include homelessness, disclosure, transphobia, and the separation of gender and sexuality. That's worth something, despite the quality of the program. The writers conjure Noah's transphobic brother out of nowhere, in S03E10. He deadnames, misgenders, and insults Noah, then backs off (with unrealistic restraint) when Noah is defended by his cis gay boyfriend. All in all, a cheesy but sweet few episodes.
The Bold and the Beautiful
This show is terribly written, painfully cis-centric, and generous with its heapings of transphobia (mainly directed at a trans female character), but Scott Turner Schofield’s appearances are fun. He's a trans guy playing a gay trans man, which is shockingly progressive for such a piss-poor show. (Again, these reviews are not impartial.) He jokes about storing Testosterone, at the expense of a clueless cis character who has no idea what that means. That gave me a laugh. Anyway, probably give this one a miss? Unless your tastes are drastically different to mine. Which is entirely possible. Lower your expectations and have fun, I suppose.
For various reasons, Shameless is not my cup of tea. Elliot Fletcher plays Trevor, a trans male character who is just as flawed as the rest of the dysfunctional, occasionally abusive cast of characters. I haven’t watched the whole show, so you ought to approach it with caution in lieu of an actual review to guide you, but it does get points for casting a trans man in a trans male role. Trevor sticks around for several seasons and is the love interest of a cis gay man.
The L Word: Generation Q
NOT YET WATCHED. The prequel series to The L Word: Generation Q misrepresented trans men but, by most reports, the modern day rebirth has done a much better job. For starters, two out trans men were cast as trans men, and both of them are men of colour: Brian Michael Smith and Leo Sheng. I really liked Smith in 911 Lone Star, so I can definitely recommend his acting. And Sheng almost made the film Adam bearable (almost), so that's a credit to his acting skills. Daniel Sea, the trans actor who played the original show's trans male character (Max) reportedly returns in Gen Q, as a much more realistic and settled individual.
Our Flag Means Death
NOT YET WATCHED. Our Flag Means Death features a non-binary actor of colour named Vico Ortiz, who plays a non-binary character canonically addressed with they/them pronouns. Plus, the show reportedly employed non-binary writers, and had a very diverse cast in other ways. It's also very funny, according to everyone I've asked. I look forward to watching!
NOT YET WATCHED. Trans boy played by actress Jordan Todosey. This storyline was praised as being very progressive when it originally aired, but I'm pretty confident in saying we've come a long way since then, judging by the character's use of bandages. All of the scenes I've seen are very cliché and one-dimensional. But that could just be the show itself, as it's primarily made for teenagers.
NOT YET WATCHED. Theo Germaine plays James, a trans guy who uses he/him/his pronouns but whose gender is not a plot point. According to the link below, Germaine said in interviews: "He’s just a high school boy who gets to live his life, and the story is about trying to get his friend to win the election." So, it sounds like casual trans representation without any of the drama, which could be very refreshing.
(Also released as a show.) This is arguably the best FTM movie that exists, and it's certainly my favourite. Plus, most crucially, it's actually a good movie. It's watchable beyond the trans themes, well-written and well-acted. Rūrangi does what Unsound fails to: it addresses multiple social issues in one film, and represents multiple minority groups with equal enthusiasm. I liked Unsound, it was fun, but it can't compare to Rūrangi. Particularly because a trans man (Elz Carrad) was cast in the role of a trans man, and there are multiple trans actors who populate the whole film with a realness that Unsound lacks. Beyond that, Māori actors play Māori characters, and average townsfolk are represented by actors who you could easily imagine inhabiting an actual dairy farming community. The film looks, feels, and is authentic. The majority of the cast and crew were trans and the writer, Cole Meyers, is trans. Caz, the protagonist, returns to his hometown to reconnect with his father. It's a tough reunion. His father initially resists acknowledging his son and is bitter about his child's decade-long absence, during which Caz's mother died. The film tackles transphobia, homophobia, suicide, alcohol misuse, and mental illness, so you should be prepared for that. But it's beautiful storytelling, and not at all cheap or voyeuristic. A theme included in this movie that I didn't expect was Caz encountering exhaustion after years of being an out trans activist, finding himself overwhelmed by the young, desperate trans people who rely on him. I've never seen a film capture that particular struggle, and hadn't realised how badly I needed to that affirmation. I loved Caz's chemistry with men onscreen, both with his ex-boyfriend (who is coming to terms with his bisexuality) and another male lover. I also adored his friendship with Anahera, a Māori woman who is either lesbian or bisexual, and coming to terms with her own cultural identity. I can't recommend this film enough. It's amazing. Best of all- there is a happy ending!
This is a sweet coming-of-age film, featuring a young transmasculine actor (Sasha Knight) in the role of a trans boy. It's wonderful, and a recommended watch for anyone who has felt disappointed by mainstream representations of transmasculinity during youth. I wish I had been able to watch this film growing up. I particularly loved the film’s depiction of a cis father who, despite being uneducated about trans people, is desperate to support his son, to the extent that he runs away with Joe when the boy insists on it. He also struggles to manage his bipolar disorder, which is an arc depicted with great sensitivity. Joe, the trans boy, is called the d-slur by a cis boy who harasses him for trying on boy's clothes in a store. Beyond that, there are no scenes of transphobic violence or assault. Joe's mother isn't accepting of her son, and her mindset is very realistic to how many real-life mothers treat their trans sons. One of my favourite scenes in this movie is when Joe simply watches his father, and other adult men, bowling together. He's spellbound and delighted by their masculinity. I adored seeing average-looking, average-bodied men being depicted as the object of a trans boy's fascination and gender euphoria, because I have felt that way too, and it's healthy to see normal bodies adored in an age of perfectly-sculpted celebrities and high standards. It felt like a celebration of typical men, finding the beauty in masculinity. I really cherished that scene.
Jake Graf films
Dusk (2017). This film is the story of an elderly trans man named Chris, who narrates while his life story is played out onscreen. Childhood experiences of bullying, exclusion, and transphobia are followed by a romance with a cis woman named Julie. Unfortunately, Chris and Julie are set upon by a gang of harassers, who sexually harass and brutally beat Julie. Chris is denied admission to the hospital by bigoted nursing staff. Real events from Chris’ life with his partner are compared to how they would’ve played out if he’d been a cis man; his partner’s parents don’t accept him, strangers consider them a threat to children, and their relationship comes under strain. There is ultimately a happy ending, but it’s still a tough watch. Chris binds with bandages, which I didn’t like, but it did make sense considering the historical context. I would’ve appreciated a note from Graf, before or after the film, acknowledging the dangers of bandage binding. Brace (2015). The main character of this short film is Adam, played by Jake Graf himself. After transitioning, he comes out as gay and breaks up with his girlfriend, resulting in homophobic harassment from his father. He meets another trans man, named Rocky (played by cis male actor Harry Rundle), and they begin dating, both unaware that the other man is FTM. The pair face some pretty horrific instances of homophobic abuse, including a beating that leaves Rocky hospitalised, where he is outed as trans to Adam. When Rocky discovers that Adam is trans as well, he gets very angry and ends the relationship due to his own internalised shame and trauma. This is an even harder film to watch than Dusk. I really wish we could get a sequel that features Adam in a happy, contented gay relationship. Headspace (2017). This is a series of scenes showing adult trans people struggling during everyday situations. Laith Ashley, a trans male model, plays a trans man who is afraid of undressing in the men's locker room. Kieran Moloney, a trans male expat, plays a trans man who deals with bathroom inaccessibility. Jake Graf plays a dysphoric trans man trying to access gynaecological services. Listen (2019). Trans youths, including trans boys, deal with bullying and harassment in schooling and domestic situations. Issues including self-harm, dysphoria, mental illness, bathroom inaccessibility, and disordered eating are addressed.
The Conductor (2018)
Scott Turner Schofield (a trans actor) stars as Robin, a trans man who doesn’t have the language to explain his gender, but lives as a man nonetheless. A really beautiful picture of trans male persistence even without any community resources! And a major motion picture that featured a trans male lead, which broke records. I found the main storyine pretty boring, as I was mainly watching for Schofield's appearances, but it's a solid movie nonetheless.
Under My Skin (2020)
This is more of a breakup movie than a romance movie. Denny moves in with Ryan, who assumes them to be a cis woman. Denny, still questioning their gender and not sure who they are, doesn't initially correct him. This sets the pair off on a journey of chaos and domestic conflict that feels almost uncomfortably real. Under My Skin could be a guidebook on how to not act in relationships. It's a mutual mess. Throughout the film, Denny is portrayed by four different non-binary actors; Liv Hewson, Bobbi Salvor Menuez, Chloe Freeman, and Lex Ryan. It's a way to communicate how multi-faceted gender can be, especially during the early-transition phase. I found the result a bit strange, but it's a cool concept and I liked that the movie did something unique. What I didn't like about this film was that Denny binds their chest with bandages, which is undeniably dangerous. I'm really sick of early-transition exploration being used to justify that tired old trope, and I'd hoped this movie would be better than that. Denny has a smartphone and easy access to information about binding. They should've been shown using a safe binder from the outset, skipping bandages altogether. Even when they do move onto a binder, it's a clasp binder, and it looks dangerously similar to the harmful clasp binders available on sites like Amazon. No film, inclusive casting or not, should get away with setting a dangerous example nowadays. Another thing I really didn't like is that Ryan is sexually harassed by his boss with less than 15 minutes left in the film. It was a random scene that was deeply uncomfortable. Then, with less than 6 minutes left, Denny is called "it" by the same creep. Almost as though the filmmakers included Ryan being sexually harassed just to emphasise that people who maliciously misgender trans individuals are unsavoury, which... is a message that really didn't need to be reinforced with a gross harassment scene. It struck me as very unnecessary. All in all, a messy film that not everybody will enjoy, but at least it was something interesting and different! If I'm honest, I wish Liv Hewson had singlehandedly played Denny. Their acting is superb. But I applaud the diversity of including different non-binary actors.
Mein Freund aus Faro (2008)
The protagonist of My Friend From Faro, after meeting a girl, spontaneously decides to go by a male name and he/him/his, and from that point onwards works very hard to live a double life. I believe the character is a butch lesbian, but that's not definitive, because this could easily be a movie about a transmasc person or a trans man too. Regardless, the film is likely relatable for all of those demographics, because Mel/Miguel's gender is never actually labelled. The DVD cover itself features a review from Variety that says, "Imagine Boys Don't Cry with a happy ending... A sweet-natured coming-of-ager." So, the female-to-male themes are certainly present, but with far more ambiguity than the fictional depiction of Brandon Teena's life. The viewer gets to decide whether Mel/Miguel is assuming the male role because (similarly to Stone Butch Blues) it's the only role offered by society which allows her to be her masculine butch self or, like Brandon, he is actually a trans male. Mel/Miguel is very masculine throughout the whole film, shows intense discomfort when putting on a dress, and is fascinated with mimicking male mannerisms. There is an arguably happy ending, as it's implied that the protagonist leaves to live their happiest, most masculine life, but not everyone will enjoy this film. I quite liked it. Towards the end of the movie, Mel/Miguel is pursued by bullies who threaten to undress them to discern their sex, but they fight back and escape. Beyond that, you should prepare for an accidental age gap that many viewers find challenging. Both partners lie about their age, but the issue arises with Jenny's lie, as she claims to be of age when she actually isn't. It's also worth noting that the actress who played Jenny, while she had a good experience on set, was only 15 when she starred alongside the 26 year-old actress who played Mel/Miguel. I'd say that this isn't a film which would be made nowadays, but the same could be said about many apparently-beloved cishet classics like Lolita (1997) and Pretty Baby (1978), both of which are far more perverse than My Friend From Faro. There's no Sally Horner behind My Friend From Faro.
Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Though I related to this movie immensely, I would not advise that anybody watch it. Especially not trans men. But I've included it in this list because it was/is historically important, and I'd rather address it openly than allow trans men to be traumatised by certain scenes it contains. Boys Don't Cry is an unflinching, unforgiving, factually incorrect, whitewashed, graphic depiction of a crime committed against a member of the trans male community. In 1999, it was revolutionary. Nowadays, I would encourage trans men to connect with our history, to deeply research what our people have been through, but the extreme nature of this movie will do nothing more than terrify you. However, I related to this fictional depiction of Brandon Teena on a very deep level. I have rewatched the film's early scenes (before the violence and rape) and enjoyed them. WARNING: There is unsafe binding in this movie.
Two 4 One (2014)
Despite the tacky film poster, which may lead you to assume the movie is making a mockery of trans men’s ability to carry children, this film is actually pretty good. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite (and the acting leaves something to be desired), but it does explore the dilemma of a middle-aged trans man accidentally falling pregnant and having to face the dysphoric choices therein. That’s a first, for a casual comedy! Gavin Crawford, the actor who plays the trans male protagonist, is a cis man. Not ideal, but better than a cis actress... I feel the same way about Two 4 One that many cishet people (I have heard) feel about crappy romcom flicks. Don't expect anything super amazing, but it's fun. There is a happy ending!
Pierrot Lunaire (2014)
This disaster of a production is a mockery of trans male experiences, bodies, and surgeries. It includes mutilation, murder, misgendering, and pathetic depictions of transmasculinity. Don't watch it. It's a waste of your time. The director knows nothing about transmasculinity, except how to portray a cheap (and violent) caricature of it. If he didn't intend to make trans viewers feel alienated and dehumanised by his film, he ought to have avoided making transmasculine people seem like deranged, sexually perverse madwomen.
Girls Lost (2015)
Three friends, one of them a closeted trans boy, discover a magical plant that allows them to switch into different bodies. The two girls seem attracted to the magic because it allows them freedom from misogyny and social pressures. Kim (the third protagonist) expresses a desire to change his body from the beginning of the film, and this desire is affirmed when he gains a penis and a flat chest. In a body that is socially received as male, Kim explores a gay romance between himself and a cis boy. At one point, Kim is asked "are you in love with him, or do you just want to be like him?" That is a struggle that many gay trans men face. If you do want to watch this movie, you need to prepare for misogyny, lesbophobia, gay bashing, attempted rape, and extreme gender dysphoria in response to menstruation. The f-slur is also used by a character struggling with internalised homophobia. I thought this would be a sweet, fantastical coming-of-age movie with trans plotlines, so I was pretty surprised when such heavy themes were introduced. Ultimately, it's implied that Kim is going to commit suicide using a gun, following a previous discussion of firearm suicide.
Princess Cyd (2017)
I really, really enjoyed this film. The protagonist is an initially headstrong, arrogant young woman who is beginning to explore her sexuality, and also growing up as a person. Her aunt could possibly be asexual, though that’s a personal interpretation rather than a definitive fact. The main love interest of Cyd is a gender non-conforming person named Katie, played by non-binary actor Malic White; the director has mentioned that the character would have come out as non-binary after the conclusion of the film, and a small scene commenting on the character’s gender identity is a nice subtle way of indicating this. The film tackles themes around suicide, harassment, violence, and self-harm, but it’s still really enjoyable. And there’s a happy ending! I would say that Katie is relatable for butch lesbians and many transmasculine people overall.
I definitely wouldn't recommend watching this movie. It's insufferable. Every single character is a stereotype. There's an Asian girl with blue streaks dyed through her hair (a film trope that has been widely criticised), a trans man who binds with bandages, a violent jock, a superficial blonde girl, and a young man with a psychiatric disorder whose mutterings and overdramatic outbursts only crop up when convenient for the plot. Germophobia/OCD is handled similarly. Within six minutes, the trans man (Kai) is misgendered and then deadnamed. He's later shown wearing bandages to bind his chest, which made me furious. Any goodwill that this film earned for casting a trans man (Tyler DiChiara) in a trans male role utterly disappeared with the portrayal of such a dangerous act. Filmmakers easily could've shown him wearing a chest binder. Kai is supposed to be pre-everything, which (I imagine) is the justification for having him use bandages, but that doesn't make sense when the actor playing him is very clearly on Testosterone. Kai is cornered by two cis men, who are intent on raping him after clocking him as trans. The sexual harassment and assaulting of trans men is an under-discussed issue in modern trans advocacy, so I suppose I'd have been happy if this film tackled it. But it didn't really tackle it at all, not in a meaningful way. Later, when another character discusses being raped by the head of a psychiatric institution, her trauma is glossed over in a similarly poor way. Relish really isn't worth your time. In terms of general warnings, it includes drug and alcohol use, self harm scars, and painkiller withdrawal. Hardly any good qualities exist to compensate for scenes that might be upsetting.
This is a coming-of-age body horror short film starring Rhys Fehrenbacher (a trans actor) as a trans teenager who struggles with bullying and gender dysphoria. It was a pleasure to see Fehrenbacher onscreen, as the first time I saw him in a film was the movie They (2017), which sacrificed good acting for a poor script and bad directing. Skin was much more interesting, and really allowed Fehrenbacher to take up space. Before watching this, you ought to be aware that Skin includes gore/blood, dead animals, transphobia from antagonistic characters, and sexual harassment from the trans student's fellow pupils. I really liked a conversation between the trans protagonist and their mother, which was gentle and loving. The protagonist's gender and pronouns are never stated outright, so this could easily be a short film about a trans boy or a non-binary youth.
Party Dress (2017)
This is a very sweet, and very short, film about gender non-conformity in youth. A trans boy, played by trans boy Isaiah Stannard, tries to fit in with girls and then realises he would be much happier skating with other boys and young men. Again, very short, but nonetheless affirming and very relatable for trans men such as myself.
NOT YET WATCHED. I haven't been able to find it online. Theo Germaine is the star of this short film. The plot is as follows: Persuaded by a friend to come to the bar and perform, Levi, a transmasculine drag performer, finds himself in a compromising situation when he is outed by another jealous drag queen.
This is a beautiful film, if a little overdramatic. My main complaint is that the directors prioritised deaf representation, and considered a deaf actor very important in a deaf role, but they did not consider a trans actor to be as important in a trans role. I was disappointed to see a trans man portrayed by yet another actress (Yiana Pandelis), especially considering the filmmaker’s claims of diverse casting... in 2020. The FTM character (Finn) is deadnamed twice and misgendered once, but the film overall is not cruel or exploitative. There is a happy, but bittersweet, ending. Depending on your location, you may be able to access Unsound on a number of platforms, as it got quite a bit of attention overseas, especially considering its relatively indie status. As an Australian, I did love seeing Finn packing with FTM DownUnder trunks, a brand which I have also used. And I did like seeing him go through the newly-out stages of transitioning that I also had to contend with. I felt that, instead of falling back on cheap romantic conflict, the film would've been better served properly exploring LGBT+ community barriers that deaf trans people experience as they try to connect with other gender-diverse folks, in spaces which do not cater for a wide range of disabilities and needs. That would've given filmmakers the opportunity to employ trans actors of all kinds, which the main character could've connected with. In the end, this is a relatable FTM movie, but it is undeniably cis-centric. WARNING: This movie includes unsafe binding.
The trans director of Adam tried to cram as many trans actors into this film as he could but, while I appreciate that effort, the diversity of the cast doesn’t compensate for the central premise. In short; a cis guy pretends to be a trans man in order to date a lesbian, to the extent that he uses a prosthetic dick and makes up a fake backstory for himself. The whole time you’re watching this movie, you’re sitting there thinking, what the fuck? Why would anyone lie about that? It’s so baffling and gross that you’re not compelled to watch this trainwreck of a situation culminate in a breakup and inevitable backlash. The whole movie is painfully awkward. Leo Sheng's performance was great, though. Crap or not, I'm glad this movie propelled Sheng (a trans male actor) forward in his career. Plus, he's just... really hot. One thing I really, really hated, was the use of slurs. Main characters cheerfully call a young trans man a “little faggot” behind his back, and a woman uses the “tranny” without checking that a trans man would be okay with that term. It was awful. If people I barely knew, and some that I hadn't even been introduced to, were calling me a faggot, I'd be extremely angry. I sympathise with Ernst (the director) in that he did his best to make this more about trans people than cis people, especially considering how awful the source material (a book) originally was. He did his best to polish a turd, but the result was still a turd.
A Good Man (2020)
For a full review, see the link below. The basic plot of A Good Man is that Benjamin, a trans man, decides to carry a pregnancy because his partner (Aude) cannot. I did not like this film for many reasons beyond the fact that an actress (Noémie Merlant) was cast to play the trans male lead. It starts out alright and goes very quickly downhill. I would not recommend watching it.
A gay trans man played by a trans actor (Pete MacHale) has fun with his boyfriend, and they discuss his gender presentation. This short film has a happy ending. It’s very sweet and light-hearted. I only wish it was the length of a feature film. The trans man has the goal of embracing flamboyant clothing and painted nails, now that his gender dysphoria has been alleviated by top surgery and testosterone. It is apparent in the film that he is versatile; sex is discussed, and viewers see his penile prosthetic.
Romeos follows a young trans man (Lukas) as he discovers his sexuality, and realises that he is attracted to men instead of women. The film doesn't shy away from the many unfortunate realities of transphobia and, in the case of Lukas' gay love interest, internalised homophobia, but I actually love Romeos. It's one of my favourite FTM films, despite being deeply flawed. I won't deny that Romeos is confronting. Both young men are wrestling with their identities, Lukas has to fight off an attempted sexual assault, and slurs are thrown around frequently (ableist, homophobic, and transphobic in nature). But viewers are led to appreciate the solidarity of trans male communities, the selflessness of young men who give advice to their brothers via FTM forums, and the struggles of dysphoric trans men. Romeos is one of the few movies out there that grown trans men can relate to, and I will always appreciate that. Lucas is played by a cis man and, when shown topless, the actor wears very convincing chest prosthetics. While trans actors should play trans characters nowadays, I really appreciated that (back in 2011) a cis man was chosen instead of a cis woman. Lucas is shown using a chest binder, researching phalloplasty options, arguing with higher-ups to try and have his gender respected, injecting testosterone, lifting weights, and navigating cis gay communities while trying to be stealth. Footage and pictures of actual, real-life trans men are included as Lucas does his research, which I liked. There's a happy ending that has moved me to tears on more than one occasion.
This film isn’t necessarily about a trans boy, but you can interpret the protagonist that way, because the movie was deliberately made without labels. Tomboy follows an AFAB child who chooses a new name (Mickaël) and goes by he/him in a new hometown. It is relatable for trans men, transmasc non-binary people, butch lesbians, and many kinds of gender non-conforming people. It’s a very beautiful film. There are confronting scenes, but I’d recommend it regardless. Ultimately, the protagonist is outed against his will, and faces some nasty bullying as a result, as well as aggression from his mother. Under pressure from local kids, Mickaël's girlfriend looks inside his pants to "prove" whether he is male or female. I got through it alright, but you've been warned. The ending, in my opinion, is hopeful rather than a sad ending. We see Mickaël smiling, and we get the impression that he will persevere and eventually flourish.
3 Generations (2015)
Despite leaning heavily on trans tropes and emphasising the “struggle” of cis family members in adjusting to a trans boy’s journey, this film is still very relatable. And the actress cast to play the protagonist, for what it’s worth, approached the role with a great deal of respect (and much more respect than the other actors involved). This is an imperfect film, but not that bad if you manage your expectations and prepare for transphobia. Ray, the protagonist, has to fight off a transphobic bully, but does so successfully. He deals with being misgendered by family members in a similar way to my own experiences. There is a happy ending. At the time 3 Generations was filmed, there wasn't as much society-wide discussion about trans actors playing trans people. That’s one reason, among a handful, that I dislike 3 Generations far less than I hate movies like A Good Man. Make no mistake, 3 Generations is not perfect… or, arguably, even that good. I’ll call it my guilty pleasure and leave it at that. WARNING: There is unsafe binding in this movie.
52 Tuesdays (2013)
This indie film follows a bisexual teenager as she adjusts to her parent coming out as a trans man, and also explores her own identity. It's quite a confronting film, because it very accurately captures Australian bigotry and transphobia, hurtful comments frequently employed as a way to delegitimise James' transition. He is mocked for transitioning later in life and generally treated like shit. Billie, James' daughter, is a precocious, stubborn young woman. She's not meant to be likeable, and while I developed an amount of sympathy for her as a character, I did feel that her hostility distracted from the movie's main plot of acceptance and love. Overall, the film's quality is not spectacular, but you may relate to several scenes that involve the trans main character. Billie, at one stage, punches her trans father in his still-healing chest, post-op. James struggles with alcoholism and depression when he has to discontinue testosterone due to medical issues. There is a happy ending, but boy, James has to go through some awful shit beforehand. WARNING: There is unsafe binding in this movie.
Strange Circus (2005)
For all my criticism of cis-centric films and actresses playing trans men, no films or shows discussed thus far can compare to Strange Circus in terms of horrendously misrepresenting trans men. It's an understatement to say that I would not recommend watching this movie. It portrays probably every upsetting thing you can imagine. Gore? Yep. Child abuse? Yep. Incestuous abuse? Yep. Torture? Yep. Suicidal themes? Yep. Gender-affirming surgeries portrayed as self-mutilation? Yep. This definitely isn't a film for trans men. Unless, I suppose, you're a trans man who is very familiar with Japanese guro/horror culture, and you wouldn't be horrified by what Strange Circus offers. My personal opinion is that this movie is grotesque and awful. But that's the aim. If you're really into horror movies and have a very high tolerance for awful shit, you might even enjoy the campy, exaggerated violence with which the trans male gets his revenge.
Overall, this film isn't nearly as bad as the internet's knee-jerk reaction would suggest, even if I did predict the killer's identity very quickly. Memes comparing it to Morbius, in terms of quality, are unfair. I say that because They/Them tackles some seriously impactful subjects and does so successfully, even if the cheesier scenes do prompt the occasional eye-roll. Potential viewers should be aware that They/Them is set in a conversion camp and the filmmakers, to their credit, did not at all minimise the horrific reality of anti-gay conversion torture. Some of the worst scenes in this movie include the forced outing and misgendering/deadnaming of a trans woman, the electroshock torture of a gay man following him being tricked into sex, and the sexual harassment of a lesbian by a female camp leader. The camp therapist is a cruel and accurate portrayal of transphobic/lesbophobic cishet women who use a twisted combination of anti-lesbian and anti-trans bigotry to insist that AFAB trans people are just deluded lesbians. In an awful so-called therapy session, the therapist uses the d-slur to psychologically torment Jordan, a non-binary person who has been forced to attend the camp by their parents. I've provided a link below to a video review where members of the trans community criticise the film as being very, very bad. Personally, I don't think They/Them is that bad. It's confronting, as it ought to be if LGBT+ conversion therapy is being realistically tackled, and it's cheesy... but I have watched plenty of cishet slasher films that are much worse. As someone who experiences second-hand embarrassment and hates Pink, I had to mute a scene where the LGBT+ camp attendees sing Fucking Perfect and launch into an impromptu dance session. However, I did appreciate the characters' joy and unity, and how much that positivity irritated the camp leader. Given Pink's history of glorifying abuse (the film clip for Please Don't Leave Me is horrific), I wish the filmmakers had chosen a different artist for this moment of cheer. But I know some people love Pink, so whatever. All in all, this movie isn't as bad as the internet led me to believe it would be. However, filmmakers definitely chose the wrong ending, and the dramatic pacing was off.
Predestination is a mind-bending science fiction thriller that features an intersex individual who transitions from female to male. Pre-transition, the character John/Jane mentions feeling trapped in the wrong body, not understanding sex, being confused by female gender roles, and not fitting in with girls. After falling pregnant, he undergoes surgery and socially transitions (for reasons that are dubious but do somewhat make sense in the context of the film). The trans aspect of this film is less about representation than it is science fiction. The character’s intersex traits are central to the film’s plot, for reasons I can’t describe without ruining the entire storyline. The character’s transition is so surreal that it doesn’t trigger any dysphoria for me personally. Some commentary on forced intersex surgeries could possibly be gleaned, but that’s not really what this film is about. If you go into this viewing experience expecting "representation", you might be disappointed. And if you're intersex, particularly an intersex person who has undergone unwanted medical treatments, you likely won't enjoy this film. Prepare for a homophobic slur and misogyny, too.
Brother X (2018)
Brother X is a short film about internalised transphobia, lashing out at others due to inner turmoil, and being in denial. A trans man (played by Elliot Fletcher) is misgendered and deadnamed by his closeted sibling, who secretly presents femininely when in the company of their accepting girlfriend. The shame of their own identity leads them to mock their brother but, after personally encountering transphobic harassment, they at least attempt to have a conversation with him. The film ultimately ends on an unfinished, open note, with no apologies offered for the earlier misgendering/deadnaming. But it’s a good short film that shows how self-hatred can manifest, and that even gender-diverse people can act in toxic ways.
We Forgot to Break Up (2017)
I began watching this short film with expectations of something nice or enjoyable, and I was really shocked by how awful and anxiety-inducing it was. A trans man named Evan (played by trans actor Jesse Todd) reconnects with his past bandmates to announce that he's written a book about his time performing with them. The casting of a trans man in a trans role doesn't really make up for how crap this was to watch. There isn't even a happy ending. You get some horrendous bigotry chucked at you and then, boom, it's over. There was one particular moment I really didn't appreciate (amongst the misgendering and unapologetic transphobia), when a cis woman touched the trans man's chest and asked "is this real?" referencing his post-surgery body. I'm not a fan of women touching men's chests without consent and prior discussion, especially because the reversed gender dynamics are immediately recognised as sexual harassment/assault. Women getting away with that kind of uninvited physical contact, no questions asked, is something that pisses me off. There's a reason that men are held accountable for even briefly touching a woman's chest without consent. Women need to be held to the same standard.
NOT YET WATCHED. I haven't been able to find it online. This film stars Lío Mehiel, a Puerto Rican and Greek trans actor, as a gay trans man. The plot, as described by Sundance, is as follows: Feña, a young trans guy bustling through life in New York City, is afflicted with an incessantly challenging day that resurrects ghosts from his past. Laundromats, subway turnstiles, and airport transfers are the hectic background to this emotional drama that overlaps past, present, and future.
Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)
Cremisius Aclassi, also known as Krem, is a trans man whose inclusion in this game I really appreciated. He discusses packing with socks, affirming himself through a masculine presentation, and his history of struggle. The in-game Qunari culture has a concept called "Aqun-Athlok", which translates to "born as one gender but living like another", and this is a concept that Krem identifies with. His friend, named the Iron Bull, insists that Krem is a "real man", and defends Krem's manhood during dialogue if the player chooses to ask questions. Krem was the first transgender character to appear in a BioWare game, and in my opinion, the outcome is awesome. Especially since the player can ask questions in this fictional context and be met with the insistence that Krem is a real man, which may cause them to hesitate before asking similar questions in real life. Krem is consistently characterised as a guy, and I reckon that's really valuable.
The Last of Us Part II (2020)
NOT YET PLAYED. A trans actor (Ian Alexander) was cast in the role of Lev, a trans boy who has been cast out of his own community for being trans and rejecting female roles.
Tell Me Why (2020)
I've not played this game myself, but it features a trans male character voiced by a trans man (August Aiden Black). This character is the first playable transgender video game hero, from a major studio and publisher. By all accounts, the game handles his transition and gender very well, and his voice actor made contributions in the development of his storyline and personality. Apparently he faces some offensive reactions to his gender identity when he returns to his hometown, but I can find no other reports of transphobia that potential players should prepare for.