, a short film from 16-year-old writer/director Lucas Helth Postma, explores the journey of a transgender boy to be understood by his mother. Born into a female body and given the name Emilie, the main character feels trapped in his physical body. From the first scene of the film it becomes clear that Emilie and his mother have a distant and trying relationship, and their first conversation paints a clear picture of the mother's blatant denial of Emilie's identification as male. When Emilie's mother demands he wear a dress for a formal get-together with friends, their issues come to a head, and the two are forced to confront their differences.
In facilitating a discussion around gender and identity, it's absolutely crucial to understand the appropriate terms as well as the distinctions between these terms. Transgender is an umbrella term that refers to all people whose gender identity or gender expression does not conform to the sex to which they were assigned at birth. According to the American Psychological Association, "gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics." According to glaad.org, an LGBT media advocacy group, it's important to note that being transgender is an issue of gender identity alone and does not refer to sexual orientation. Sexual orientation refers to a person's "enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person," so transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual. For example, a person who transitioned from female to male who is attracted solely to women would typically identify as a straight man. Alternately, a person who transitions from female to male who is attracted solely to men would most likely identify as a gay male. These distinctions may seem confusing at first to anyone who is not used to discussing issues of gender identity and sexual orientation, but using the correct language and recognizing each individual as they would like to be identified is a hugely important step in understanding these issues.
Boy does an excellent job of providing a subtle yet powerful look at what life is like for a transgender teen who is fighting desperately to be understood and accepted by family. At the same time, Boy is also an honest look at the difficulties that arise in parent/child relationships. It presents a realistic look at how parent and child struggle with boundaries, communication, generational differences, and judgement in an attempt to find acceptance and love; this is a battle that any parent or child could relate to, and it makes the draw of Boy all the stronger. I believe that Boy wonderfully tackles an immensely difficult topic in a compelling, informative, and honest way, and we hope that sharing this film helps to spread awareness of gender identity issues. What did you think of Boy? Have you experienced something like this with either a parent or child? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.