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Bree (Felicity Huffman, Emmy winner for her role as Lynette on Desperate Housewives) is a genetic male living as a woman, waiting for an operation to become fully female. One day she receives a phone call from a son she never knew she had. Toby (Kevin Zegers), the product of a clumsy sexual encounter she had years ago, is a teenage runaway who has been hustling on the streets of New York and is now in jail. Reluctantly, Bree leaves Los Angeles for New York, pretending to be a Christian missionary who will deliver him to his father. Co-starring Graham Greene, Elizabeth Peña and Fionnula Flanagan. Debut feature for writer/director Duncan Tucker.
 

 Transamerica

“The plumbing works, and so does the electricity.”
– Kate Bornstein, transsexual actress, educator and activist, when asked
  by a TV talk show host if she could orgasm with “that vagina”

When I began working on the outline of Transamerica I didn’t know much about people of transsexual experience. I read several memoirs: Conundrum by Jan Morris, who as James Morris fathered five children and documented the first expedition to climb Everest; Second Serve by tennis champion Renée Richards; The Christine Jorgenson Story, whose eponymous author was a transsexual pioneer; My Story by nude Playboy model and Bond girl Caroline Cossey.

The trans community is necessarily self-protective; it wasn’t easy, but I was finally able to meet and gain the trust of a number of real live trans women. I met transsexual lesbian lovers; a selfless transwoman surgeon still married to her wonderful, supportive wife; a gorgeous, silky-voiced MTF blonde who spent her days lounging by the pool at the Beverly Hills country club, hunting for a rich husband. The stories they told me were hilarious, tragic, surprising, brave; full of unexpected reversals and sudden, startling moments of grace. I could write and direct nothing but transsexual movies the rest of my life and barely scratch the surface of the raw material they gave me.

Stealth Transsexual: A transsexual secret agent. You might be sitting next to one.

I was surprised by how often, when I went to meet a new contact at a café or restaurant, I was unable to recognize her as anything but a G.G. (see below). None of the transwomen I met looked or behaved like men in dresses. We only spot the transpeople among us who do not pass, or who are only part way through their transition. I wrote the part of Bree, my main character, for a woman, and only a woman, to play. I wanted to honor Bree’s destination, not mire her in what she was leaving behind, or worse, turn her into a buffoon. I knew I’d have to find a transformative actress, someone who could check her vanity at the door and breathe life into the clay of my words. Felicity Huffman’s work exceeded my wildest expectations. I’ve seen the movie a lot of times, and her talent, courage, empathy and sense of humor never fail to knock me out.

“Jesus made me this way for a reason, so I could suffer and be reborn, the way he did.”
– Sabrina Claire Osborne

Transamerica is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. At heart it’s an old fashioned movie about family, self-acceptance and the longing to be loved. Bree and her son Toby are not the sorts of characters you often meet in comedies. Their lives haven’t been easy. They feel different, misunderstood and alone. But they’re survivors. During their travels they confront various predicaments with resilience and courage, and they never give up. At the end of the movie their journey doesn’t end. It never will. The two of them just set out on a new and different kind of trip.

Two Kinds of People:
1) People who think there are two kinds of people.
2) The other kind.

Some transsexual activists and educators assert that gender is not an either/or proposition, but a continuum. The signs and signifiers of gender are often more fluid than fixed, and always open to interpretation. Is a woman who loves sports, shuns make-up and is an ace parallel parker the same gender as, say, Paris Hilton? Is Prince the same gender as Sylvester Stallone?
Think of gender as a rowboat: some people perch carefully in the center, others sit to one side or the other, still others lean out precariously over the edge. And some people cannot keep from tipping the boat over completely.

A brief transsexual lexicon

High Intensity Transsexual: Twenty people out of every million. Someone motivated to undergo the cosmetic and medical procedures necessary to change their sex.

Transgendered: Anyone who doesn’t sit in the center of the boat.

Gender Dysphoria (aka Gender Identity Disorder, or GID): A state in which one’s anatomy does not correspond to one’s gender.

SRS: Sexual Reassignment Surgery. The cure for gender dysphoria.

MTF (Male to Female) Transsexual: A Woman made by God with a little help, from Man. An MTF transsexual is sometimes called a transwoman.

FTM (Female to Male) Transsexual: A Man made by God with a little help, from Woman. An FTM transsexual is sometimes called a transman.

Transpeople: Human beings who happen to be trans.

Trannie: A word best used only if you are one.

Transvestite: Clothes make the woman.

Intersexual: A person with partially or fully developed male and female sexual organs. The term “intersexual” is preferred to “hermaphrodite.”

Transsensual:
Sexual attraction to transpeople.

Passing: What happens when others take you for what you truly are.

Being read: What happens when they do not.

G.G. (“genetic girl” or “genuine girl”): A term used by women of trans experience in referring to women of the other sort.

Genetically Gifted: For an MTF, being of small stature, with small hands and feet, delicate features and a slender frame. For an FTM, the opposite.

Proper pronouns: Respect and metaphysics dictate the use of pronouns that correspond with the gender as which the referenced person self-identifies. A male to female transsexual woman is always “she,” never “he,” and vice versa.

Tucking: A temporary measure.

How to tuck: Stand with your legs apart. Push the penis and testicles down and back, then bring the legs firmly together. Hitch up your pantyhose and reinforced girdle to bind and moor all loose objects to the pelvic hull.

Monthly nosebleeds: vicarious menstruation.

Baldness: a genetic defect that can sometimes be corrected with estrogen therapy.

Baldness: a genetic gift that can sometimes be acquired with testosterone therapy.

Sexuality: Who you desire and, according to some, what you do about it. Sexuality is unrelated to gender identity.

Sex: Something easier to change than your sexuality.

Normal: A concept largely irrelevant to anyone’s life.