Transgender Lives Onscreen: Seen, but Not Always Believable

“How do we love something critically?”

That was one of many questions going through Sam Feder, director of the brand new Netflix documentary “Disclosure,” a sweeping examination of how transgender folks have been depicted in movie and TV, from the silent period to “The Arsenio Hall Show” to “Pose.” It’s an advanced historical past that’s dominated by inauthentic and sordid characterizations, with transgender lives because the objects of ridicule, disgust and violence.

The actress Laverne Cox, an government producer of the documentary, mentioned she felt compelled to look at this bitter previous to not disgrace, but to coach and empower.

“We’re not calling anybody out,” she mentioned. “What we’re saying is: This is the way it was, and we can do better.”

For many transgender individuals who got here of age earlier than the web, inauthentic characters have been typically all they noticed onscreen. Yet, as a number of transgender voices in “Disclosure” clarify, even problematic representations supplied a lifeline within the type of an exhilarating revelation: People like me exist. Yet the query stays: Can you admire and resent one thing on the identical time?

I spoke to transgender artists who have been interviewed in “Disclosure” about their very own sophisticated relationships with a film or TV present. Here are edited excerpts from the conversations.

The 1991 documentary by Jennie Livingston chronicled the ballroom tradition amongst New York’s L.G.B.T.Q. black and Latino communities.

This 1999 drama was based on the story of Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old transgender man in Nebraska who was raped and murdered.

In this 1985 comedy, Joyce Hyser plays a teenager who dresses as a boy to get teachers to take her seriously.

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