Rainbow Cinema: Expanding Gender Youth Out Front - An Experience in Perspectives

Students discuss LGBTQ+ issues in the movie "Expanding Gender Youth Out Front" in the Rainbow Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (Alex Taylor/The Daily Campus)

The Rainbow Center had a showing of four incredible documentaries Thursday night on several people’s different experiences with being transgender.  

For those who don’t know what Rainbow Cinema is, the man running the show, Brian Ly laid it out.  

“Rainbow Cinema is where we show movies that raise awareness on issues in the LGBTQ community,” Ly said. “We try to educate people on various genders and identities with free popcorn.”

The first two documentaries were about two young, nonbinary children.

“Tomgirl” was about a young child named Jake. He grew out his hair and had no preference over which type of clothes he wore; whether those clothes were more masculine hockey jerseys or feminine skirts didn’t matter.

He had his own style, and his mom was fine with him just being him, tights and all.  

“A Place in the Middle” was about a Hawaiian “tomboy” named Ho’onani. She had a mentor named Kuma Hima, who looked at Māhū (people who embrace both genders) as respected healers and teachers to empower her. Kuma Hima allowed Ho’onanito participate in the boy’s line in the hula dance. She told the other boys that Ho’onani had more kū (male energy) than any of them, so they must respect her as they would each other. Like Jake’s mom, her family believed she was fine being herself. When she went on stage with the boys, her parents whooped and hollered because they were proud of her.

The other two documentaries told of people who hadn’t received the same amount of support that Jake and Ho’onani were given. In “Monica’s Story,” Monica had been rejected by her family when she transitioned. It had gotten so bad for her that she ended up homeless, severely depressed and suicidal. She eventually gained a support group of friends in the LGBTQ community who helped her embrace who she was.

“Passing” was different from the other documentaries in that it followed the change people felt in expectations towards them after transitioning. It centered on two black transgender men: One of them talked about how another man had leaned over to them and said something derogatory towards women. This had been shocking to them after being a woman for so long. They also mentioned how people had begun to look at them as a threat, as if them being a young, black man alone made them the enemy.  The other talked about how black men were expected to be tough, well-off, reserved, fit and, above all, masculine.  It was tough for him to act this part to blend into his new role, especially around his girlfriend’s family and peers.  They both could not get over how different it was to be a man, rather than a woman, in society’s eye.

“I learned more about resilience, and about how different identities collide,” UConn student Dafna Shaney said when asked what she took away from these documentaries. “When you see a person for the first time, you don’t know what they’ve gone through in life.”  

Another student, Lauren Boulay, said “I learned that even though people go through similar experiences they all have different perspectives.”  

These documentaries made it painfully clear that transitioning is something that differs for every person who undergoes it. Without support like that given to Jake and Ho’onani, a person could end up in a terrible place like Monica. With it, they could do anything.


Rebecca Maher is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rebecca.maher@uconn.edu.