Most Americans think LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination. In reality, many federal protections aren’t available to the LGBTQ community.
Donald Trump is no longer President of the United States, but many transgender Americans still find themselves living in Trumpland.
“Trans in Trumpland,” a new documentary series from TransWave Films, chronicles the stories and struggles of four transgender individuals across the country, reports the Asbury Park Press, which is a part of the USA TODAY Network.
“Trumpland, unfortunately for the foreseeable future in these very conservative states that still voted for him in 2020, it’s going to be here to stay,” said director Tony Zosherafatain of Jersey City, New Jersey. “I hate to say it, especially for the trans people (dealing) with the state policies that are actually picking up right now.”
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“Trans in Trumpland” subject Rebecca, left, pictured with her mother in a scene from the documentary series. (Photo: Courtesy of TransWave Films)
GLAAD, via its Trump Accountability Project, documented 181 attacks in either statements or actions against the LGBTQ community by the Trump administration — approximately one every eight days for four years.
There has been some progress on a federal level during President Joe Biden’s time in office, with the reversal of Trump’s transgender military service ban, and his race and gender diversity training ban, as well as prohibiting workplace discrimination in the federal government based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and directing federal agencies to ensure LGBTQ protections are included in anti-discrimination statutes.
Advocates are also hopeful for the passage of the Equality Act updating federal nondiscrimination laws to make discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity unlawful.
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Climate change, LGBTQ rights and the border wall are just a few items President Joe Biden addressed in signing his first executive orders.
But anti-trans legislation continues at a state level, with Montana’s House of Representatives last month passing a bill that would prevent transgender student athletes from competing on teams that correspond with their gender identity.
In just one week in February, seven states weighed eight separate pieces of anti-transgender legislation, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“This is coinciding with Biden passing more federal inclusion of trans people in federal rights, but the states are like, ‘Hell no, we’re still going to be transphobic,’ ” said Zosherafatain.
“Trans in Trumpland” subject Shane, left, with series director and star Tony Zosherafatain. (Photo: Courtesy of TransWave Films)
“ ‘Trumpland’ in a way is just discussing kind of the Trumpism that is still growing in this country to this day,” explained producer Jamie DiNicola, who lives in Middlesex County, New Jersey. “I don’t think because you remove temporarily a fascist from office it doesn’t mean that the country doesn’t still have a lot of fascist tendencies to grapple with.
“And additionally, state-level policies do not really change just because a president changes. A lot of these policies that we highlighted actually highlight the irony of the governance of this country, which is that a trans person in New York has significantly less legal rights than a trans person in Mississippi — and in any other nation on Earth, that would be a laughable idea. But in this country that is a very true reality and I think ‘Trans in Trumpland’ highlights that tenfold.”
“Trans in Trumpland” is streaming at Topic.com and can be viewed on the Topic channels on AppleTV and iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android and Amazon Prime video channels.
Zosherafatain and DiNicola, co-founders of TransWave Films, were joined behind the scenes on “Trans in Trumpland” by a team of executive producer activists and advocate, including Trace Lysette, co-star of “Transparent” and “Hustlers.”
“Jamie and I are trans men, so we don’t have the experience of a trans woman,” Zosherafatain said. “So we valued (Lysette’s) input. She was absolutely on board. … It was a good partnership and it’s been great because she brought a lot of press to the project. She kind of kicked off our acquisition and she’s also been able to give us honest feedback as a fellow trans person and say, ‘This isn’t working for me for this trans woman’s story in Mississippi or Texas’ and ‘This is working for me.’ ”
Series subjects include Ash, a teenage boy in North Carolina; Rebecca, an immigrant from Mexico who had been detailed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Texas; Evonne, who works to provide care to the LGBTQ community in Mississippi; and Shane, a military veteran living in Idaho.
“What drew me to them was I realized they’re not just trans, but they have many layers to them,” Zosherafatain said of his subjects. “So for example, Rebecca in Texas, she’s an immigrant as well. So someone who might also be Mexican-American and trans who watches this is like, ‘I can relate to that, I was also detained by ICE.’ So it takes transness, but it relates it back to the other layers that make us. Or Evonne in Mississippi, she’s a Black trans woman, but she’s also a churchgoer, and who in the Deep South can’t relate to that?
“So I really wanted to not only think only about the embodiment and the physical aspects of being trans, but what are the social and political aspects of being trans? How does transness connect to immigrating and crossing the border? How does transness connect to religion? … I really wanted to make sure the four characters were very multi-layered and not people that you traditionally see.”
Alex Biese has been writing about art, entertainment, culture and news on a local and national level for more than 15 years.
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