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Documentary follows transgender woman’s trajectory in finding new ‘normal’ for herself

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A scene from the documentary Girl Inside. — White Star
A scene from the documentary Girl Inside. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s parliament passed a landmark bill on May 8 this year for the protection of the rights of the country’s transgender citizenry.

It is a testament to activists and politicians and also to members of the transgender community who brought about this legislation, ambassador of the European Union Jean-François Cautain said on Monday.

“I speak to the European Union, and if I may Canada, to say we will continue to support minorities who are fighting for their rights,” he said.

In collaboration with Canadian High Commissioner Perry John Calderwood, Dutch Ambassador Ardi Stoios Braken and Spanish Ambassador Carlos Morales, Ambassador Cautain hosted a screening of a documentary titled Girl Inside at his residence ahead of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) on May 17.

The film traces the journey of its protagonist, Mathew, in finding a ‘normal’ for herself and becoming Madison and the reactions of those around her.

It gives an insight into the physical, emotional and social dimensions of gender reassignment.

Directed by Maya Gallus, the documentary follows Madison nee Mathew over a period of three years beginning with the pre-surgery requirement that she live as a member of the opposite sex for a year before the surgery is done.

Madison describes her early life and interactions with her key family members, her grandmother, Vivien and her parents. Explaining the ‘real-life test’ Madison talks about how the theoretical understanding that she was transgender was different from people actually experiencing the transition.

Vivien is a charming presence who is supportive of Madison’s decision and choices helping her curl her hair, giving interesting anachronistic advice on the behaviour appropriate for a young woman, and relating Madison’s transition to her own transition from child to young woman.

Over the course of the documentary, Madison discusses various procedures and treatments that are part of the transitioning process, contemplating the costs and the logistical concerns of tracheal shave, hormone therapy and surgeries.

Add to that the informative aspects of the film where the viewer learns of the various medical requirements and procedures that are part and parcel of the transition, and the possible side effects of treatments such as sterility, this documentary is almost a roadmap to how transition can happen with the attendant doubts of the protagonist and a supportive family. Madison finds it challenging to share her decision with her mother who is seen experiencing a sense of loss because Matthew the son she gave birth to is no longer there while wanting to be supportive of the daughter she has gained.

Her father and siblings are similarly inclined. Insightfully the film explores Madison’s doubts and concerns against the backdrop of a largely reassuring supportive family.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2018