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5 inspiring documentaries about trans women to stream on Netflix



I don’t think it’s any secret that I watch a lot of films but I’ve never really been into documentaries, mostly because a lot of them don’t have happy endings.

However, in tribute to Netflix’s early release of The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (a Stonewall icon), I’ve compiled a list of inspiring ones about trans women with no sad endings.

Please consider this your spoiler warning.

Growing Up Coy (2016)

All Coy Mathis wanted to do was pee. So when her school said that she would either have to use the boys’ bathroom or the nurse’s bathroom, her parents (Jeremy and Kathryn) went to bat for her.

This documentary follows the family’s fight for Coy’s rights, which involved pulling all the Mathis children out of school, filing a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (with help from the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund), and engaging with the media in order to get public opinion behind them.

While the Colorado Civil Rights Division eventually found in favor of letting trans people use the public facilities that match their gender identity, the media attention took its toll on the family, with some people accusing Coy’s parents of being fame-hungry or even child abusers for loving their daughter unconditionally and standing up for her.

Kumu Hina (2014)

This documentary captures a year in the life of Hina Wong-Kalu, a Native Hawaiian kumu (teacher) and activist, focusing on her work with children, her long-term relationship, and her spiritual journey.

Hina is a trans woman and mahu, which means she embodies both the male and female spirit.

During the year, Hina goes up into the mountains to meet with her elders, the traditional third gender people, to seek spiritual guidance and also helps a student who feels like they may also be transgender or nonbinary to live their best life.


Made in Bangkok (2015)

Morgana, a Mexican opera singer, wants to get gender confirmation surgery but the cost (at $10,000) is far beyond what she can afford. She enters a beauty pageant to win the money but when the film’s director fears she won’t win, he intervenes to ensure that Morgana can get the operation after all.

We travel with Morgana to meet Dr. Preecha Tiewtranon, a specialist in gender confirmation surgeries in Thailand, who does the operation for free.

Laerte-se (2017)

Laerte Coutinho, one of the most well known cartoonists in Brazil, came out as a trans woman in 2010 at the age of 58. Laerte also used her fame to become a strident advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in Brazil, noting that many trans women face heavy prejudice there.

This documentary focuses on Laerte’s journey to find out what it means to her to be a woman, including whether she should change her birth name or get top surgery or gender confirmation surgery.*

*Of course, these choices do not determine whether you are a woman or not; trans women who can’t afford to or don’t want to change their name or have surgery are just as valid as those who do. This is all about Laerte’s personal feelings.


The Pearl of Africa (2016)

This documentary web series follows Cleopatra Kambugu, who faces a constant battle to be herself in the transphobic environment of Uganda. Still, she fights on, determined to change how LGBTQ+ people are treated in Africa and how Africa is seen across the world.

Outed by a Ugandan tabloid in 2014, Cleopatra was forced to leave Uganda with her partner Nelson in order to avoid transphobic violence that is mostly ignored/encouraged by the government. They now live in Kenya, where Cleopatra works for an LGBTQ+ organization.


*Disclaimer: All of these movies were available on Netflix US as of September 15th 2017. If they aren’t available on Netflix in your country, then maybe a quick Google search can show you how to get onto the US site (but you didn’t hear it from me).

So what did you think of my list? Which ones have you already seen? Which are you adding to your Netflix queue? Are there any that I missed? Let me know in the comments below.

Originally posted 2017-09-28 21:07:40.

Emma is a queer British freelance writer specializing in politics, travel, and entertainment. Barack Obama (yes, that one) follows her on Twitter and she’s never been sure why. She takes her coffee seriously and wears odd socks because life’s too short.

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The Assassin Chronicles – Chapter Two: Switzerland



Content Advisory:  Contains Violence, and Brief Sexuality and Language.

Previously on The Assassin Chronicles

     “Is it feasible?”  This was his handler, Mr. Wolf.

     With a sigh, The Assassin nodded once. He was a man of no words.


     Inside that tent, Fred Robertson and Graham Phelps discussed what to do with the charitable donations.  Both men were shrewd in business, but only Fred could be called unscrupulous.  He was an overweight smoker battling inoperable lung cancer.

     “My company could always use more cancer funding.  Although, you’re screwing over your own community.”

     “I don’t have HIV.”


     Wolf snatched Fred’s collar, nearly dragging him out of the tent.

     Smith was waiting.  He grabbed Fred’s head and snapped it backwards.

     Briefly stunned, Wolf watched Fred’s lifeless body fall to the floor.  Smith disappeared into the crowd.


     “Enjoy your trip to Switzerland, Mr. Kowalczyk,” the stewardess called out.


     “What made you think I’d sign off on this?”

     “There’s something you need to see.”  Wolf pulled a photo out of his pocket and handed it to the figure.

     The mystery man sucked his teeth.  “Have everyone waiting for us on the dock.  Dear God, how did I not see this?!”


     The massive freighter made port near a little coastal village in Japan.  Mystery man, now known by his assumed name of Hans Maligno, sat in a wicker chair.  He was fanned by undercover Taiwanese immigrants.  Everything about him was cruel; his gray eyes, his wrinkled chin… his arm fat!

     Wolf stood guard nearby and handled business on a SAT phone.  “The plane’s heading for –”

     “I know where he’s going.  Move to intercept.”

     Still in the air and on his way to Switzerland, Smith enjoyed a glass of expensive scotch in what appeared to be first class.

     A very attractive male steward approached him.  “Another two fingers, Monsieur Kowalczyk?”  He smiled a gentle smile.

     Smith returned the school-boy grin and shook his head “No.”  However, when the steward departed for his other duties, Smith turned his head slightly and watched him walk away.  Being such a single and lonely man, the fact that he was thinking about nothing but the steward’s perfect ass hardly fazed him.  I need to get a life, his thought continued as he focused his attention on the clouds outside the aircraft.

     Another 747 flew dangerously close to his. How odd.  Suddenly, it was struck with a ground-to-air Stinger missile and plummeted to the Alps below!  If not for the carnage, one might enjoy such scenic views of perfectly pointed snow capped peaks combined with lush and fertile valleys.  On the outskirts, ski lodges lived up to the mental picture of danger for talented thrill seekers.  

     Shockwaves from the explosion shook Smith’s cabin.  It was the cabin of a private Gulfstream V.  Thank God he had one of his hunches and got off the 747 at the last minute.  His hunches always saved him.  Even those he felt as a child.

     Feeling a sense of safety, Smith found the steward and threw him onto the lavish leather sofa off to the side.  Their eyes met first.  Then their lips.  With animal-like strength, he tore open the twenty-three year old’s dress shirt and pressed his face into the large rose tattoo on his chest.  Smith followed his new friend’s happy trail to paradise and they joined the mile high club together.

     The Gulfstream landed safely in Geneva, at the international airport.  Geneva is one of those gorgeous, massive, and modern cities that still manages to look like something from the Gothic Middle Ages.  While it can be unsettling, it’s quite picturesque too.

     From there, Smith took a cab (how pedestrian of him) to one of the biggest five star hotels in the heart of the city.  The Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues may have looked plain on the outside, but it was anything short of spectacular within.  In fact, it was so bourgeois the porter almost refused to carry in Smith’s luggage from the common taxi – until he spotted the Bric’s Milano label.

     Smith was escorted by management passed rooms of some stature up to his room.  He had booked the Geneve Presidential suite; It was a tranquil mix of golden fabrics and modern dark wood furnishings.  

     “Will this do, Monsieur?” the manager enquired whilst Smith checked out the balcony.

     The Assassin nodded, peering down on the harbor.  The sun was setting and the scene made Smith happy – well, almost.  This was the type of place he would like to vacation in.  Unfortunately, this was no vacation.  He had come here for a reason, and she was about to show up on his doorstep.

     Some time later, Smith tossed his luggage on the bed before disrobing.  He started the bath and examined his body in a mirror.  It was heavily scarred – a knife wound here, bullet hole there – but it still held its beauty.  This was true despite the fact that the corners of his bottom had begun to sag and no matter how many sit-ups he did, he’d never be rid of the “love-handle” like folds around his waist.  He could brag about other features to make up for it, but he was in one of his modest moods.

     The balcony door had been left open by design.  Martha Kowalczyk tip-toed into the room and approached Smith from behind.

      From the depths of the tub, The Assassin produced an underwater pistol, pointing it at her without turning around.

     “ Nice to see you too, son.”  Martha croaked in a heavy Irish accent.  She circled the tub till she met his eyes.

     Her son’s mouth fell open.  “She” was in the process of transitioning into a more masculine pronoun and currently went by the name Edward.

     “Yuh like the new me?” she continued.  Smith had to admit her beauty hadn’t been lost.  Her soft and bright facial features were still there, despite the peach fuzz.  Kind, emerald eyes peered at him through spectacles so thick they appeared fogged.  Actually, the eyes were more kind than he remembered.

     Smith smiled at her.

     “That’s my boy,” Edward grinned back.

     The tranquility lasted just a few seconds before a few vehicles screeched to a halt outside.  Edward ran back onto the balcony to observe.

     Down below, Wolf stepped out of an SUV, another half-dozen armed men with him all brandishing a variety of Kel-Tec weapons and gear.  He was on the phone with Maligno.  “Yes, sir.  I’ll take them alive.”

     After placing his cell phone back in a hip holster, Wolf turned to his troops.  “Take them down.”

     A couple of his men looked at one another, then back at him.

     “Now, dammit, now!”

     The mercenaries charged inside without a single degree of subtlety.  Wolf held back, feeling a strange sensation.  He looked skyward and spotting Edward almost immediately.  With a glare, he moved his new Italian handgun into his hand.  (Unbeknownst to just about everyone, he was an avid gamer and this handgun was styled almost identically to one in a popular Japanese zombie survival-horror.)

     Back in the suite, Edward rushed Smith into the tactical gear The Assassin carried in case things ever went really bad.  After dressing, Smith handed his mother an assortment of weapons before converting his M45 handgun into a full-auto PDW.

     In the lobby, Wolf held the manager at gunpoint and forced him to call up to Smith’s room for a little pre-fight banter.

      “Hello, Smith,” Wolf began.  “I know you won’t surrender.  That’s fine.  I don’t want you to.”

     Smith gripped the phone tighter, his leather gloves creaking on the faded porcelain.  Outside, he heard a couple mercenaries stack up beside the door next to him.

     “Congratulations.  I’m writing your epitaphe right now.”

     The room door splintered.  Smith plugged one merc with a few rounds from his gun before it was ripped from his hand.  He was thrown backwards against the wall, but still managed to kick out the second mercenaries knee.  It wasn’t long before he used the phone in a most grotesque manner.  First, broke the man’s nose with it, then used it to string him up and choke him to death!  As a final measure, The Assassin chucked a grenade over the railing to the stairwell just outside the suite.  Edward plugged his ears.

     Wolf watched fire and wood shards rain down on his remaining men from his position of some safety.  He was unnaturally calm.  “Go get the shit-stain,” he barked at the mercenaries.

     They did their best.  It wasn’t their fault Smith also did his best.  One by one, they all fell in a short gun-fight that resulted only in staining the stairwell walls.

     At the end, Smith and Edward stared Wolf down.  Wolf, ever the dramatic, turned the manager’s head into Swiss cheese.

     “And it’s going to read, ‘Here lies Smith:  the biggest pain in my ass.’”  Wolf grinned.

     Both of them took a step back to brace for the recoil of their weapons.  They stared each other down.  The lobby became the old West.  But who, both wondered, would flinch first this time?




Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion to this scene next week and, be sure to support our site if you would like to continue to see more top quality content from all of our writers!

Thanks for Reading,

Ryan MariK

Originally posted 2017-10-08 14:25:16.

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Intersex Inclusion?



If the queer community is know for one thing, it’s our ever-changing acronym. LGBTQIAP – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Agender, and Pansexual. If you look closely you can see that one of these things is not like the other: intersex.

What is intersex?

To be intersex, one must have intersex traits which the Organization Intersex International defines as

“chromosomes, genitals, hormones and/or gonads that do not fit typical definitions of male or female.”

These can result in variations of secondary sexual characteristics such as muscle mass, hair distribution, breast development and hip to waist ratio and structure. Just as there are infinite variations of being trans (as shown through gender expression and identity), intersex is also not cut and dry. There may be subtle variations including individuals that fit societal gender norms for how men and women present themselves.

Many members of the intersex community acknowledge that “male and female bodies” are not trans inclusive, and terminology needs to be changed. It is important to remember that being intersex, for most folks, is a purely biological and bodily experience, not related to orientation or identity. Phrases like “male and female bodies” show the need for the scientific community to make a change in their vocabulary, and does not reflect on the intersex community.

Should intersex fall under the LGBTQ umbrella?

Just like any issue, there are pros and cons to both sides.


  • Similarities in queer and trans medical history

Intersex bodies are pathologized and erased in a way that is similar to how homosexuality has historically been treated within psychiatry.  From this point of view, intersex is just another sexual minority that is pathologized and treated as “abnormal.”¹

Counterpoint: Many other things are treated as ‘abnormal’, such as wisdom teeth coming in sideways. Being incorrectly labeled as ‘abnormal’ doesn’t mean it makes sense to categorize intersex under the LGBTQ umbrella.

  • Similarities in being directly affected by homophobia and transphobia.

Another reason that surgical treatment for intersex conditions is heavily encouraged is caused by homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. Western medicine defines “functional” male and female genitalia in terms of its ability to participate in heterosexual intercourse.²

Counterpoint: Homophobia and transphobia are dangerous, and associating intersex folks with the LGBTQ community could increase the probability that homophobic and transphobic parents would allow and encourage cosmetic infant genitoplasty. For the sake of intersex children, not including the “I” with LGBTQ would be wise. Homophobia and transphobia are two issues that need to be addressed, and would be best addressed separately from the invasive medical procedures intersex folks have been through.


  • Affected directly by homophobia and transphobia

Association with the LGBT community could drive away homophobic and transphobic parents of intersex children who would otherwise seek out information and resources about intersex conditions. Worse, the misperception might push parents to demand more surgeries to ease their concern about the child’s future sexuality or gender identity.³

Again, homophobia and transphobia are horrific and dangerous. So much so that they could influence a parent’s decision to allow irreversible cosmetic surgery on their newborn. These mindsets need to be addressed, but it might be better to discuss them on LGBTQ forums, rather than ones focused purely on intersex.

  • Lack of intersex resources

Being combined with LGBT might prevent intersex from getting its own visibility, or make it hard for intersex people to find intersex-specific resources. If you were to search “LGTBQI”  most of the results will revolve around LGBTQ issues, making including the “I” seemingly pointless and actually unhelpful. Adding the “I” would make it appear as if intersex people need the same thing that LGBT people need. For example, adding intersex to a hate crime law is completely insufficient to address the human rights issues faced by intersex people, AND it gives the false impression that intersex people’s rights are protected.*

  • Incompatible organizing methods

People with intersex conditions generally do not organize around the “identity” or “pride” of being intersex; “intersex” is a useful word to address political and human rights issues. In other words, adding the “I” does not necessarily make the organization appear more welcoming to intersex people. For many people, “intersex” is just a condition, or history, or site of a horrifying violation that they do not wish to revisit.**

Being intersex is often compared to the percentage of people who have red hair, where intersex folks make up 1.7% of the population, and redheads make up 1%-2%. This is a similar analogy used in the LGBTQ community to show the prevalence of LGBTQ folks and how our orientation/identity isn’t a choice. A common goal intersex activists and organizations have is advocating for body autonomy rights for infants, children and youth, condemning irreversible cosmetic infant genitoplasty. These do not correlate with the LGBTQ community, thus creating more confusion and potential harm for intersex individuals.

To include or not include, that is the question

According to Intersex Initiative “If adding the ‘I’ will help you become a better resource for people with intersex conditions, then do it. Adding ‘intersex’ to an LGBT group must mean a commitment to take concrete actions to address the specific needs of intersex people; anything less is tokenism, or a mere fashion statement, which will not benefit the intersex movement.”

As a community, we do not need to add the “I” to be allies and activists for the intersex community. We don’t need to pat ourselves on the back by adding another letter to our ever changing acronym when we choose to stand up for a group of individuals that are often violated and abused. Now is the time to be active allies, without expecting a gold star in return.






Originally posted 2017-10-02 18:55:25.

Also published on Medium.

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The importance of Bi Visibility Day



Bi Visibility Day (or Celebrate Bisexuality Day) has been held every September 23rd since 1999, in order to increase the awareness of the bi community and to highlight biphobia (specifically within the LGBTQ+ community).

It’s now celebrated all over the world and was recognized by the White House in 2013 with an event for bi-advocates to discuss issues specifically important to the bi community (although, don’t hold your breath for this year).

Why is visibility important?

In much the same way that it was important for straight people to see lesbians and gay men in early Pride marches (and to some extent current ones) in order to promote acceptance, it is important for single-gender attracted folks (lesbians, gay men, straight people) to see bisexuals.

Bisexuals face issues that are separate from lesbians and gay men including increased rates of discrimination (such as people not wanting to date you purely because you’re bi or claiming that bisexuality is a choice, even if they maintain that single-sex attraction is not) and mental health problems.

Bi activist and author Kate Harrad told Vice: “Biphobia is not homophobia. We share a lot of the same issues, but we can get rejected by lesbian and gay communities… To get rejected from somewhere you were hoping to find acceptance is particularly worse in some ways. You’ll get rejected from a lot of the straight communities, but at least you’re prepared for it.”

What is bi erasure?

There is a unique type of discrimination that bisexual people face and that is the erasure of their identity based on who they are dating/married to/crushing on at the time. In fact, this is something that also affects other people with multi-gender attraction (MGA) like pan or queer people.

If I, as a queer woman, were to move in with my (imaginary) boyfriend, I would be categorized as straight, whereas if I were to marry my (imaginary) girlfriend, I would be categorized as a lesbian. But I am neither and that is important.

The labeling part, not the thing about me being #foreveralone.

While it might not seem like the most pressing issue,  bi erasure is actually incredibly damaging to young MGA people who may feel pressure to pick a side because they are told that bisexuality isn’t real or are accused of doing it for attention.

It leads to things like a former manager of mine (a gay man) telling me that bisexuality is basically how people describe themselves before they come out as gay.

His belief, while wrong, is not uncommon.

How you can combat bi erasure

I will admit that I slip up sometimes, it’s only natural. The other day, I was writing a piece on lesbian couples from television shows and realized halfway through that two of my selections included canonically bi characters, so I had to change my title to WLW couples (as in women who love women). It’s not as catchy a title and will probably cost me in terms of views but it was the right thing to do.

While the fictional characters clearly wouldn’t have cared, I just couldn’t contribute to bi erasure. The important thing, as with any learned discrimination, is to research what might be harmful, to think carefully before you say/write something, and apologize if you do make a mistake.

It is also important to consider the impact of LGBTQ+ organizations that have Bi in their name but offer no services to bisexual people. If you see this, consider asking the organization why and speaking up about bi erasure.

To learn more about Bi Visibility Day, visit the official site here.

Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts on bi erasure are and if you’re doing something really cool for Bi Visibility Day!


Originally posted 2017-09-27 13:19:09.

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