Jamie Peebles turned 65 on December 31st. A little over year ago he realized he is a woman. On November 28th I
filmed her confirmation surgery in San Francisco. Less than two months later she experienced her first orgasm as a woman.
Becoming Jamie: Shock and Joy will end in August as she walks her daughter Tina down the aisle at her wedding. The
feature documentary is Jamie’s personal, poignant, revelatory, and joyful story told through video diary recordings and my filming.
|Jamie, surgery is tomorrow||Jamie, real estate agent|
Jamie is a brilliant television engineer: she set up the original Oxygen Media and Al Gore’s Current TV. She’s also a photographer – fetish and fashion, 8×10” wet plate – a filmmaker, a builder, and former college professor. We have been friends for forty years. She is dynamic, funny, and not afraid to talk about her most intimate and heart wrenching issues. Our friendship is one reason our filmed conversations and scenes out in the world have been dramatic, deep, meaningful, and hilarious.
Footage will also include Jamie’s extensive collection of family films and photographs. She was married for thirty years, is since divorced, and has two grown daughters. Tina is in her twenties, lives with her fiancé Nick and Jamie in the house where Jamie grew up in a Boston suburb. This has been a very difficult transition for Tina, who calls Jamie dad. Jamie’s ex-wife, Elaine, has agreed to appear in the film.
While Jamie did not realize she was trans until recently, she says that in hindsight there were many signs. For example, she tearfully tells viewers about being terribly upset when his tween body began to transform at puberty. Not knowing why, he stole Novocain from his pediatrician father and repeatedly injected his testicles. Until one had to be removed in emergency surgery.
Jamie’s confirmation surgery was performed by one of the pre-eminent surgeons in the field, Dr. Marci Bowers, who also happens to be a trans woman. We filmed the surgery as well as an extensive conversation that Marci and Jamie had as part of her pre-op consultation the day before. During both scenes, Marci describes the process, de-mystifying and clarifying what cis people want to know, but are too intimidated to ask. (Cisgender is what the transgender community calls non-trans people.) The gynecologic surgeon explains that male and female sexual organs “are more similar than different.” In an exasperated tone she declares, “I’m not going to cut off Jamie’s dick!” and describes how the head of the penis becomes the clitoris, that after surgery trans people can have normal sex lives. This has come as a complete shock to every cis person I’ve talked to. How the surgery is accomplished – male to female and female to male – will be illustrated with animation.
Other scenes we’ve already filmed:
- “I’ve been a whole woman for fifty-five days, and how about this: I just had my first orgasm!” Jamie pumps her fist at the camera. “I don’t know who invented the vibrator, but thank you, thank you!”
- We watch Jamie playing Second Life, the online virtual game in her unfinished basement. She tells us she originally created a male avatar but after just three hours switched to a woman he named Jami Luvvi. Jamie introduces us to Jami on the screen. Late one night two years later, he looked at the screen and realized “that was me. I’m a woman, a tall, blue-eyed blonde, sexy woman.” From that moment on he identified as a woman.
- Jamie drives to Boston in October to have her breast augmentation procedure. Leaving her house, she lifts her shirt to reveal “my happy, perky before boobs.” Our camera is there surreptitiously filming checks in, waiting, signing papers, and heading down the hallway to have the procedure.
- Recording while driving to an electrology session, Jamie tells us she’s suffered through more than 80 hours with many more to go. We watch as one follicle after another is lasered, then plucked, Jamie wincing at each pull. “It feels like a bee sting every single time.” Afterwards her face looks like she’s been beaten up.
- In pre-op room minutes before surgery, we see Jamie’s bald head for the first time – she usually wears a bandana, sometimes a wig. She talks about how sensitive she is about her appearance, an attitude she tells us that is widely shared in the trans community. Jamie then lists all the other surgeries and procedures she plans: hair implants, Adam’s apple, vocal chords, tummy tuck, facial reconstruction… She shares that she’s starting a foundation to help trans people with the high cost of these operations.
- A lighter scene cuts quickly among a half dozen nurses who come to check Jamie in for surgery. When it’s pointed out that her name is spelled wrong, the process is repeated.
- Returning home to Massachusetts after the confirmation surgery, many repressed memories are surfacing: Jamie talks about the intense fetish acts and photography he did with his wife, including self-mutilation. “I see now it was directly linked to not knowing I was actually a woman.”
- Two weeks after her surgery, Jamie and her friend Carol, a senior materials engineer at a Fortune 500 company, and also a trans woman, are falling for each other. The only problem is Carol has been looking for a male-companion. Her co-workers know she’s trans, she was on the job before and after her transition. But she does not reveal herself on the social scene or to new business colleagues. She travels all over the world for business and is afraid of being arrested in a country such as Dubai, where being transgender is illegal.
- A tearful and angry Jamie tells us she’s suffering from fistula, a leaking bladder, and has been incontinent since the surgery. She shows viewers the catheter bag which she has to wear for two weeks. “You think it makes me feel attractive? Fuck no! Oh, and I haven’t been sleeping either, so I look like shit and feel like shit.”
New scenes will follow Jamie out in the world. Some will be intense, others light, a few informative:
- Jamie confronts her doctor, brother Doogie about why he won’t acknowledge that she is now a woman.
- She goes through her closet and shops for clothes at TJ Max with stylist Cynthia Gardner, who dressed Katie Couric and James Taylor.
- At drinks with a group of women, she gets tips on how to walk and be in the world as a woman. Viewers are not told who is trans and who is cis.
- At Carol’s apartment, Jamie installs new kitchen cabinets.
- She goes to a job interview at a prestigious prep school.
- The film ends at Tina and Nick’s wedding on Cape Cod in August. Jamie, dressed to the nines, walks her daughter down the aisle.
We have begun editing sample scenes while filming continues. A teaser will be finished in the next few months.
It is our intention to create a television series profiling a few of the many dynamic, smart and surprising transgender people around the country. It will follow the theatrical release of Becoming Jamie and will also be poignant, funny and revelatory.