Jamie is a brilliant television engineer – she built the studios of Oxygen Media and Current TV for Al Gore – a filmmaker, photographer, college professor, home builder, and real estate agent. She was one of the first drone pilots to bring that unique perspective to the real industry. Currently, Jamie is creating a series of 8 x 10″ wet plate photographs of transgender women dressed in Victorian lingerie.
Scene: Jamie is lying on an examination table. A tech wearing protective glasses, sterile mask and a large, glittery pin that reads ELECTROLOGIST, taps incessantly on Jamie’s cheek with a probe, which beeps with each touch. Then, she tweezes a hair from Jamie’s face. “I’ve been on this table over 100 hours and it’s far from over.” Cut to Jamie, clearly upset, entering her bathroom at home wearing a black sports bra, leggings and cloche hat, which she rips off revealing her bald head. “Look at me. This is why I suffer so badly from dysphoria. I look like an old man.” We see a paunch and senior citizen skin. Jamie shaves her stubble, leaves the bathroom and breaks down crying in the hallway. “It’s too fucking hard sometimes.” The camera follows her. Still crying, she begins putting on makeup. When she’s through, she puts on a blouse, spreads her arms like wings smiles broadly, “All better.”
Shock: Following Jamie in real time as she transitions, reveals truths about universal transgender issues. We witness how difficult transitioning is:
- At home near Boston, seeing herself in the mirror brings constant pain. She feels like a woman, but sees this freaky bald man looking back at her.
- Being misgendered on the phone, at Starbucks, grocery shopping, is devastating. She practices raising her voice to sound more feminine, but it’s not working. She has to learn how to walk, talk, and dress like a woman. She feels she’s wasted most of her life.
- Her daughter Tina is traumatized. Elaine, her ex-wife, must “rethink our thirty years of marriage.” Her brother Doug believes Jamie is faking being transgender; he hasn’t spoken to her in two years.
- After hundreds of hours of electrolysis, she still has to shave….
Joy: On November 28th we film her confirmation surgery in San Francisco. Less than two months later she experiences her first orgasm as a woman. “I think the female orgasm is the best kept secret. I’ve had both,” she tells us in one of her video diaries. As the year progresses, there are more joys: Jamie’s not being mis-identified as often. Her medical
complications are fewer. Tina and Nick are married in August, a great joy;
that’s where the film will end.
- Exasperated, Jamie tells us the most common response to her transformation is, :You’re so brave and courageous.” and “Whatever makes you happy.” With tears in her eyes she says, “I’m not brave. I have no choice. And, I’m certainly not happy. Look at all the people I’ve upset: my daughter, my brother’s not speaking to me. I wish this had never happened.”
- 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. Jamie introduces us to Jami Luvvi, her on the screen alter ego. Late one night, two years later, she looked at the screen and realized, “That was me. I’m a woman, a tall, blue-eyed blonde, sexy woman.” The next morning she ordered women’s clothes and makeup on Amazon. From that moment on she 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.”
Dr. Marci Bowers, one of the top surgeons performing transgender confirmations, who is also transgender, performed Jamie’s surgery. In an exasperated tone she declares, “It doesn’t get cut off. The genitals get repurposed.” She describes how the head of the penis becomes the clitoris. Animation shows the male to female and female to male processes.
- Jamie is racing the calendar. If she doesn’t receive health coverage for her confirmation surgery by December 31st, her 65th birthday, she may never get the procedure. That’s when she loses health insurance and goes on Medicare. A quick cutting scene reveals the all too familiar, incredibly frustrating, phone conversations with the disinterested health care system: being placed on hold endlessly, getting cut off, told they have no record of speaking with her….
- After surgery, an angry Jamie tells us she’s suffering from fistula, a leaking bladder, and has been incontinent. She tells us she has a catheter and has to wear a bag. “How am I supposed to date?… I don’t know if it can ever be fixed.” Fistula is among the recurring scenes.
- Jamie’s daughter Tina tells us that when her father first transitioned she became an adolescent. “She wore the worst makeup and clothes. I’ve been helping her get it together. But she likes Justin Bieber. Justin Beber!” she shouts laughing. “He used to have such good taste in music.”
- Jamie tells us as soon as she began taking estrogen, “I instantly felt different.” She feels calmer, her anger and macho behavior lessened. “Although I still take that guy out of pocket when I need him.”
- Jamie’s making dinner for Tina when she realizes the oil burner has gone out. They head for the basement where Jamie promptly disassembles the oil burner. She looks on the Home Depot website to see if they stock the motor. “I really don’t want to do this. It will ruin my finger nails.”
- The conversation between Jamie and Dr. Bowers turns political when Marci talks about intersex states: when babies are born with genitals that are not clearly male or female. “That occurs with a fairly high frequency,” we learn. Elaborating, “It’s a crisis in newborn life.” When this confusion occurs, “everyone is in a tizzy. In such intersex cases, arbitrary decisions are made about whether the infant is male or female and corrective surgeries are often performed. They were getting it wrong about a third of the time, leading to lives of misery for many people.”
Learn about the filmmaker Roger Sherman
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