A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to watch National Geographic’s Gender Revolution. For those that aren’t familiar, this is a documentary evaluating the complexities of gender identity and our ongoing changing environment.
I’d heard rave reviews from others who’d seen the film, so I was excited to watch it. I also expected it to be very educational for me. Since I grew up with gay dads, I’d always been comfortable with the LBG (Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual) of our acronym. I grew up knowing many people in these groups. I even knew people who identified as gender-queer (someone who doesn’t identify with a conventional gender distinction; they could identify with both male and female genders, neither or a combination). However, while I’ve met people or had acquaintances, I’ve never had close relationships with people in the Transgender community.
Since I started my advocacy work, I’ve made an effort to to learn more. While there are still many laws that target discrimination again the LGBTQ community, recently it is the transgender community who has been facing the biggest backlash. If I am to be an effective advocate for our community as a whole, I knew that I needed to further educate myself on the specific issues that subsets of our community face.
My degree in Anthropology focused on sex and sexuality, so I was familiar that a strict binary definition of gender (male/female) wasn’t universal. I was happy that the film had an anthropologist who highlighted three different cultures in different regions of the world that allow for more gender options. While I understood the social sciences, biology was never my strong suit. While watching the documentary, I was fascinated as scientists explained how babies develop in the womb and the differences in brain scans between men and women and trans men and women. I hadn’t known that there was neurological evidence that highlighted these differences.
In addition to the wonderful scientific and anthropological information that is presented, I thought that Katie Couric was a good host for the documentary as she adds a level of accessibility. It was apparent from the beginning that she didn’t have a great understanding of the differences between sex and gender. She fumbled over words and learned new definitions in a gracious way. I think this was important to show because she helped demonstrate that people don’t have to be perfect in their language but also displayed the importance of being open to learning new things.
My favorite part of watching the documentary was the discussion I had afterwards. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the documentary as a screening in a group atmosphere. It was wonderful to hear the different points of view afterwards. For some, the anthropological insights were new to them. For others, like me, the science behind the neurological scans was new. But the most beautiful thing was how the documentary sparked conversation.
I’ve always thought that one of the greatest ways to learn about something that is new to us was to listen to personal experiences. I had the opportunity to talk to people who were transgender themselves. It was heartwarming to hear how the stories in the film resonated with some people and to see their relief at how accepting some families and parents were towards their children.
The transgender community still faces a high level of discrimination on an ongoing basis. Documentaries like this help educate our country on a community that many still find perplexing. I recommend this film for anyone who wants to learn more about the evolution of gender that we’re currently experiencing. But I especially recommend it for those that are still puzzled by this community. As our country continues to shift its attitude towards LGBTQ people, the number of transgender and gender non-conforming people will only continue to grow. And as more people live life as their true selves, our society must continue to educate ourselves to eliminate our bias. Watching this documentary is one step in the right direction.