The trans community gets an accurate on-screen portrayal

FILM by Nathan Raine


Two 4 One
Tuesday 31 / RPL Film Theatre

“It rubs the lotion on its skin,” remains, far and away, the most recognizable line from a transgender character in all of cinema. Sadly, as far as the depiction of transgender people in cinema goes, Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs is par for the course. From the psycho-killers in Dressed to Kill and Psycho to a forced sex-swap in The Skin I Live In, sympathetic — geez, even accurate — representations of the trans community are rarely depicted on screen.

With her debut feature, a young Canadian filmmaker is bucking that trend.

Writer/director Maureen Bradley is doing something that (as far as I know) has never been done before in Canada — a transgender romantic comedy.  Her film, Two 4 One, tells the story of Adam, a transgender man just trying to be one of the guys. But after a one-night stand with an ex-girlfriend and a haphazard use of home insemination, both end up pregnant.

Not your typical rom-com fare. Bradley says she’s always been interested exploring how we navigate gender.

“I didn’t want to make an ‘issue’ film or a documentary, I didn’t want to make a ‘coming-out’ story about a person that wasn’t accepted,” she says. “So it’s not the coming-out paradigm, it’s what is going on in contemporary queer life today and what are the complex issues that people are dealing with. As a genderqueer person I’ve always been interested in exploring complex stories about gender. It’s been a theme for me since I was two and slept with my firetruck.”

The idea for the film came from a not entirely dissimilar experience with her partner, says Bradley.

“When my partner was trying to get pregnant, I was reading a book called The New Lesbian Conception Perception or something like that, and they had a section about home insemination which lots of my friends have done. So I was reading this book which had a story on a transgender man. He wasn’t on his testosterone at a time, and was helping his female partner get pregnant through sex toy insemination. He ended up getting pregnant. And I dropped the book and I was like, ‘Wow, that is a movie.”

That seed of inspiration turned into Two 4 One, which has found immediate success on the festival circuit, including wins for Best Canadian Film at the Victoria and Available Light film festivals. The success of the film, in part, comes from Bradley’s successful exploration of some of the real-life issues transgender people encounter, including difficulties with health care, personal documentation and work life, to name a few.

“A transgender person’s life is often highly medicalized — and in the movie there are four different doctor characters,” she says. “Trans people have a hard time getting a referral to do the actual surgery — you need a psychiatrist to approve your surgery. You have to go through doctors to get hormones. It’s a highly medicalized experience. So [these details were] absolutely essential to me for the story.

“It was also important to present imperfect characters — not dealing with the pressures of positive images [or] the thinking that when you present under-represented, marginalized people, you need to right the wrongs of Hollywood transphobia or homophobia or sexism,” says Bradley.

By taking this approach, Bradley was able to fit a lot of humour into a subject that’s often addressed with a very heavy hand. The result makes the film more approachable for a wider audience, she says.

“Infusing the narrative with humour was really an intentional and subversive way of dealing with some of these issues. It’s just way more relatable to the average person; it’s more approachable, so you can laugh,” says Bradley.

Perhaps most importantly, the film has been very well-received from the LBGT Community, which finally has a filmmaker telling real stories without usual condescending representations.

“I just got asked to screen the film at a big transgender conference next spring. And I have had a lot of one-on-one connections during screenings, [including] transgender people who have come up to me often in tears. Lots of e-mails from people saying, ‘You got it.’ So overall, the feedback that I’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly good. I’m so happy that the LBGT community are pleased and feeling affirmed,” she says.

Bradley has been invited to screen Two 4 One in Regina as part of Transgender Awareness Week, which takes place March 29 to April 4.  Bradley will be doing a Q&A after the screening, and has been asked to be a part of the raising of the transgender flag, which she couldn’t be happier about.

“It’s an honour. It’s so heartening to be asked to be a part of Transgender Awareness Week,” says Bradley. “I think that whole movement, the whole queer cinema and art world is so rich and so valuable. It’s taken mainstream cinema decades to catch up on what’s going on.

“And they haven’t caught up yet on what’s going on in queer festivals and queer media, where we make images for ourselves and never pander or apologize to mainstream conservative tastes,” she says.