I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with a panel title, “Taboo Topics in Film: Social Justice in Gender Identity and Sexual Health.” Even the word taboo made me think of fishnet stockings. Instead, this engaging panel addressed two very distinct and important issues: female condoms as a preventative tool for women, and the financial barriers to medical procedures faced by transgender people.
In the film “The Cost of Gender,” we meet two trans women who have undergone, or would like to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Filmmakers Dacia Saenz and Sara McCaslin created this film in conjunction with the Seattle Globalist. They wanted to provide a three dimensional character of what it means to be trans today, rather than a sensationalized story, as often portrayed in the media.
The film features Carla Robinson, a pastor at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, WA, who is fundraising to travel to Thailand for sex reassignment surgery; and Morgana Love, an opera singer from Mexico City who undergoes the surgery in Thailand.
Despite the severe health disparities and stigma faced by trans people they are often invisible in the media, even that which features LGBTQ narratives. The film provided some staggering statistics: 57% of trans people report being refused medical care; 41% of trans people attempt suicide; and 53% LGBTQ homicide victims are trans.
“Whether you agree with this movie or not, the reality is trans folks face the majority of LGBTQ violence and discrimination,” said Dacia Saenz.
In addition to the social, physical, and emotional costs, the film estimates that the total economic costs per year for trans people seeking sexual reassignment surgery averages US$30,000 per year. And, this is often a multi-year process.
Shannon Mills of PATH, Conference Organizers, Moderator Pam Racansky, Dacia Saenz of Seattle Globalist, and Hailey Wright of PATH.
Unlike “The Cost of Gender,” the female condom films from the “Female Condoms Are _____ Film Contest” address the issue of sex and sexual practices. Female condoms, which debuted over 20 years ago, remain hard to find, and many people have never even heard of them.
PATH’s “Female Condoms Are_______ Film Contest” received over 30 submissions from around the world.
Seattle-based PATH was interested in creating conversations and increasing the awareness of female condoms. To do this, they took a big risk and invited the world the submit films about female condoms, and provided a cash prize to the best film.
What ensued was weeks of waiting on the part of staff, wondering what types of films they would get, if any. “We were taking a risk. PATH had never done a contest before. We thought, we might get a lot of porn – we don’t know!” said Shannon Mills of PATH.
When it came down to it, over 30 films were submitted. Those featured at the conference offered a diverse array of perspectives from Malasia, Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa. The winner, from Mozambique, followed a young woman whose mother taught her about female condoms.
To view these films and learn more:
Amelia Vader is a Communications Specialist at the Department of Global Health at UW. She has worked and volunteered in the HIV/AIDS community since 2006, and has been involved with various women’s rights campaigns for over 10 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.