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article imageReview: Transgender women look within for 'The Pearl' Special

By Michael Thomas     May 3, 2016 in Entertainment
Coming out as a transgender man or woman isn't easy in any circumstance, but 'The Pearl' follows four people who came out as trans women later in life.
Directors Jessica Dimmock and Christopher LaMarca weren't interested in weighing down The Pearl with statistics or talking-head interviews. Instead, the documentary flows between three personal narratives.
Nina, from British Columbia, is just starting to get more comfortable going out of the house as Nina, not Reinhart, as she was born. Her spouse and family (except for a supportive sister) have no idea she identifies as a woman, and she frequently changes "personalities" in her car.
Jodie and Krystal, from Oregon, are siblings with an incredible story: when Jodie first confesses to her brother that she identifies as a woman, she finds out that he has been keeping the same secret. But while Krystal abandons her old identity and never looks back, Jodie still remains fairly closeted, afraid that she'll be less safe as a trans woman as she travels across the country as part of her job.
Amy, from Washington, recently saw her wife die. With a house to herself, she starts what she calls an "outhouse" — a place where you can be yourself — for a number of trans women. But her attempts at starting a "family" run into a roadblock when the house itself falls into disrepair.
The women often use the cameras as a confessional; Nina is disappointed that her family isn't asking questions about her new identity, and Jodie feels insecure and afraid of herself in the face of Krystal's confidence.
It's a reminder that transitioning takes far more than simply saying "my sex and gender don't align." Wardrobes, makeup and even walking all needs to change. And as Amy's housemates discuss later on, what one's ultimate goal as a trans woman will be is completely different from woman to woman.
There's many moments sure to bring tears, especially when Nina visits her mother as Nina for the first time. If any of the four women faced any harassment during the three years of filming, the directors wisely chose not to include it. The film is about the inner journey, and its title comes from a metaphor Amy uses as she gives her housemates a much-needed pep talk.
Amazon's Transparent tells a wonderful, albeit fictional, story of how a father's decision to come out as a trans woman affects him and his family. With The Pearl, it's refreshing to see the lens focused entirely on the people coming out and their own struggles to accept themselves and put themselves out into the world as the person they want to be.
The Pearl is screening on May 5 and 6 at the Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto. To see Digital Journal's 2016 festival coverage, click here.
More about the pearl, jessica dimmock, christopher lamarca, hot docs 2016, Hot docs
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