Friday, 27 July 2018

Just Be Gemma

Last week was Pride Week in St. John's.  It is good to see that the week-long event has become more than a marketing ploy with rainbow flags in store windows or even a token ceremony at City Hall.  Pride Week has become a much more inclusive event, with family flair, with readings in bookstores by drag king Doctor Androbox and art activities at The Rooms.  Gender inclusive washrooms were noted in programs.  Times really seem to be changing.
Dr. Androbox at Chapters bookstore.

The documentary that traces Gemma Hickey's gender transition over a two year period was also screened at The Rooms.  This documentary is the product of Peter Walsh and his style is understated.  The result is a film that is intimate rather than dramatic and shows a much more vulnerable side to Gemma Hickey.  Hickey (no relation to me) is well known as a social activist, especially as they have championed same sex marriage, fought for survivors of clergy abuse and most recently gender neutral birth certificates.  Clearly, no shrinking violet.
Peter Walsh (left) and Gemma Hickey(right) with film poster.

The film starts with Gemma's first day of testosterone therapy.  Since 2014, there have been a spate of tv programs–both "reality" and dramatic– like "I am Jazz", "Transparent" or "I am Cait" that have banked on the growing interest in gender identity.  What makes "Just Be Gemma" outstanding amid this crop of films is its subtlety.  This is not a simple case of transitioning from one gender to another.

There's a very moving section in Hickey's story when she consults with her Nan, who is the family wise woman and matriarch.  Hickey shares that she doesn't know whether she wants to be a boy or a girl.  Nan's advise is to "just be Gemma".  And it is that process of discovery that is the film's strength.  It is not about binary definitions, sensational surgery or miracle hormones.  This documentary reflects on what  is lost and what is gained and an evolving sense of self that impacts a whole family and community.  The film is a coproduction of CBC.  Here's the link:https://watch.cbc.ca/media/media/absolutely-canadian/just-be-gemma/38e815a-00d0bde093e

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