The problem of art is that it’s rarely viewed by the audience who needs to see it. Here we have TransMilitary, a significant document that could cause a course-correction in the hearts and minds of Americans. Ideally, the military is the great equalizer, where everyone works together for a shared purpose. Of course, recent political moves have proven every bit as disruptive and subversive as they were intended to be. When we find Trump waving the Pride flag at an LGBT rally and then subsequently working to disbar Trans from the military, we know who to blame.
This film would be a great education if it ever reached the middle of America. On the coast, it is simply stating facts: everyone is equal and accepted and working towards the utility of the greater good. We know. What is not readily apparent is just how important the military is to the community. The film cites the military as the highest employer of Transgender people in America. Which is not to say the ethics are progressive or perfect, but that they are this bad everywhere else; the military remains the place they can serve without gendered distinction.
Our hearts swell as we find an all-together supportive picture. Co-directors Gabe Silverman and Fiona Dawson convey a soft and delicate hand, treating the film’s subjects on their own terms, tying their gender identities together with iconoclastic American imagery. There is a great deal of empathy behind the camera, allowing couples the space to create heartfelt moments, being a true window into the lives of their beautiful families, a reminder of their own sacrifice. “My lesbian daughter ended up being my straight son,” a loving Mom says, as our hearts clench in our stomachs with sentimental appreciation.
When the film compares military spending on Erectile Dysfunction Prescriptions ($84.24 million) to Transgender Healthcare ($8.4 million), it spells out just how deluded our priorities have become. With an estimated 15,000 Transgender military members, it’s disturbing we’ve put much more funding into getting erections. A great portion of this country puts the military above all else. If only all this information could reach them before they made any judgement on any Trans issues. Because this movie could change them significantly.
The subject here has been expanded from Silverman’s Emmy-nominated short doc, Transgender, at War and in Love, featuring some of the same stories and shots. While that had been a powerful twelve minutes, it’s unclear if the same design withholds an hour and a half. While you’re in it, be prepared for big feelings and to nod vigorously in agreement. TransMilitary has a big, great heart; we must admire its goals. Even when it does not present anything we haven’t heard on the news, it works because the film is anchored by love and support.