Comedy legend Ernst Lubitsch made this very early silent short about a rebellious spirit who leaves home in drag to attend a ball. I Don’t Want To Be A Man is a peculiar time capsule depicting gender roles in German society in the years Berlin was becoming the global epicenter of sexual and gender exploration.
A notorious flop when first released, George Cukor’s masterpiece Sylvia Scarlett follows Katharine Hepburn on a zany journey through the criminal underworld and gender nonconformity. Sylvia is a male-presenting tomboy whose romantic entanglements with bisexual Cary Grant make for a uniquely complex romp that has fascinated gender studies majors for years.
Ed Wood was an eccentric, gender non-conforming filmmaker who made a name for himself in 1950’s Hollywood due to his extreme lack of talent. Glen Or Glenda is always listed among the worst movies ever made, but for years, it was the most famous example of trans representation to be seen anywhere. Written long before queer was an academic department, and just after Christine Jorgenson became a household name, Glen Or Glenda must be seen to be believed. No, no, it just must be seen.
This landmark documentary is a must-see centerpiece of LGBT cinema. An exuberant, enlightening record of a 1967 pageant organized by legendary trans artist and activist Mother Flawless Sabrina, The Queen is perhaps best remembered for the immaculate screen presence of Crystal LaBeija, mother of New York’s House of LaBeija.
Iconic transgender actress Holly Woodlawn gives a fiery performance in the 1970 Andy Warhol production Trash. Holly plays a wholly-realized destitute woman on the Lower East Side who, together with her partner Joe Dallesandro, scrapes by on her wits. Her tough exterior masks a deep vulnerability, and her powerful personality steals the movie. All the more astonishing: This was her screen debut, and was totally improvised. Woodlawn then became the first trans actress to have an organized Oscar campaign.
Trans actress The Lady Chablis made an indelible impression in this unusual Clint Eastwood period film, playing a fictionalized version of herself. An iconic performer and comedienne from Savannah, Georgia, The Lady Chablis was an unconventional community leader, and she had a strong screen presence, holding her own against an ensemble of established stars.