To recognize the importance of today as the International Transgender Day of Visibility, the UCLA Film & Television Archive has created a webpage with a range of short documentaries, interviews and films that shed light on the lives of transgender people, their aspirations, hardships and acts of resistance.
Celebrated annually on March 31, International Transgender Day of Visibility is an opportunity to recognize the courage and contributions of transgender and gender-diverse people, and a chance to share their stories of struggle as they continue to face inadequate legal protections, stigma and violence. Identity-affirming representations on screen are critical to advancing awareness and acceptance.
Since 2005, the UCLA Film & Television Archive, which is a division of UCLA Library, has partnered with Outfest to preserve transgender stories in the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project collection, the largest publicly accessible archive of LGBTQ moving image media. Often produced on the margins of the mainstream, these works are especially at risk of being lost or forgotten, particularly records of pre-Stonewall life.
Laura Horak, director of the Transgender Media Portal and associate professor of film studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, has utilized the Legacy Project collection for research several times over the years.
“It can be helpful for trans, Two Spirit, nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people today to know that they have a rich history, including a rich history behind and in front of the camera,” Horak said. Used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity, “Two Spirit” is a term that can encompass same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance within the Native American community.
“Even though the media sometimes makes it seem like trans people just arrived yesterday, in fact trans people have been creating and participating in audiovisual media for at least the past half century,” Horak said.
During its trailblazing, 20-year run on public television, “In the Life” (1992-2012) served as a primary news source for social, political and legal issues facing the LGBTQ community. In this segment from the 2002 episode, “Words Do Matter,” transgender advocate Janet Mock interviews transgender model Isis King about media portrayals of transgender people.
More videos celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility can be found on the UCLA Film & Television Archive website.