AFI Docs, Florida, Minneapolis-St Paul, Frameline, Outfest
Four transgender members of the US military work to end the ban on their service, only to see Trump try to reinstate it.
While lesbians, gay men, and bisexual members of the military saw the end of the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, the estimated 15,500 transgender servicemen and women were still barred from serving openly. Silverman and Dawson’s film introduces four brave soldiers who work behind the scenes to change this, beginning in 2015: Logan, FTM, has seen acceptance from his fellow soldiers and does not want to leave behind a career in the military; his partner, Laila, MTF, has not seen the same acceptance and seeks a medical discharge to live authentically as a woman; Jennifer, MTF, is a celebrated military intelligence officer, fearful of losing everything and not being able to support her wife and kids; and El, FTM, is not out to anyone in his current deployment, but does share his experience with supportive brothers-in-arms with whom he trained. After the group with which they’re working with to enact change is approached by Obama’s secretary of defense for a surprise meeting, they celebrate the unexpected lifting of the ban – until Trump’s election throws an unwelcome spanner in the works. The film would have benefitted by profiling fewer subjects and by focusing more expressly on the present-day impact of the current administration rather than the slow and often unfilmable advocacy work that took place behind closed-door meetings, but it remains an affecting and topical story.