When news of Ammoninite washed ashore on the great sea of the internet, I was elated. Two of the things I love most in life are lesbians and dinosaurs, and Ammonite promised both of those things! That the lesbians were to be played by Oscar/Emmy/Grammy-winner Kate Winslet and Saoirse Lady Bird Ronan was fine and good. I especially loved Ronan as lesbian icon Jo March in Little Women. But mostly, I must confess, I was in it for those giant and fantastic reptilian critters of yore. Well, and then the reviews came in, and they were Not Good. Our own Drew Gregory, who loves to love things and does not love to not love things, said Ammonite was drab! And dull! And dour! But I could not pass up the chance to watch a movie about lesbian dinosaurs, so I said to the Amazon Echo, my own personal pre-extinction device, “Alexa, please play the lesbian dinosaurs movie!”
The reason you know the lesbian dinosaur movie is a lesbian movie is because it starts out with a tragedy! Innocent Littlefoot, who is a Longneck dinosaur, becomes friends with chatty Cera, a Three-Horn dinosaur, even though their parents discourage it because they’re different species. Then one night when they’re out playing, a Sharptooth attacks them! And Littlefoot’s mom, who is voiced by Helen Shaver, who plays Vivian in the iconic lesbian movie Desert Hearts, gets eaten by the Sharptooth! But this is a lesbian movie and so that’s just the beginning of the misery. Next thing you know, there’s an earthquake and Littlefoot and Cera get separated from their whole entire families and the planet is changing temperatures and there’s hardly any food left and their only hope is to get to the Great Valley, a land flowing with tree stars.
Littlefoot and Cera set off on a journey to the Great Valley, and soon encounter a Bigmouth dinosaur named Ducky and a Flyer dinosaur named Petrie and a Spiketail dinosaur named Spike who join up with them. Everyone is very happy to have friends because they are hungry and cold, but Cera can’t shake the prejudices of her family, so she decides she’s going to find “her own kind” — but gives up on that real quick when it gets dark and scary and frigid at night.
But that’s only the beginning of the tension between Littlefoot and Cera. See, Littlefoot, in true queer fashion, has a lot of mommy issues. (This, of course, is a common theme in other popular lesbian movies such as Carol and Frozen 2.) First of all, he hears his mom’s voice guiding him toward rock formations and fire mountains and also sees her in the clouds. Like physically, he sees her body in the form of a cloud leading him places. And second of all, he is in constant turmoil because his mom was kind of a bigot but also any time anyone says anything slightly rude about her, he tries to murder them! Which is how the gang ends up following Cera instead of him.
It’s hard to know who is the lesbian-est of these lesbian dinosaurs. I have mentioned Littlefoot’s mommy issues and Cera’s entire Scorpio deal — “I can get my OWN green food! You see, I can take care of myself; all by myself. I’m not afraid to be alone, I know my way to go, AND… I’m not afraid of the Sharptooth, AND… I hope that he doesn’t eat any of you!” — but there’s some other lesbian traits amongst them. Ducky has serious people-pleaser boundary stuff, just “Yep! Yep! Yep!” to everything. Petrie has imposter syndrome and spends the whole movie feeling insecure about not flying yet. And, to be honest, they’re all going through a big time existential crisis and even the simplest conversations are framed against the backdrop of their own mortality and the ephemeral nature of existence.
In the end, though, this little found family comes together and discovers their own powers because of each other and also because of adversity. Cera does a superheroic headbutt! Petrie learns to fly on the snuffy breath of a Sharptooth! Littlefoot uses his tenacity and ingenuity to save the day! And, together, they make it to the Great Valley!
It was when they made it to the Great Valley and neither Kate Winslet nor Saoirse Lady Bird Ronan had shown up that I realized Alexa had played the wrong lesbian dinosaur movie. But I’m glad I watched it anyway. It’s a lot of pain and also angst about the fact of impermanence of all living things, but also resilience and hard-won hope like that Mary Oliver poem “Don’t Hesitate”:
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
And by “crumb,” of course I mean “a single tree star.”
Queers! We made it to the end of the WNBA season. The players have been released from their Wubble and a new champion has been crowned. Some players had already traveled overseas to begin their seasons there before the celebratory champagne had even been popped.
In what turned about to be a relatively anticlimactic series, the Seattle Storm swept the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals, winning the franchise’s fourth championship. Seattle is a good team no matter what, but they were also basically the only team that was at full strength during this unprecedented season in which many of the league’s top players opted out because of the pandemic. I’m so excited to see what will happen next season when all the teams are firing on all cylinders.
One of the nicest things about Seattle winning is that their ownership group is an example of what sports franchises can be at their very best. As Lindsay Gibbs noted at Power Plays, there are two all-women ownership groups in the WNBA: the Atlanta Dream, which includes Kelly Loeffler, the pro-Trump Senator whose name the players vowed not to speak all season, and the Storm, who are owned by former Olympic rower Ginny Gilder, and former Microsoft executives Dawn Trudeau and Lisa Brummel (Gilder also wrote a memoir called Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of Title IX about being an Olympian and a Title IX trailblazer).
“The three [women] didn’t just form a partnership; they invented what they call “The Storm Way” — a mission statement at the unique intersection of business, sports, and social justice,” Gibbs wrote for ThinkProgress in 2017. “While they all believe that taking over the team was a good financial investment, and are partly in this to make money, they also own the Storm because they believe in empowering women and in equal rights for everyone, no matter their gender, race, or sexuality. They say that’s a core tenant of who they are.”
Here they are pictured with Gilder’s wife, Lynn Slaughter, Brummel’s wife, Celeste Keaton, and Storm CEO and general manager Alisha Valavanis.
Sami Whitcomb won a championship while back home in Australia awaiting the birth of her first child. “For me, as much as I wish I didn’t have to choose, I’m also very happy that I’m able to make a sacrifice for [my wife] because she’s made such a huge one for me during this whole pregnancy,” Whitcomb told ESPN. “Doing this alone was an incredible sacrifice on her end, so for me there really wasn’t a choice at the end of the day. I’m grateful that I was able to do this for as long as I could in the bubble but that I now have the opportunity to say, ‘You guys come first and I’m going to do this for you guys.’” Plus, she still got to announce the starters for Game 3.
Now, if you’ll let me be earnest for a second, thank you all so much for following along with me this season! I knew there was an untapped audience for queer WNBA content and I wanted this to be a place existing fans could come talk about the game but would also be accessible for people who were new to the league. To every single person who told me you watched the game because of this column, just know that you made my entire season! Thank you for cheering with me and thirsting with me and I hope to see you back here for more next season.
I hope you found time this weekend to watch Sam Feder’s remarkable new documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, now available on Netflix. It provides a complicated history of over the last hundred plus of mainstream trans representation and features interviews with a wide array of trans media artists you know and love.
Since that film focuses specifically on mainstream film and television, I also wanted to share some not mainstream works that I also love, specifically by trans artists (many of whom are featured in the documentary!). Conversations around queer and trans representation often focus on the works that traumatized us or that helped us to discover our identities. I watched everything on this list after I already came out. I knew who I was (or at least, was starting to know) and with that knowledge, I desperately wanted to see myself and our history on screen.
One thing that Disclosure makes clear is that representation is personal, and so is this list. It’s intentionally not comprehensive, so please share other work you love! Especially other work made by trans people. Nobody tells our stories better than we do.
Valencia by Clement Hil Goldberg, Joey Soloway, and others
Cinephilia is like The Chart. One discovery leads to another that leads to another. I first watched this omnibus adaptation of Michelle Tea’s book because I knew there were sections directed by Joey Soloway and Cheryl Dunye. What a nice surprise that another section is cast with trans women, and another with trans men, and that the whole project was produced by trans filmmaker Clement Hil Goldberg! The movie is an explosion of queer creativity. It was a gift to watch so early in my transition. I saw a portrait of the kind of community I would eventually build — one where trans people are not merely accepted, but given the same freedom of messy queer chaos as anyone else.
Transparent also led me to the work of producer Zackary Drucker. I found FISH (full title: FISH: A Matrilineage of Cunty White Women Realness) and Southern for Pussy on Vimeo, and they blew my mind. I don’t think I’d even knowingly met another trans woman at that point — and watching Zackary on camera, creating her own art, being funny and weird and crass, and doing this with her mother! It was incredible.
Watch Southern for Pussy! Watch Mother Comes to Venus!
It’s no secret that I loved last year’s big trans controversy of a movie Adam. But one thing that annoyed me throughout the whole discussion was how few people knew director Rhys Ernst. Rhys was also a producer on Transparent and during my first year post-transition I eagerly went through all his shorts that I could find. I’ve been making super low budget movies since I was in high school and watching Rhys’ work — including a movie he made before transitioning — felt like watching my own. I could see him develop as an artist through these films, as I’d done with so many film artists as far back as watching Martin Scorsese’s early shorts in middle school. Rhys’ work reassured me that coming out didn’t mean I’d have to change my goals — it would just give me new stories to tell.
Watch The Drive North! Watch Secret Men’s Club: Moment #133! Watch The Thing! Watch This is Me! Watch We’ve Been Around! Watch Adam!
She Gone Rogue by Zackary Drucker, Rhys Ernst
My favorite work by Zackary and Rhys — and one of my very favorite movies of all time — is the short they made together. My appreciation for trans media that actively engages with our history is weaved throughout this list and She Gone Rogue, which costars Holly Woodlawn, Vaginal Davis, and Flawless Sabrina, certainly does that. With overt references to Maya Deren, it was such a beautiful combination of the film history I knew so well and the trans history I was finally learning.
Watch She Gone Rogue!
Women in Revolt by Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis
This one is cheating a bit. Technically it was written and directed by cis man Paul Morrissey and produced by cis man Andy Warhol. However, I’m going to go ahead and give writing credit — and honestly directing credit — to its trio of trans stars. Casting “female impersonators” as members of the women’s liberation movement was supposed to be the ultimate satire, but Morrissey and Warhol underestimated their actors. Largely improvising their dialogue, Woodlawn, Darling, and Curtis take over this movie and make it into a satire of both the cis women they’re portraying and their cis male collaborators. It’s remarkable to witness — especially given that it was made in 1971 — and started me on a mission to watch every on-screen appearance of the three of them. I still haven’t succeeded and if anyone knows where I can find the Holly Woodlawn-starring Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers I will literally marry you.
Women in Revolt got pulled from YouTube?? Ugh. Well, I’ll update this whenever I find a copy.
Glen or Glenda by Shirley Wood
Part of the appeal of Women in Revolt was getting to see transfeminine people on screen as far back as the 70s. But in the 50s one trans woman put herself and other “crossdressers” into her own movie. Like many suburban kids, I went through a Tim Burton phase and at that time watched his Johnny Depp-starring biopic of Shirley Wood. Film culture made her into a joke and, look, a lot of her movies are not very good, but Glen or Glenda is a miracle. I couldn’t believe that this movie I’d seen recreated by Tim Burton was actually a portrait of a queer trans woman made by a queer trans woman. It’s filled with self-hatred and misinformation, but it’s also a rather beautiful plea for understanding — from others and self. It brought me comfort to know we were managing to make movies about our experiences as far back as the 50s. It brings me comfort now.
Shirley’s work deserves reexamination — especially this film — and she at least deserves to be called by the name she preferred.
Watch Glen or Glenda!
Her Story by Jen Richards, Sydney Freeland
Speaking of queer trans women, there’s really nothing like Her Story. Jen Richards and Laura Zak’s Emmy-nominated web series is literally the only time I’ve seen a trans woman casually have a queer love story on screen. Sense8 is amazing, but it’s an ensemble action show in a heightened reality. Boy Meets Girl is sweet, but the actual love story is… in the title. We just have Her Story. Tell me I’m wrong in the comments and I’ll be thrilled, but I don’t think I am. Well! How lucky are we that this one web series also happens to be so fucking amazing?? My attachment is to its central love story but it also stars the always incredible Angelica Ross and is just so well-written by Jen and Laura and so well-directed by Sydney Freeland! But I really can’t say enough about that love story. Watching Jen and Laura walk down a city street flirting and eating ice cream altered my brain. I sometimes wonder what it might be like to live in the world if those 3.5 minutes were as commonplace on screen as they should be.
Watch Her Story!
Drunktown’s Finest by Sydney Freeland
I try not to concern myself with reviews, but the way critics (white, cis) treated Her Story director Sydney Freeland’s debut feature fills me with so much anger. I’ve been tapped into film culture for a long time and so many of the best films made each year — even the best films that premiere at renowned festivals — will never be on your radar if you don’t know to search for them. Freeland’s film about the intersecting lives of three young Navajo people — including a trans woman played by Carmen Moore — is an incredible movie. Despite its low budget and contained setting, something about it feels epic. The characters are so full and lived in and the way they intersect feels natural in a way similar, more well-known films do not. Freeland’s second film, Deidra and Laney Rob a Train, has an all-cis cast, but it’s also great. I’m glad she’s been getting so many TV directing jobs, but I really hope she gets the chance to make more films soon. I just love her work so much.
Watch Drunktown’s Finest!
The Personal Things, Atlantic is a Sea of Bones, Happy Birthday, Marsha! by Tourmaline
During a post-screening Q&A at BAM a couple years ago, Tourmaline said, “We have huge surpluses that other people think are lacks. And that makes the best art and that makes the best film.” Through her archival work, activism, and filmmaking, Tourmaline’s commitment to trans — specifically Black transfeminine — past, present, and future has shifted the way even the mainstream discusses queer and trans history.
To say she is also an incredible artist is to miss the point. Her films are incredible because of who she is, because of her knowledge, because of her commitment to those who are no longer with us, those who are, and those who will be. I don’t remember how I first stumbled upon her film about Egyptt LaBeija, Atlantic is a Sea of Bones, but I think about it often and it remains one of my very favorite films.
Watch The Personal Things! Watch Atlantic is a Sea of Bones! Watch Happy Birthday, Marsha!
Danger & Eggs by Shadi Petosky
This is an Emmy-winning Amazon series, but “indie” doesn’t really exist with children’s media so let me make this exception. There are only 13 episodes of Shadi Petosky’s animated series about aspiring stunt person D.D. Danger and her anxious egg friend, Phillip, but each one is filled with so much weird imagination, chaotic fun, and casual queer and transness. For a few months, I’d pick one day each week to get high and eat ice cream and watch an episode and it was so incredibly soothing. I think Danger & Eggs made me feel the way She-Ra makes a lot of the cis queer women I know feel. Just, “wow what if I had this when I was a kid.”
Watch Danger & Eggs!
I want to kill myself by Vivek Shraya
I’ve already written about how much I love Vivek Shraya’s writing and music, but she’s also a filmmaker! This photo essay about Vivek’s lifelong experience with suicidal ideation resonated deeply. Suicide is a large part of queer and trans narratives, but there’s a difference between the way mainstream media exploits our pain and the way Vivek tells a personal story of learning to vocalize her own.
Coming out did not cure my depression, nor is my depression always prompted by experiences of transphobia. It’s just something I live with and manage. It’s rare to witness anyone be this vulnerable about suicidal ideation, but it’s especially rare from a trans person, and I’m grateful for this film. Also it was just announced that Vivek’s one woman show How to Fail as a Popstar is being developed into a pilot?? So expect more things to watch from her soon!
Watch I want to kill myself!
The T by Bea Cordelia
Before I get into any sort of personal narrative it’s worth noting that Bea Cordelia and Daniel Kyri’s web series about best friends and exes — a white trans woman and a Black queer man — is just really fucking good. I’ve watched a lot of web series over the years, but few with this level of craft. Even if it didn’t mean a lot to me, I’d still recommend it just as a person with good taste in film and television. But it does mean a lot to me!
When I first watched The T I’d been out for a while and most people in my life had accepted I was trans. But now they wouldn’t shut up about the kind of trans person I should be! Cis people who were barely getting my pronouns right suddenly had opinions about what I could do to “look more female.” I knew what felt best to me was to look female and trans, but I started to wonder if that was even possible in anyone else’s eyes. Then I watched The T and saw Bea — gorgeous, trans.Seeing someone my age put herself on screen and own her transness in the way I wanted to own mine gave me a renewed confidence. There are so many ways to be trans and look trans, and none is better than the other. But seeing Bea on screen in work that she’d made — and work this good — was special to me.
Watch The T!
Phineas Slipped by Cary Cronenwett
I saw this at a short lived weekly trans movie night. I spent the whole evening thinking the woman who screened it was trans, because, ya know, trans movie night, but turned out she was just cis and horny. Bless. This short is about a room full of transmasculine schoolboys having dirty daydreams. It’s basically 15 minutes of transmascs artfully fucking each other and it’s fantastic. As trans people we’re often sexualized by cis people, so it’s a treat to watch us sexualize ourselves whether in the context of porn or an avant garde short film. No matter who’s watching this short the gaze remains specifically trans — and look if that cis woman wants to enjoy it that’s fine too.
I can’t find this online! You’ll have to track down that horny cis woman!
Intimidade by Liniker de Barros Ferreira Campos
I could make a whole separate list of music videos from trans artists, but I did want to include this one here, because I just love it so much. It’s sexy and sensual and Liniker costars with Linn da Quebrada who is also a trans woman. When I talk about wanting to see queer trans women on screen, I think the assumption is I mean trans women with cis women. But that is not what I mean! The only time I get to see trans women together on screen is in porn and sure that’s great, but it’d be nice if there was more! This music video is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen and I watch it all the time and you should watch it too.
Ryans, Razor Tongue by Rain Valdez
As I wrote in my review of Razor Tongue, Rain Valdez has a sharp understanding of the romcom genre and she’s using that understand to tell stories of trans women falling in love on screen. I love trans art that has a total disregard for the cis media that came before, but I also think there’s something really powerful about taking a genre like the romcom and inserting oneself into it. Everything Rain does has a feeling of authenticity and depth and it makes for work that’s as meaningful as it is fun.
Watch Ryans! Watch Razor Tongue!
Framing Agnes by Chase Joynt
I’m ending with this short experimental documentary for a few reasons. It’s a film engaged in trans history. It features other prominent trans creators such as Zackary Drucker, Silas Howard, and Angelica Ross. And it’s currently being turned into a feature film co-written by multihyphenate trans artist Morgan M Page. While I was going on this journey of trans media consumption I was also devouring her phenomenal trans history podcast, One from the Vaults. For me, our history and our film and television are the same. It’s about what stories are told about us and what stories we tell about ourselves. Centering trans artists in our viewing, listening, and reading is making a commitment to the authenticity of our narratives. It’s what we deserve. It’s what we should demand.
I’m sure Disclosure would’ve been a very different film if it had been made by cis people. May that never be possible again.
Watch Framing Agnes! Listen to One From the Vaults!