Charlie, ‘Bee’, is about to rewrite his destiny. As a young boy he was bullied by children at school, nicknamed Pansy for preferring the company of girls. Charlie confessed to always having loved the opposite sex but not in a sexual way. He has always wanted to be a woman. As an adult, Charlie decides it is time to make a more permanent change to his life and decides to have an irreversible vagina plastic surgery.
Charlie is the lead in the 15-minute short film Before I Was Me, produced by British filmmaker Laila Khan. It talks about gender dysphoria, also known as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), where a person feels discontent with the sex they were assigned at birth. Before I Was Me is her attempt to throw light on a subject not many are aware of, but which is life-changing for transgenders and transsexuals “We can imagine being trapped in a room or a box but ... how can people imagine or feel trapped within themselves? I wanted to explore the psyche of a transgender,” says Khan.
During her research into gender dysphoria, Khan discovered that the treatment for the condition is supported by a physical modification of their bodies in order to match their brain patterns or gender identities. “What I gathered from them was that they can change their physical embodiments but they can’t change the way their brains function,” she says.
Khan’s film released in 2009 and she has spent the last few years taking the film to different countries. The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival followed by a tour to the Middle East in Jordan and Lebanon. It was screened at The National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman and in Beirut, at Zico House by Helem — a Lebanese LGBT group, the Lebanese American University and the Saint-Joseph University.
The film is a “clean film” and has no scenes of sexual nature nor is it vulgar in any way. Yet, she has faced the strongest resistance to the film and its message in Jordan. The film was seen as too controversial and Khan was turned down by The Royal Film Commission of Jordan. “There’s a small LGBT community in Amman but behind closed doors. I received a little support from The National Gallery and the national press, The Jordan Times,” she says. Lebanon proved to be easier — she received immense support from local organisations, academic institutions and the media.
Khan’s message is quite simple: do not judge others on the basis of their race, religion, gender or orientation. In India she hopes to reach out to the youth who she believes have the power to change. The film will be screened for students at University of Mumbai, St Xaviers’s College, Whistling Woods & FTII in Pune in November.
Before I Was Me is the first film from her production company, Brainworks Picture Company.