Review: ‘Almost Myself: Reflections on Mending And Transcending Gender’

The latest chapter in Tom Murray's easygoing exploration of lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual issues, "Almost Myself," finds the filmmaker traveling across the country talking to various transgendered men-to-women. Neither militant nor "objective," and without a shred of pretension, Murray admits he is interviewing a limited range of people "... almost like myself" -- white, over 40, and labeled male at birth.

The latest chapter in Tom Murray’s easygoing exploration of lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual issues, “Almost Myself,” finds the filmmaker traveling across the country talking to various transgendered men-to-women. Neither militant nor “objective,” and without a shred of pretension, Murray admits he is interviewing a limited range of people “… almost like myself” — white, over 40, and labeled male at birth. He elicits remarkable candor in his subjects, illuminating a wide spectrum of choices and lifestyles. Success of “Transamerica” could heighten cable interest, though pic may prove insufficiently sensationalistic for some auds.

Pic starts with Judy, author of a “Help Me Reverse My Sex Change” Web site. Judy’s case launched Murray’s previous film “Fish Can’t Swim,” though she herself did not figure therein.

“Almost” intercuts interviews with nine quite different but equally content transgendered men-to-women, alternating them with updates on the evolving saga of Judy. After 11 operations, two marriages and 20 years as a female, Judy decides, under the influence of a religious group, to “cure” herself of her “problem” and become a heterosexual male.

In visiting with Judy at the different startling phases of her transformation back to “Joseph” — from sexy female to bearded, full-breasted hetero to bench-pressing gay, Murray provides a case study in gender confusion.

Unlike Judy/Joseph, the other “trannies” Murray encounters are far less fixated on external appearance and far more comfortable in their skin. Most had tried for a considerable length of time to exist as male, often overcompensating by joining the army or the police force. But even in Vietnam in the middle of the war, Elane was driven to secretly cross-dress behind an airplane hangar.

Some found the transition from male to female almost seamless: Singer/songwriter Georgie managed to retain not only her work and her low voice but even her wife. But for others, the assumption of what they believed to be their true gender identity is seen as a betrayal by their loved ones.

Tech credits are visibly homemade, the interviews full of internal jump-cuts, though the lensing seems less raw than in Murray’s previous one-man video essays.

Almost Myself: Reflections on Mending And Transcending Gender

Production

A T. Joe Murray Videos production. Produced, directed by Tom Murray.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Murray; editors, Murray, Gaylon Emerzian. Reviewed on DVD at NewFest, New York, June 6, 2006. Running time: 72 MIN.

With

Judy/Joseph Kirchner, Holly Boswell, Georgie Jessup, Elane Thomas, Beth Thomson, Kate Bornstein, Dr. Marci Bowers, Rosalyne Blumstein.
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