A 2002 Northern California murder case that brought national attention to violence against transsexuals, as Matthew Shepard’s killing did to gay-bashing, is the focus of Shelly Prevost’s “Trained in the Ways of Men.” Straightforward docu examines public attitudes toward gender blur in the context of its worst-case scenario, in which “trans panic” led to the brutal killing of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo. Gay fest, pubcast and educational exposure are signaled.
Willowy, model-pretty Gwen, nee Eddie, started cross-dressing at 14. She was partying one night at a Newark, Calif., residence with four young men and one woman when the latter forcibly “examined” the intact male genitalia; hysterical collective reaction triggered Gwen’s prolonged bludgeoning and strangulation. Claiming “heat of passion,” the accused male assailants sought manslaughter convictions. After a mistrial, a second trial finally delivered justice, albeit limited by perception of “sexual deception as provocation,” as if killing a transgendered person were somewhat understandable. Celebrated liberal attorney Tony Serra sadly makes a rather grotesque impression among other lawyers, relatives and scholarly interviewees. Newscast and courtroom footage fill out workmanlike assembly.