Transgender – Protecting Human Rights

A woman plays pool.

Transgender or gender non-conforming people are one of the most at-risk and disadvantaged groups in society.  Alarmingly, most Transgender people have experienced discrimination, harassment and even violence because their gender identity or gender expression is different from their birth-assigned sex.

Danica Rain, woman, mother, yoga enthusiast, transgender rights advocate.
Danica Rain – woman, mother, yoga enthusiast and Transgender rights advocate. 

Danica Rain is by far the emotional heart of our documentary Balls.  She was so courageous to share her life journey with us; everything from the separation from her wife and daughter, to living homeless, to being drug addicted and to all the mental and physical abuse she has had to endure while transitioning gender.  

Woman with daughter in park sit on a yoga mat.
Danica sits with her daughter in a park. 

There was many a time during our interview with her that the “fourth wall” of the “subjective” camera was broken.  We cried with Danica as she revealed and relived her most violent and heart wrenching memories. Though Danica has suffered a lot of pain and heartache, her story ends on a very positive note.  Like a fairytale princess, she is in a committed relationship with a devoted man that has swept her off her feet.  Not only has she reconnected with her daughter but she has also fully transitioned.    


At the time of filming, Danica was researching and preparing to have her confirmation surgery realized.  Though we were not able to document it, that dream finally came true late last year in Bangkok, Thailand.  


Danica is warm and beautiful person who not only transitioned her gender but also evolved her sexuality.  Once a heterosexual man, she is now a straight identified woman.  The transgender experience, in all its fluidity, continues to show us that love, life, sex and sexuality are not rigid and inflexible truths.  There is hope for humanity yet.  Thank you Danica.

A nurse performs a testicular test on a man on the street. 


As much as the Balls documentary was a testicular “tell-all”, everything from testicular cancer to testicular art and everything in between, this doc was also an exploration of masculinity and it’s ever-changing face.  The new masculinity for this new millennium is a softer beast that has a vulnerable side and is not afraid to show it.  Whether you have two, one or no testicles at all, “having balls is just being sure about yourself and also being kind and generous to the people in your path and the people in your life”. (Carey Gray)

Explore more stories of Gender Confirmation with Farra N. Hyte and Angel from our series Drag Heals.  

Please follow and share our stories.

Gender Reassignment

Gender Reassignment - Tiana

“My gender reassignment is not about my balls. What I wasn’t comfortable with was living as a man”.  

Tiana is fierce and speaks her mind unapologetically. Somehow, there is this assumption that trans people’s ultimate transformation is to match their gender identification with their physical genitals.  For some trans people, this might be the case. Danica is a perfect example. For her, matching her gender to her genitals was a very important part of the process. In Danica’s words, “I hate to say it, but it’s the icing on the cake!”
 
Society at large is obsessed with trans people’s genitals.  You are either male or female and nothing in-between.  Tiana, like so many other trans people, keep proving society wrong and insist that gender, biological sex and sexuality are on a spectrum.  Tiana loves her balls and penis, and quite rightly so as she considers herself a “top” (a person who engages in the penetrative role during sexual activity).  

The world is not black and white but ever-changing shades of gray.  The trans experience, is a diversity of experience.  That is why we cannot pigeon-hole Tiana OR Danica. Though they refer to themselves as trans women, their individual stories are unique, powerful and ultimately transcend convenient labelling. 
 
Though Tiana has had some plastic surgery, she is not currently on (nor has she ever been on) hormone therapy. Unlike Danica, Tiana is unwilling to take large doses of estrogen and change the chemical makeup of her body.  In her own words, “I want to save my liver.”  There are many side effects to being on estrogen hormone therapy.  These might include: deep vein thrombosis, the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein, pulmonary embolism, the blockage of an artery in the lungs, gallbladder disease and some forms of cancer.

Tiana’s natural body type (even before transitioning) is long and lean.  For Tiana, being an ectomorph was a blessing in disguise. Through plastic surgery, she was interested in “feminizing” her face, but not her body.  She continues to visit a  cosmetic clinic for general upkeep with botox and facial fillers.
 
“I view my body as feminine, even though I have balls.  My balls are not on public display.  Unless you are going to sleep with me, you really don’t know what’s going on down there”.

I am so impressed with Tiana’s honesty.  It’s refreshing and inspiring.  She is living her life the exact way she wants to live it.  Who could ask for anything more than a life lived to its fullest? 

Gender Reassignment vs Gender Confirmation

I recently had a conversation with my producing partner, Charlie David, about the use of words to empower minorities, particularly in the case of trans people.  We discussed the importance of using a vocabulary that is positive, helpful and more accurate. Instead of saying gender reassignment surgery, perhaps we should instead say gender “confirmation” surgery.  It is important to consider this etymology as it validates a person in gender transition.  “Gender Reassignment” suggests that a person is making a choice to switch genders. It’s not about choice; it’s about using surgery as a therapeutic tool to help trans people to be more comfortable with their gendered, chosen self; to reaffirm and confirm their true self.

 ~Nico Stagias, director Balls documentary

Please follow and share our stories.

Gender Confirmation

gender confirmation

For LGBTQ people, coming out is a huge step in the process towards self-love and validation.  For someone representing the T in that acronym, gender confirmation surgery may be the ultimate step in becoming their most authentic self.  Thankfully in many countries around the world this hurtle is becoming easier to overcome as our societies become more educated and less discriminatory.

However there are still too many stories of verbal and physical abuse, abandonment and stigma.  That’s why for me sharing stories is so important.  It’s a small step that can help educate and hopefully even trigger empathy.

When our hearts begin to empathize with people we previously considered strangers or incompatible with our own set of social constructs – that’s progress and it can be incredibly powerful.

Though I am a gay man, in my younger years I admit to not understanding how the T fit into the LGBT community.  For that matter I didn’t understand how a person would want to confirm or reassign their gender.

That’s because my perspective was limited and empathy hadn’t entered the equation.  At that point I had not met anyone who had transitioned genders or was considering it face to face.  My knowledge on the subject was limited and my capacity for empathy was also meager.  The opportunity for honest and direct communication is sometimes the most powerful motivation for changed behavior or attitudes.

I am cis male. I look and represent myself to the world in our society’s current and traditional construct of what a man is and/or should be.  I’m very comfortable in my maleness and my body.  I’m at home in jeans, t-shirts and a ball cap.  I’ve sported a beard for over two decades, simply because I’m most comfortable this way.  The fact that my physicality and way of interacting with the world is in alignment with the expectations of the gender I was born means that I operate in a position of privilege.  And as soon as we are able to recognize the unique positions of privilege we each have, it creates an opportunity to look outward and exercise our minds and hearts to be more empathetic.

Essentially I’m an urban bear or lumbersexual if you want to toss some loose labels on me though I prefer not to be packaged because I always find it becomes limiting and never fully represents who I am, my interests and most importantly who I may evolve to be and haven’t even imagined yet.

And that potential for evolution within a person is what I’d like for you to consider today.

In what ways have you changed in your existence thus far?

Have you had to come out to friends or family in one or more aspects of your life?

Is there another revelation you’d like to explore and share with the world?

How does your most authentic and best self look, behave and interact with the world?

Have you had a conversation with someone considering or who has had gender confirmation surgery?

With some of those thoughts in mind, I invite you to watch the latest video in our men’s health series, Balls.  This episode features Danica, a woman of incredible strength, love and resilience.  With Danica as our guide we take a very personal journey to discover gender confirmation.

We have two episodes with Danica within this series so be sure to sign up for my newsletter and subscribe to my YouTube channel so you won’t miss this incredible story.

 

 

If you’d like to start at the beginning of our exploration of men’s health, please check out these other articles and videos.

Balls Documentary – Director Discussion

April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month

Gender Reassignment 

You can watch the documentary in its entirety on Vimeo, Amazon, YouTube or right here.

Please follow and share our stories.