There was a moment in the middle of Sissyboy, a short and sweet documentary about a raucous, grotesque, gender-bending performance troupe in Portland, OR, when my heart suddenly felt warm.
As I listened to these men’s stories of love, loss, family, art, and how much the troupe had changed their lives for the better, I felt proud to live in a country where places exist for these men to feel at home, welcomed. Even though there are still many battles to be fought and won, I felt amazed and grateful as I watched them go on tour, getting hugs from passers-by, performing in clubs and cities to full audiences, and moving through city crowds — all without harassment. I’m sure some of that was due to the film’s editing, but even if that’s the case, I appreciated it. To me, the main focus of the film wasn’t the trouble that these men face in the world; it was about how they transform their monsters into art, and find community with each other.
As Jeffrey (stage name Fannie Mae) says in the movie, “I never thought in a million years — I don’t think anyone of us did — that we would ever find a group of people that would make you not feel like you are weird and wrong, and actually makes you feel like you are fine.”
That reminds me of one of my favorite poems, by Raymond Carver:
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
~ ~ ~
May each of us feel ourselves beloved on the earth.
Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays, with a special daily edition during the SXSW Film Festival.