More than three years ago cinematographer/director PJ Raval heard about a small town in Colorado that was "the sex change capital of America." Intrigued, he contacted the doctor, herself a transsexual woman, and began a conversation that resulted in a two-and-a-half year film project, Trinidad.
"I had never heard of this town," Raval told Hair Balls after a Saturday night screening here in town. "Then I read a couple of articles saying it was a town of transsexuals with an abnormal amount of large women's stores. I thought, 'That sounds crazy, I gotta go check it out.'"
When he got there Raval didn't find any super-sized stores, but he did find three post-operative transsexual women, all in their fifties and each with a different experience living in Trinidad. Marci is the doctor currently responsible for the town's "sex change capital" title (she does an average of six gender-reassignment surgeries a week, more than anywhere else in the U.S.). She's integrated well into the local community and has a female partner.
Laura and Sabrina, both having had their reassignment surgery more recently, are friends working on opening a recovery house for Marci's patients. They aren't as well integrated into the community; then again, they aren't as well integrated as women either. The trio maintains a casual, but strained friendship -- Marci won't lend the two money, among other things. But she might not be as rich as they think; though the surgery costs just $16,000, there's not much of a profit margin there. ("[That's] less than a car," Raval laughs.)
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The locals have a variety of opinions about Marcie's work, from "The hospital and community depend on the money the surgeries bring in," to That's their business," and "That's disgusting."
Trinidad isn't a How to Cut Off Your Penis Without Really Trying primer. Nor is it Transsexuals for Dummies. Raval didn't mean it to be, at least he doesn't think so. "I didn't really have a clear idea [what it would be] when I started this, but I was just fascinated and I thought I would learn a lot."
And he has. "What I've discovered in showing the film is that some of the younger people are a little bit more into the idea of considering themselves female but not having the surgery. Or not considering themselves neither female nor male. This younger generation is saying, 'You can call me whatever you want,' and 'I'm not going to call myself something for you.' For instance in Vancouver there's a group of women who were born biologically women, consider themselves men, they take hormones but don't do the surgery and consider themselves lesbians."
Male lesbians? ... Ah ha ... Can we go back to the big women's stores and start over? We must have missed something.