Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:51 pm 
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A trans man carries his own child, and it's an eye-opening journey

This documentary is about a 29-year-old gay trans man called Freddy (or just Fred) McConnell who chose to carry his own baby. The subject sounded freakish or potentially repellent. But the narration, in a pleasant young man's voice in an English accent (Freddy's) won me over at once. So does the setting, which fits the title, because Fred's home town is Deal, Kent, a town between Dover and Ramsgate, 84 miles from London, that's now a seacost resort.

Freddy says there are plenty of gays in Deal, but he may be the only trans one. We don't meet them at first, but from his narration, it sounds like he has a warm, supportive family, with an energetic, positive mother. It's not that simple. He hadn't realized how difficult it would be to get filmed all through the experience, which he planned on and went through with. Besides that, childbirth (have you heard?) hurts like hell. in Yahoo News he's quoted as saying, "F***, it’s f***ing awful. If men had to go through this all the time you would never hear the end of it." He has said that though he did not want his becoming a male to imply a put-down of being female, being male has brought him a "sh--load of privilege." He gives that up to have his own baby.

Freddy has a black boyfriend in London, CJ, who, like him, is a gay trans man, and they begin to plan this thing together. He decides commuting to London is no big deal. They go to the Indian lady specialist advisor, Freddy carrying his skateboard. As this is shown the film narrates with old videos and photos how Freddy's becoming a guy came about, the story of a life of knowing he was meant to be male from very early. But then he also eroticized men. He idolized and desired, especially, Mel Gibson. (He shows old pictures from back then.) And so he became a man, but not a straight man.

Freddy remains an engaging and accessible narrator of his own story, which he handles bravely and calmly, but isn't easy. What he has to do is stop taking testosterone, and that's hard. He has only been doing the transitioning to male for five or six years. He's had "top surgery," but not bottom. He feels, "What the F--- am I doing?" Then he feels like he's "having a really, really mellow trip. It feels like ice thawing."

Then he starts to have a period, and the clinic guides him and CJ as to when to come in for the insemination. It's happening. He's got hair on his (flat) chest, whiskers, a masculine voice, muscular arms, and he's going to get pregnant. What the F--- is he doing? This film is a continual opportunity to reconsider one's assumptions and open one's mind. (As a gay/bisexual male, I've still tended to be old fashioned and rigid about gender roles. This film has sown me they should not be so rigid.)

The Indian lady takes care of the procedure. It's Harley Street (where the poshest London doctors traditionally are. It's snowing outside. CJ is there by his side.

But that doesn't work. The pregnancy doesn't happen this first time. And in the course of this intense process Freddie and CJ find they're too different and split up. (It's no doubt a good thing they discovered this before the baby.) Freddy must pull out of CJ's place in London and rely now on his mother. She wants to have a grandchild, so she's quite involved. But his real dad, who's not with his mom anymore, isn't very supportive, which is hard. Later, at a distance, he is, and CJ also comes for a shower with his own baby nephew, so he's remaining a good friend.

So it happens, Freddy gets a bulge. He becomes great with child. The film doesn't strictly follow the chronology, just checking in from time to time. . The birth takes place in water - bearing out the "seahorse" theme, as does the film's frequent water and nature imagery - and we hear what seems a lot of agonized groaning by Freddy. His mother is there every step of the way. And then it comes. It's a small but very noisy and energetic baby boy. We talk about the miracle of birth but sometimes it's a bit more miraculous than usual.

Freddy tells how he accepts now after the birth he should not try to be, as he'd told himself before, "just a normal dad" once the baby was born. It's more complicated than that. But the way he tells us as he holds him that the baby is "an extension of you" and "you look forward to seeing him in the morning," is simple and touching.

I think it's fair to say this film gives us an experience that's unique. It gives me a lot to think about. I seem to have been drawn closer to accepting and understanding what trans is about, and how various it is. The world has changed, opened to more possibilities of experience.

This film was made in cooperation with the Guardian, Freddy is a journalist, and there's article Freddy wrote about himself published in the Guardian five years ago.

Seahorse, 91 mins., debuted at Tribeca Apr. 2019, opened theatrically in the UK Aug. 30, 2019, and showed at four other festivals. It released on the internet Jun. 16, 2020.

Watch the film or here.

Rent or buy using Vimeo - in all countries except USA, Canada and Denmark
Denmark - DR2 - Faren der Foedte Sit Barn
USA - Itunes / Apple TV / Vudu / Google Play / Fandango
Canada - Available on CBC Gem June 21

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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