When's the Last Time You Saw a Queer Trans Man Onscreen? Time to Re-Watch 'ROMEOS.'

Editor's Note: This article contains movie plot spoilers.

I usually have to brace myself before taking on a film about trans life. Partly because there are so few stories with trans characters, but also because such narratives likely inform many peoples’ views about trans folks.

Further, how often do you see depictions of men who are not only transgender, but gay? If you’re in the right crowds, you can get to know such amazing folks, but representations of queer transmen in mainstream media are few and far between. Here to raise one hand, thankfully, is Romeos (2011), a light-of-touch yet gritty drama featuring a twenty-year-old German trans man named Lukas.

When Lukas goes to a gay club one night and realizes he’s attracted to a cis man, Fabio, the feeling turns out to be mutual. Their relationship goes on to blossom like any other, sweetly, bit by bit, as they get to know each other. Nevertheless, Lukas constantly covers his still-full chest. When he’s reluctantly taken to a lake to swim, he remains fully clothed, visibly anxious, worried that he might reveal he’s trans. Lukas only goes into the water when Fabio pulls him in. 

Lukas, like many marginalized people in real life, is antagonized by forces bigger than any one person. When he is outed as a trans man before he’s ready, Fabio reacts crudely and transphobically, saying he isn’t into “trannies.” This reaction hits the core of many trans peoples’ fears: that we’ll be rejected and remain unloved because of ignorance, fear, and cultural hangups.

Granted, not everyone reacts this way, but when it happens with someone you like or maybe even love, it can be extremely painful. There’s no easy way to deal with this. In time, though, as increasing numbers of narratives emerge, trans people will become more and more visible. Eventually, one hopes, transphobia will become less of a barrier to connecting with people. 

While Romeos feels a little like Trans 101 at times, addressing medical transition in a tone that assumes one is not familiar with the process, the film is ultimately is the story of a young man's personal growth. Lukas doesn’t stand in for all trans-masculine experiences, but he does wear the tribe’s emblem.

For many people, this movie will be a partial mirror in a world with very few sensitive, complex reflections. For many others, it will expand their sphere of empathy to include a new understanding of how a person can be.

Lukas reconciles with Fabio in the last part of the film, but the movie doesn’t end by focusing on their relationship, avoiding the implication that his self-worth hinges on a cis man’s “magical” validation. Instead, in the final take, we see Lukas at a beach before a camera, presumably held by a friend or a lover — maybe Fabio, maybe someone new. Our hero Lukas smiles, shyly taking off his shirt to reveal he’s had top surgery. Then, lifting up his arms in triumph, beaming like the happiest guy on earth, Lukas runs over the dunes to the far shore, alone.

Ultimately, Lukas — as a trans man, as a man — is more than enough.

Let's Be Real, Being LGBTQ in High School Isn't Easy. But You Can Get Through This.

All your feelings aren't easy, ok? Let me just start out with that. Let me tell you that right now. I was there once, and I get it.

You’re in middle school, or you’re in high school. Hormones are going, you’re nervous about everything, all that matters to you is the gossip of the school. You want to be cool, you want to be noticed, you want someone to care about who you are.

Same time, you don’t want to try too hard, and you don’t want to be an outcast. They say it’s easy, but it’s not.

~~~

There are some people who look back on their time in high school and call it the best years of their lives. They loved it. They probably aren't you. And they are not ever going to be you. But you can’t see that far down the road, and I understand that.

Right now, all that means anything is Friday night. You want to have a voice, and no one is giving you one. You have a bunch of passions, but you’re scared to let them show. And you have feelings for people. Feelings that no one else has. Feelings you don’t understand.

It’s hard. All these feelings come up that you don’t recognize. You try to make sense of it all, but it seems nearly impossible. So you go to school, you play the game, you try to fit in. It seems like the easiest thing to do, when in fact, you have never worked so hard in your life.

You say things you never meant to say. You comment on girls because all your other guy friends are. Or you hide the fact that you don’t belong in the body you’re currently in. Or you sit with the other girls, watching the football team, and you lie to yourself that is is how you’re supposed to live your life.

It’s a constant struggle. There are fears and doubts. There are miscues and wrong turns. Tomorrow might be a better day, but that’s no guarantee. Tomorrow, they may figure out your secret -- see into your closet -- and you’ll never know a moment of silence again. The rumors will start, the insults will begin. You’ll lose everything you tried so long to create.

Or at least that's what your mind says.

~~~

So, no. It’s not easy.

But this is my pledge to you, the first of many. You will get through it. You will make it out alright. Yes, they can hurt you. Yes, the bruises may go away on the outside, but they live long on the inside.

Still, I beg you to keep going. Keep pushing, keep fighting. Fight to find the community that makes you happy. If it’s in drawing, find artists. If it’s in theater, join the drama club. If it’s in construction, make friends with the designers.

But what if you’re an athlete and they don’t accept you? Or what if you’re an outcast and you don’t do clubs or activities? Talk to someone then. Talk to a therapist. Talk to a doctor. Find whatever outlet you can.

Everything’s got something they love in this world.

~~~

No. That's not easy.

You might cry yourself to sleep one night. You might look at the calendar, and wonder how you’re going to make it through another day. But you will. I promise you that. You’re going to live, and love, and be free again.

Right now, no. It’s going to hurt. But you can find a better way. You can find groups, you can find friends, you can find help. It’s never too late.Years from now are miles away. So just focus on today. Just fix what you can.

But never give up. Never quit.

This world belongs to you. You are beautiful. You always have been. And you always will be.

 

Photo courtesy of Victor Bezrukov / Flickr.