New docuseries “Trans in Trumpland” shows pain, truth, and resilience

"Trans in Trumpland" scene with Rebecca and Mom

New series shows the reality of living trans 

Donald Trump didn’t have to hold a pride flag upside down for the LGBTQ community to feel fear. The stark reality of the 2016 presidential election has influenced a deeper threat to the growing movement of trans and gender-nonconforming civil rights. Then in the year of 2020 the most anti-trans bills and murders occurred to date.

"Trans in Trumpland" poster
“Trans in Trumpland” poster

The threat was always there. When looking state to state, these threats were increasing under the lens of the last four years.

The four-part documentary series, Trans in Trumpland opens the reality of living as transgender in Trumpland states. The series follows four trans lives in Texas, North Carolina, Idaho, and Mississippi. A rollercoaster of an experience for the docuseries crew and the co-founders of Transwave Media, Jamie DiNicola, and docuseries director, Tony Zosherafatain. These four states are so vehemently conservative and anti-trans and the filmmakers experienced fear.

“The fact that transgender people in different parts of the country have different legal status is just wild to me. It makes no sense,” said said DiNicola in a video conference interview.

They finished filming in December of 2019, just before the pandemic began. The series shows the divides in human rights as they ripple throughout our country. Federal recognition can change this said DiNicola.

However, Zosherafatain found something incredible in the lives of Evonne, Shane, Ash, and Rebecca. They all hold an unwavering community together, of both blood family and chosen family. It is not often found in the sphere of queer life. “We realized these trans people are creating joy and happiness,” said Zosherafatain.

Zosherafatain and DiNicola take us down a stream of consciousness in the series. They live as transgender filmmakers with a predominantly queer, gender non-conforming, and  transgender film crew.

They find themselves in the state of North Carolina. Zosherfatain tells the crew that they are not filming for Trans in Trumpland—anything but. The reveal of their identity and cause could inspire that predictable harm. Three men approach Zosherfatain and they have no intention of leaving him alone until they get an answer to their question: “What are you filming?” The men ask the question until Transwave’s co-founder answers.

As the minutes mount and pass on, Zosherfatain eventually admits that he and the crew are filming the latest Hunger Games. Since the crew is in the same town for which Hunger Games was filmed, perhaps this was enough for the three persistent men to leave, which they did.

The crew found situations as unsettling as this from state to state. “We learned a lot of positives alongside the negative, bad things,” said Zosherfatain.

Ash the student at the center of the first episode discusses his journey as a young teen in transition. And throughout the film, Zosherfatain discusses his journey, or perhaps the one he didn’t have when he was Ash’s age.

In North Carolina, Ash’s mother, Daisy, a fierce fighter for her young son is the advocate so many transgender children need of a parent. The story of Ash takes place while the HB2 bill looms over the media and politics. The passed legislative law forbids transgender students from bathrooms that align with their gender. In 2021, this bill is still partially in place.

Then there is Evonne, a Black transgender woman fighting her way through Mississippi’s anti-transgender legislature. She holds space and love with her family, her chosen family, and the church. Evonne is an irrepressible spirit leading the only transgender non-profit in the state.

You meet Rebecca a transgender, Latina, Mexican immigrant. In Texas she has experienced the inhumane rage of Immigration officers. And you see the love of her family, particularly her mother.

In Idaho, Shane Ortega, a Native American veteran shows us the virtue of resisting the form of anti-transgender rhetoric in the state. He shows the lay of the land for which he prospers. Ortega, a person of conviction holds community and allyship with his neighbors. He helps others on his reservation and continues to advocate for trans awareness no matter what’s ahead.

The four transgender lives and the filmmakers of Transwave are examples of resilience. The pursuit of life and happiness sits well within and around them. It gives purpose to transcend the hatred they have spent lifetimes fighting.

Trans in Trumpland is available to US and Canadian audiences on Topic through and Topic channels through AppleTV & iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android, and Amazon Prime Video Channels”

Trans in Trumpland website, or @transintrumpland on Instagram.

READ MORE – Another review of Trans in Trumpland

Lana Leonard (they/them) is a graduate from The College of New Jersey with a degree in journalism and professional writing. They work at the GLAAD Media institute and freelance for publications like LGBTQ Nation while working on their journalistic theory of change project: Late Nights with Lana, a talk show based out of 10PRL film studios in Long Branch, NJ. Lana's mission, in all their work, is to focus on people, their collective truths and how those truths form a community of knowledge towards change.