What’s the T? Explores the Lives of Trans Women

From left to right, Mia Tu Mutch, Vi Le, Cecilio Asuncion, Nya Ampon and Rakash Armani pose for a photo shoot.  All Photos: Enrico Dungca.

From left to right, Mia Tu Mutch, Vi Le, Cecilio Asuncion, Nya Ampon and Rakash Armani pose for a photo shoot.
All Photos: Enrico Dungca.

Documentary film features struggles and triumphs

By: Lauren Walleser/TRT Reporter—

What’s the T? — a new documentary by out filmmaker Cecilio Asuncion—follows five transgender women as they live, dream and share their truth with the world while exploring their experiences and beliefs on transgender issues including transitioning, finding work, dealing with bullies and creating a community.

“I knew I wanted to do a film that would be different and make a difference,” said Asuncion. “I remember seeing a young trans girl on the Anderson Cooper show and her story resonated with me in the sense that as a Gay Asian Male, I didn’t have [many] people to look up to in mainstream media. I wanted to do a documentary that young trans girls can see and know that they can achieve their dreams as the ladies in the film have.” [pullquote]”I wanted to do a documentary that young trans girls can see and know that they can achieve their dreams as the ladies in the film have,” said Asuncion, the documentary filmmaker.[/pullquote]

Asuncion said he immersed himself within the transgender community in order to find five women who all audiences would relate to in some way. Nya Ampon, the first woman we meet in the film, works at ASIASF, a San Francisco restaurant and club that supports and employs trans women. She also aspires to be an advocate and speak with college students about trans issues.

“I feel that the T in the LGBT isn’t really heard that often,” said Ampon. “We have a lot of different stories.”whats_the_t_md

Cassandra Cass, a well-known San Francisco performer, said she had been featured in other documentaries and almost said no to this one, but appreciated Asuncion’s unique and artistic style.

“I want people to be entertained, because I think if you don’t entertain people they won’t even get a message,” said Cass. “I think when people understand something it’s hard to hate it, so I just hope it makes us more human.”

In the film, Cass shares how when she first told her father she was going to be a woman, he said she would be ugly and never find love. Years later and after viewing the film with his friends, she said she has her father’s support.

“My dad really enjoyed it,” Cass said. “So I figure if a bunch of Iowa farm guys can enjoy the documentary then it should be a hit.”

Rakash Armani, an experienced nurse who has also earned winning titles in the underground ballroom scene, said she was approached first for the film.

“I got so sick and tired of people associating transgender women with the cliché of what they see on Jerry Springer and Maury, those silly shows, because that’s really the only time that people get to see a transgender woman on such a public platform,” Armani said. “We’re not all these sexual deviants. We’re not all just trying to go out in public and fool people.”

Vi Le, a biochemistry major and vocalist who even auditioned for The X Factor, said in the film that she once considered suicide as she dealt with bullying and the trials of coming out to her parents. She said her mom is now her biggest fan and even thanked Asuncion for making the film. [pullquote]This is my journey, and if you don’t know anything about my journey, you have no place to judge me, ever! I am just a girl in this world hoping to make my mark and find happiness just like everyone else, and always doing it with a smile![/pullquote]

“We all have beating hearts and a brain. We all love, laugh, cry,” Le said. “I may have been born male, but deep inside I’ve always been a woman. This is my journey, and if you don’t know anything about my journey, you have no place to judge me, ever! I am just a girl in this world hoping to make my mark and find happiness just like everyone else, and always doing it with a smile! We are human, and we are diverse in infinite and ever growing ways. Be open minded and learn to respect everyone for who they are.”

Mia Tu Mutch grew up in Texas and dealt with intense isolation and discrimination from her community. She is now an organizer and activist on the San Francisco Youth Commission and founded a nonprofit called Feather, which is researching ways to make transitioning more accessible to transgender people.

“If you would have told me back then that I was going to grow up and live in San Francisco and have all these jobs with all these queer and trans people as coworkers, I wouldn’t believe half of the things that are happening in my life right now because it’s way bigger than my greatest dreams,” said Tu Mutch. “For me, it’s about daring to dream your biggest potential and continuing to work towards that.”

The documentary currently has four film festivals under its belt. Asuncion’s next film, Rice Queen, will start production next year and explores gay Asian men and the men who love them.

For more information on What’s the T?, visit www.Whatsthetfilm.com.

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