Gendernauts | Chicago Reader

Gendernauts

Filmmaker Monika Treut intertwines portraits of several transsexual, intersexual, or otherwise iconoclastic artists and academics—most of them San Franciscans, all of them friends. The movie opens with some stock footage of hyenas and a voice-over by Treut telling us the species defies gender (actually, it only defies gender stereotypes) because the females are larger, stronger, and more aggressive. This introduction ends with the animals' raucous laughter, suggesting that the conventional documentary elements that follow—including interviews with doctors in a gender-reassignment clinic and footage of cultural theorist Sandy Stone discoursing on the gender continuum—should be taken with a grain of salt. Random clips from a cabaret whose performers include other interviewees and from a traditional dinner party with the same guest list contribute to the sense that Treut's paean to the Bay Area is largely a showcase for the work of the participants, many of whose writings, videos, performances, and Web art focusing on their experiences with hormonal or surgical transformation are excerpted. It's unclear whether it's occurred to anyone involved that altering one's body to conform to stereotypes isn't a progressive act. 86 min.

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