Is She or Isn’t He?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 – 7:30pm 
New Zealand 2011. Director: Justin Pemberton

VANCOUVER PREMIERE! Even as a child, Graham felt like an outsider. Growing up in a small town where “normality” was rigidly defined, he was teased for being effeminate and often mistaken for a girl. There was no visible LGBT community; he had no gay role models. When filmmaker Justin Pemberton first meets him, Graham is 25 and working in a coffee shop, and has recently announced to friends that he isn’t gay but a woman — a heterosexual woman, attracted to men. Shot over six years, Pemberton’s film is an intriguing, intelligent, and insightful documentary about the search for understanding and self-acceptance. It follows Graham as he chooses his female name — Ashleigh — and begins to take female hormones, wear make-up, and get hair-removal treatments. As years pass, Ashleigh has not been able to afford gender reassignment surgery but is living full-time as a woman — and dating, a lot (“but only straight men”). Her inner conflict and confusion are revealed by her insistence that she’s neither gay nor transgender but a “normal” heterosexual woman. Only as a “proper” woman, Ashleigh believes, will she gain the acceptance she desperately craves. But, as the film reveals, that path may the most extreme and the most limiting — mentally, physically, and financially. Colour, Digibeta video. 71 mins.

Post-screening discussion with Dr. Chris Booth and Gwen Haworth.

Dr. Chris Booth is Clinical Director at the Maples Adolescent Centre and a clinical instructor in the UBC Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Booth works with youth in residential treatment and has a private practice with a focus on adolescents with gender-related concerns.

Gwen Haworth is a queer, transgender filmmaker and educator who facilitates workshops at Vancouver Coastal Health addressing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Two Spirit inclusion & policy implementation within health care, non-profit housing & shelters. Her 2007 documentary She’s a Boy I Knew explores the impact of her gender transition on her parents, sisters, best friend and wife.

Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.