“BETWEEN TWO-SPIRIT: BECOMING A WOMAN AT SIXTY”
Chris Muth was a professor of Management at a high school of Engineering in Geneva and was turning sixty years old and had just come through a threatening illness. He decided that it was time for a change and not just any change. He wants to become a woman or has he said—to make his outside appearance fit how he felt inside—the person he had always felt he was. While in this 20s and at college, Chris had lived in a commune in Zurich and joined a club where for transvestite women and he began cross-dressing for the first time. Then he met his future wife and his life took a different direction—he became more conventional and settled down and became a father and a businessman before he entered higher education as a teacher. We are not told what happened during those years but we can imagine that he had always lived as a man. When he flew from Geneva to Thailand for gender-reassignment surgery, it is the first time that any of his friends had ever seen him dressed as a woman.
Filmmaker Laurence Perigaud met Chris by coincidence at a Conference on Transexuality just before the movie was made. It starts with the surgery and follows Chris during the first year of her transition. In the film Chris’s doctor explains that people who want to undergo hormonal or surgical transition to the opposite sex, the Harry Benjamin Code of Practice that is recognized by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health provides the protocols that should be adhered to. In the case of Chris, the doctor allowed him to fast track the entire process—Chris had actually only been on hormones for less than a year (eight months) and had never lived openly as a woman as all other patients do. Chris’s doctor replied with that it was not fair to make someone of Chris’s age wait to transition.
Chris’ doctor in Thailand supplied him with a soft and feminine face as well as altered Chris’ sex organs. Upon recovery, Chris returned to Geneva but only partially ready for the entire change. Now while home, Chris is Christa, a new woman but at work and out in society, he is Chris. He dresses in unisex clothing and he ultimately plans to let his employers know. Aside from teaching, Chris is the director of an industrial association. It was his plan to also let his teaching colleagues know at the semester’s end but rumors got to them first and he had to do so earlier than planned.
European academia is conservative and his teaching fellows are struggling with this new identity. Some are okay with it albeit reluctantly and the president of the school has offered support. Unfortunately the news reached the association and Chris has been asked to resign. His ex-wife finally files for divorce and their daughter will have nothing to do with her father at all.
The movie looks at these rejections but the main focus is on the transition and is positive even though it all seems so unreal. In effect, it seems to agree with the fast track way the surgery was performed and this means that it agrees with bypassing the safeguards.
Today, it seems that Christa Muth is an extremely likable and personable woman who loves sensible shoes and has a fine sense of self-deprecating humor. She makes fun of the clothes she wears and admits that her taste is terrible. I am still, however, not sure if this is a remarkable story of bravery and courage or something else. What we do see is that it is never too late in life to become who you really are regardless of the consequences.