Five Young People
“Genderbende” is about five young people who feel neither male nor female and position themselves somewhere in between. They all have their own struggles, but together they create a compelling story about acceptance. This highly emotional drama causes us to empathize very quickly with the characters who are all very brave and sweet.
The film follows the very personal stories of Dutch individuals who are not comfortable with standard gender “binarism”. They are not afraid to tell us their feelings or open their hearts to us as we follow them through their daily lives. They do not respond to labels like transgender or queer and say that they “just feel what they feel as society is harsh on them” since they do not comply to mainstream heteronormative standards.
The film is directed by Sophie Dros who introduces us to five gender-fluid people, Lisa, Anne, Dennis, Lashawn and Selm, who are proud to be who they are. “Genderbende” plays with the curiosity, interest and incomprehension of anything outside the mainstream gender norm and asks the questions, “Isn’t everyone’s gender actually ‘fluid’? Wouldn’t it be liberating if we could break the narrow-mindedness about gender?” The five characters make us question our sometimes-rigid society and offer a moment of thought as to how male or female we are? Isn’t life about celebrating the individual and not the gender of that individual?
Gender benders subvert dual gender images and refuse to be classified by the traditional categories of male and female. Each of the five protagonists in the documentary has already taken the first step out of this convention and all are about to discover their own identity outside the norm (the norm being society). They are met with reactions that vary from total non-understanding to interest and open aversion and they waver between defiance, doubt and enthusiasm about every step that follows. Each of them manages to come a little closer to themselves. Even when the world around them – despite its curiosity – isn’t always ready to follow.
The film creates enough space to let the five different stories unfold on the narrative and visual level. While the football-playing twins Lisa and Anne seem impressively at ease with themselves, Dennis, Selm and Lashawn have to deal with the fact that other peoples’ perception of them differs from how they perceive themselves. They share these desires and contradictions with us. “Genderbende” celebrates them and their fight for a society in which gender no longer means only two juxtaposed ideals but an individual and unique construction that encompasses both.