“THE GARDEN LEFT BEHIND”— The Struggle to Be Authentic

“The Garden Left Behind”

The Struggle To Be Authentic

Amos Lassen

“The Garden Left Behind” spotlights one woman’s struggle to live an authentic life. Tina (Carlie Guevara) and her grandmother Eliana (Miriam Cruz) are undocumented Mexican immigrants living in New York City.  Tina is a transgender woman and works to bring in money to pay their bills and Eliana stays home.  Of course, there are some risks that come with living as undocumented immigrants.  Tina is in the process of starting her medical transition.  This requires multiple visits with Dr. Cleary (Ed Asner) in order to secure a letter to begin hormone replacement therapy.

Like any grandmother, Eliana worries about her granddaughter; she’s still struggling with the transition process but she need not worry since Tina has no problem making friends within the trans community.  This includes her close friend, Carol (Tamara Williams). We see how expensive it is to transition.  The camera beautifully captures the shock in Tina’s eyes seeing the first bill.  If she weren’t an undocumented immigrant, it is possible that Tina could afford decent medical insurance.  She goes as far as thinking of selling her car if it means having the money to afford living. 

The film doesn’t ignore the threats trans women–especially trans woman of color–deal with on a daily basis.  One of the core plot points in the film has to deal with two cops violently beating Rosie, a trans woman from Queens.  This leads to rallies and other protests.  Tina isn’t without her own worries. 

The film takes care in making sure that trans actors are cast in transgender roles.  Trans actress Carlie Guevara delivers a remarkable performance in her first role.   She reflects the reality for many transgender women and the film reflects what life is like for minorities within the transgender community. 

Quite basically, this is the story of Tina and Eliana as they deal with Tina’s transition and struggle as undocumented immigrants. Aa an undocumented  transgender woman Tina has limited options for finding work, so she drives a cab whilst her grandmother stays home and keeps house.  Each week Tina sees a psychiatrist so that she can be evaluated  to start the medical part of her transitioning.  This takes time and an impatient Tina can’t stand that her future is to be decided by an elderly white man.

Tina is friendly with a tight knit band of girls in the trans community, who not only offer her support, but persuade her to become politically active when one of their numbers is beaten up by the Police.  She also has a boyfriend who is only around when it suits him and disappears completely when Tina gets the go ahead to start the official transitioning.

Alves has involved 50 transgender actors and filmmakers in the process and it is his goal to highlight the many obstacles that a trans person must overcome. In Tina’s case it is the expense.  We also see the levels of acceptance of trans people.  It takes so much more strength and courage for them to simply deal with the routine of their day to day lives.


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