Documentary Examines Transgender Identities And Reproductive Health

Oct 24, 2019

A new documentary about a local transgender musician’s reproductive health will be shown Thursday night at the Frick Fine Arts building. The screening is an example of a new way to think about public health research: through the visual medium of film.

Jude Benedict, who identifies as trans-masculine genderqueer (someone whose gender was assigned female at birth, and often expresses themselves in a masculine way, but does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions) and uses they/them pronouns, is the focus of the film. University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health postdoctoral associate Dr. Sara Baumann produced the documentary and advocates for the use of film in health research.

“When you’re watching the film, you’ll be able to see Jude’s expressions, mannerisms, the way they take up space in a room,” Baumann said. “All of these things really tell us about who a person is.”

Throughout the film, Benedict describes their complex relationship with having a period and experiencing gender dysphoria.

“I actually really celebrate that I have a uterus and really celebrate my trans-masculine identity because I am who I am, and just because I’m trans-masculine doesn’t mean I have to give my uterus up,” Benedict tells the camera. “Being trans is just becoming who you are.”

Joanne Goodall, a nurse practitioner with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, said it can be challenging for people who don’t subscribe to traditional gender norms to menstruate.

“For some folks, cis or trans, it can feel very overwhelming,” Goodall said. “Menstrual cycles can really hurt people in a way that makes some people anxious … it’s a physical, sometimes painful, very intense reminder that your body is not where you want it to be, that your body has very feminine parts.”

The new film is the second in Baumann’s “Cycle Series,” which examines menstruation-related challenges in overlooked populations. Her first was about a homeless woman finding access to menstruation products and having a period without housing security. Film, especially about Benedict, Baumann said, conveys emotion and detail about a subject’s life in a way that a traditional academic paper cannot.

“It’s a really powerful way to share some of these stories around gender identity and reproductive health through their perspective,” Baumann said.

Public health researchers at Pitt have developed what they call a collaborative filmmaking method, which “really engages communities,” Baumann said, and brings in academics and filmmakers to tackle public health issues.

The free screening takes place at 6 p.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion on LGBT health issues.