Courtesy of Sundance Institute

In this docu-style film work, director Chase Joynt dons an ivy style suit in the opening black and white shot of his movie Framing Agnes. He resembles Rod Serling of the "Twilight Zone" as he introduces us to Christine Jorgensen considered to be the first American trans celebrity.

The "Twilight Zone" reference is meant only to give you the decor of news studio at the time. Midcentury television news was mostly a colorless platform with minimal set design and oversaturated Tactype: an old-school method of putting titles on screen.

And that's the mood Joynt wants because that's the era in which parts of his film are supposed to recreate. In the early 1960s, Dr. Harol Garfinkel, a respected American sociologist, was studying gender identities and "intersexed people." In other words, how trans people achieved "passing" in their daily lives.

Both he and his colleague Dr. Robert Stoller conducted interviews with numerous trans people in the 60s at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and documented their exchanges. The Agnes of the title was one of those people, but it turns out she wasn't completely honest with her interview responses. That's because she wanted to make the full transition to female, therefore lying in hopes to achieve approval.

However, Agnes is only a part of this deep dive into trans history. Several other transcripts from other midcentury trans folks are performed television interview-style across from Joynt as he takes on the persona of Garfinkel, asking probing questions and wanting intimate details about their histories for his research.

These vignettes are interspersed with commentary from author Dr. Jules Gill-Peterson, a trans rights historian and Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University. She is celebrated in her field and offers a modern commentary about the stories being told throughout the film.

Framing Agnes, as with most movies, exists to educate the few who seek knowledge about trans experiences, but mostly, I believe, to empower those who identify with its subject matter. To the general public, it could be considered schadenfreude, but to those living the life, it becomes much more of a historical earmark that has more similarities to the present than you think.

For instance, one interview focuses on Georgia, an African-American trans woman, played by Angelica Ross. Georgia's story spans from the 50s into the 60s when the interview was conducted. She explains how she lived as a trans woman through America's darkest times. Recalling, segregation, discrimination, and finding a relationship. At one point Ross says walking through life as a black trans woman could still get you arrested. “All eyes are on you and it’s not always a good feeling."

Fast-forward to modern times and things have barely changed. This is emphasized as clips from Katie Couric's infamous 2014 interview with Laverne Cox splashes on screen. Couric, in her ignorance, wants to focus on the body parts to which Cox interjects saying, "By focusing on bodies we don’t focus on the lived realities of that [trans] oppression and that discrimination,” she snapped at Couric.

Framing Agnes also acts out Garfinkel's interviews with midcentury trans men and trans youth clad in clothing and makeup of the period. As Dr. Gill-Peterson points out, just because trans rights are a hot topic today doesn't mean they didn't exist back then.

Joynt has created something bold here. The project isn't shocking or groundbreaking. It's simply conversations with men and women who were interviewed by an academic elite doing a specialized study to secure his place in history. Once his study was published, that was it. All of the transcripts were shoved to the back of a rusty file cabinet and labeled as "archives."

The film picks at old social wounds that are still healing even as America is seemingly becoming more progressive. "Framing Agnes" deserves to be seen as not only a study in those who came before us but as a reminder that even with the weakest voice there's power. The world needs that today.

Meet the director of Framing Agnes, Chase Joynt:

Meet the Artist: Chase Joynt on "Framing Agnes"

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

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LGBTQ+ Healthcare Issues

The Dobbs decision, otherwise known as the court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, has resulted in confusing medical situations for many patients. On top of affecting access to abortions for straight, cisgender women, it presents heightened risks for LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole. Flipping the switch on reproductive rights and privacy rights is a far-reaching act that makes quality care harder to find for an already underserved community.

As the fight against the Dobbs decision continues, it’s important to shed light on the full breadth of its impact. We’ll discuss specific ways that the decision can affect LGBTQ+ healthcare and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.

How the Right to Bodily Privacy Affects LGBTQ+ Healthcare

When the original Roe v. Wade decision was made, the bodily privacy of people across the United States was protected. Now that bodily autonomy is no longer guaranteed, the LGBTQ+ community must brace itself for a potential loss of healthcare rights beyond abortions. This includes services like feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy (particularly for transgender youth) that conservative lawmakers have been fighting against this year, as well as transition-related procedures. Without privacy, gender-affirming care may be difficult to access without documentation of sex as “proof” of gender.

As essential services for the LGBTQ+ community become more difficult to access, perhaps the most immediate effect we’ll see is eroding trust between healthcare providers and LGBTQ+ patients. When providers aren’t working in the best interest of patients — just like in cases of children and rape victims denied abortions — patients may further avoid preventative care in a community that already faces discrimination in doctor’s offices.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just a Women’s Issue

While the Dobbs decision is often framed as a women's issue — specifically, one that affects cisgender women — it impacts the transgender and non-binary community just as much. All people who are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term have lost at least some ability to choose whether or not to give birth in the U.S.

For transgender and non-binary individuals, this decision comes with the added complexity of body dysmorphia. Without abortion rights, pregnant trans men and some non-binary people may be forced to see their bodies change, and be treated as women by healthcare providers and society as a result.

The Dobbs decision also opens up the possibility for government bodies to determine when life begins — and perhaps even to add legal protections for zygotes and embryos. This puts contraceptives at risk, which could make it more difficult to access gender-affirming care while getting the right contraceptives based on sex for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Overturning Reproductive Rights Puts IVF at Risk

Queer couples that dream of having their own children often have limited options beyond adoption. One such option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves implanting a fertilized egg into a uterus.

While IVF isn’t directly affected by the Dobbs decision, it could fall into a legal gray area depending on when states determine that life begins. Texas, for example, is already barring abortions as early as six weeks. To reduce embryo destruction, which often occurs when patients no longer want more children, limits could be placed on the number of eggs that can be frozen at once.

Any restrictions on IVF will also affect the availability of surrogacy as an option for building a family.

How Can LGBTQ+ Individuals Overcome Healthcare Barriers?

While the Dobbs decision may primarily impact abortion rights today, its potential to worsen LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole is jarring. So how can the community be prepared?

If you’re struggling to find LGBTQ+-friendly providers near you, using telemedicine now can be an incredibly effective way to start developing strong relationships with far-away healthcare professionals. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of geography and can be especially helpful for accessing inclusive primary care and therapy. Be sure to check if your insurance provider covers telemedicine.

If you’re seriously concerned about healthcare access in your area — especially if the Dobbs decision affects your whole state or you need regular in-person services that may be at risk — it may be time to consider moving now. While not everyone has the privilege to do so, relocating gives you the ability to settle in areas where lawmakers better serve your needs. However, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, so preparing and making progress on a moving checklist now can help you avoid issues later.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t LGBTQ+-Friendly

The Supreme Court of the United States has proven the power of its conservative majority with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the effects of the Dobbs decision don’t stop at affecting cisgender women’s abortion rights. In states with bans, it also leads to forced birth for trans men and non-binary individuals. Plus, the Dobbs decision increases the risk of other rights, like hormone therapy and IVF, being taken away.

Taking steps now, whether it’s choosing a virtual provider or considering a move, can help you improve your healthcare situation in the future.