Bee For and After

UK-based Laila Khan film Before I Was Me,which discusses gender dysphoria,will be screened in India for the first time.

Written by Debjani Paul | Published: December 7, 2013 4:18 am

Now it all makes sense. Because I was a girl,never a boy. Never a boy,” says the woman on screen,who introduces herself as “Bee,by the way,formerly known as Charlie.” As a child,Charlie never questioned why he liked playing with girls and Barbie dolls,even though he was teased for it. However as he grew up,he realised that it was more than just enjoying the company of girls. He wanted to be a girl. He had always felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body. It’s Charlie’s journey to finding his true identity as Bee,that Laila Khan’s film — Before I Was Me — explores.

“The film is a portrayal of a transgender person. The story follows Charlie’s (aka Bee’s) days as a child,and questions why as an adult,he makes the choices he does about his sexuality,” says Khan. She brings her film to India for the first time for multiple screenings in Pune and Mumbai this month. While the 15-minute film is a work of fiction,it delivers a message about gender dysphoria — a condition where a person feels a disconnect between his/her biological sex and his/her gender identity — through an honest conversation with Charlie. In the film,he recalls how no one really understood him,when he was teased in school and the day his father abandoned the family.

“I wanted to send out a simple message through my film,not to judge others,” says UK-bred Khan. The film also explores some of the possible factors of GID (Gender Identity Disorder) such as the absence of a male figure in Charlie’s life and female tendencies as a child. “The exact cause of gender dysphoria is unknown and there’s a lot of controversy surrounding it. Some say it’s a biological or a medical problem that is corrected through surgery,and others say it’s psychological,” says Khan. Charlie feels very differently. “A lot of people would say that it was just a state of mind. But it was more than that. It was all there,in my body. For me,it was a matter of life and death,” he says in the film.

In the end,Charlie emerges as Bee after a hormone treatment and a vaginoplasty procedure (a Sex Reassignment Surgery ). “I was so happy after the op. I felt as if I’d been given a new lease of life,almost as if I was born again,in the right way,in the right body. I was me,” says Bee.

Before I Was Me was released in 2009 and has travelled to the Cannes Film Festival,besides other cities. The film found great support in Beirut,where it was screened by Helem,an LGBT organisation,as well as at the Lebanese American University and Saint Joseph University. Jordan however received the film very differently. “The society in Jordan is not too liberal and not too conservative which means the tolerance level for LGBT individuals is relatively low,” says Khan,who is more optimistic about her visit to India. “I hope I get a positive reception in the world’s largest democracy.” She is currently in talks with the Films Division of India and the British Council for the film.

debjani.paul@expressindia.com

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