Eric Schaeffer, writer/director of the small independent film Boy Meets Girl, has created a big hit at LGBT film fests across the country that plays to rave reviews. Its theatrical opening was in NYC on Feb. 6 and will continue its theatrical run primarily at art houses—but I believe it will garner much more attention before long. It’s a traditional style romantic comedy but with one exception; it stars the beautiful first-time actress Michelle Hendley as Ricky, a small town Kentucky transgender woman. Michelle has broken new ground as the first a transgender actress to star as a transgender woman in a feature film. Eric Schaeffer’s script is funny, thought-provoking, and deals with the subject sensitively. For a straight cisgender guy he gets it surprisingly right. He apparently did his homework by contacting a number of transgender women to learn what he could before he began writing. When I spoke to Michelle she said she had to him out with some of the technical aspects that he just wasn’t getting quite right.
Boy Meets Girl is about relationships so the main theme is universal, but in dealing with LGBT aspects it becomes a bit more complex. I won’t go into too much detail to avoid a spoiler alert. But, I will say that Ricky is pre-op and despite being a beautiful girl she is not afraid to top a straight cisgender girl who finds her alluring. Ricky has never been with a woman before but she is open to trying new things. It sounds a little pornographic but it really isn’t—it’s a typical rom-com but with “something extra” and it is handled with good taste.
The most entertaining and intelligent scene is after Ricky has slept with her new female friend and she and her best friend (since 6th grade) discuss what “labels” to apply to each of the sexual partners. For e.g., is the cisgender girl a lesbian because she is sleeping with girl—even if the girl is a pre-op transgender girl? But if she was penetrated by then trans girl then isn’t it just hetero sex? But then if Ricky is just a girl (albeit with something extra) it can’t be hetero sex. He old friend says if there is a phallus and it is put into a vagina then it’s just “good old hetero sex.” Then Ricky asks him if during sex a girl has ever stuck a finger—or two—up his bum because a finger is a bit like a phallus anyway! But he says “it matters who’s attached to the end of it.” And round and round they go in a hilarious examination of the silliness of trying to attach labels and define sexuality. The main theme of this film ends up being fluidity, both in gender and in sexuality—and it is handled with intelligence and humor.
Because this past 12 months has been described as “Year of the Trans” and transgender issues are the hottest thing in the media these days, this film is right on the cutting edge and deserves all the attention it is getting. That Michelle Hendley is a gorgeous actress makes the film that much more of a must see and helps to challenge preconceptions of transgender women. Eric was determined to use a trans-actress for his film and he only found Michelle by luck through her low-tech web series documenting her transition— which only began four years ago. She had never before acted in a film but she has received rave reviews. When we spoke she said she has plans to move to NYC to pursue an acting career, so in time we may be seeing more of her. I hope so.
Our country is becoming a friendlier place for transgender women and men. Films like this and TV shows like Transparent and Orange is the New Black are adding to the level of acceptance and understanding. I hope the trend continues so we will see more films like Boy Meets Girl!
Gay Life May 2015