If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. – Audre Lorde
The last couple of days have been a lesson in my own educational and societal privilege. In my day to day interactions with people on the planet, I’m generally privileged to interact with people who respect my gender and racial identity. Microaggressions happen but for the most part, I can choose to move through the world in ways that limit my contact with people who don’t support or respect my identities. That’s not the case for a lot of my queer and trans* kindred.
In the amazing documentary It Gets Messy In Here, Kai M. Green explores the day to day reality of just trying to use the bathroom for many trans* masculine people of color. In interviews with masculine of center women, non-binary folks, and trans* men, Green explores the gender policing that simply entering a bathroom can engender.
Interviewee Alice Y. Hom recounts using an airport bathroom in which she was approached by a white woman who assumed that Hom was a non-English speaking Asian man who’d ended up there by mistake. Hom makes sense of the incident by pointing out how racial and gender stereotypes colluded to create a misreading of her identity. It is not just her race, gender, or sexuality that evoke the reaction but the combination of those that produce a moment of gender distortion.
Green is adept at allowing the interviews to build echos and refrains. The different narratives speak to each other and commonalities emerge that help paint a picture of a systemic societal problem with genders that trouble a belief in a fixed biological binary. Through the stories of the folks on screen, the stories of the people they encountered become visible and tell a tale of social discomfort that is projected on the narrators. I was moved by the efforts of those targeted by this projection to ease the ill feelings of those who target them. Folks talked about seeking out private bathrooms where they wouldn’t be bothered and weighing the pros and cons of which gendered bathroom to negotiate. There was so much work involved in navigating a bodily process that a lot of people are able to take for granted. C. Riley Snorton even mentioned the desire to create a physical map for trans* and disabled folks that identified restrooms that were accessible and safe.
Participants discuss their own ever evolving understandings of their genders and how they often conflict with societal expectations. Green even turns the camera on themself, and discusses their complex and nuanced relationship to their gender and its shifts over time. The documentary explores the impact of time on perceptions of gender in another way by highlighting interviewees experiences with children. The open curiosity of kids around gender ambiguity is tempered by adult assumptions and beliefs.
It Gets Messy in Here invites viewers into the lived reality of people who have to navigate more than just a full bladder when heading to the restroom. It explores the often unspoken piss politics that create additional obstacles for folks to access a basic necessity. As Prentis Hemphill so eloquently states, “For the love of God, I just want to pee!”
To purchase a copy of the film, plan a screening or learn more about the filmmaker, contact Kai M. Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.