Rethinking Identity and Testosterone in “Imagine a Body” - Upsmag - Magazine News

Rethinking Identity and Testosterone in “Imagine a Body”

In one section of Connor Lee O’Keefe’s short documentary “Imagine a Body,” a film in which transmasculine people discuss their varied experiences of taking testosterone in order to medically transition, we see the construction of a birdhouse: there are closeups of a nail being hammered, a sharp edge sanded down, a screw twisted into wood. In a voice-over, one of the interviewees hints at the relationship between the imagery and the film’s subject matter. “There’s this idea in sculpting where you take a chunk of wood, and you carve away what’s not supposed to be there to reveal what should have been there the whole time,” he says. He compares that idea to the feelings he had when he started on testosterone: “Suddenly, it’s, like, Oh, there’s the person that was supposed to be there this whole time.”

O’Keefe was inspired to make the film when, after taking testosterone for many years, he increased his dosage. Experiencing a new set of changes, he began to conceive of transition as a nonlinear process, an evolution rather than a clear-cut before and after. He decided that he wanted to create something that was exploratory in its approach, guided by subjects with a diverse array of notions about their own genders. He completed interviews with seven people, each one at least two hours long, and then sifted through the hours of recordings for the most interesting moments. A noticeable pattern that emerged was the way hormone-replacement therapy had defied expectations. “Everyone came in with one idea of ​​what gender was and what their relationship to it was, and kind of grew into a different place,” he told me.

“How can we talk about transition in a less medicalized way?” O’Keefe wondered. the film does not attempt to show the concrete effects of transition, and dispenses with the talking-head format that is customary for interview-driven documentaries; it favors, instead, an abstract approach. “Imagine a Body” takes a physical experience and, rather than render it in clinical terms, suggests its complex affective landscape. Interview responses are paired with images, a combination of picturesque landscapes, dynamic rotoscope illustrations, and scenes that subtly convey the changes caused by transition: shaving, or setting off on a run among the trees. With its surprising turns from one voice-over to the next, the film presents a swirling, evocative variety of insights. “Once I started passing just by speaking, it completely changed my world,” one subject says. Moments later, another says, “I hated my voice as a child. And I can’t say I ever stopped hating my voice. Like, I still do.” In delving into the intricacies of trans experiences, “Imagine a Body” does not reduce the evolution of identity to a simple journey from problem to solution. The objective is not merely the treatment of a condition but the capacity to experience a more rich, full spectrum of life.

In one section of Connor Lee O’Keefe’s short documentary “Imagine a Body,” a film in which transmasculine people discuss their varied experiences of taking testosterone in order to medically transition, we see the construction of a birdhouse: there are closeups of a nail being hammered, a sharp edge sanded down, a screw twisted into wood. In a voice-over, one of the interviewees hints at the relationship between the imagery and the film’s subject matter. “There’s this idea in sculpting where you take a chunk of wood, and you carve away what’s not supposed to be there to reveal what should have been there the whole time,” he says. He compares that idea to the feelings he had when he started on testosterone: “Suddenly, it’s, like, Oh, there’s the person that was supposed to be there this whole time.”

O’Keefe was inspired to make the film when, after taking testosterone for many years, he increased his dosage. Experiencing a new set of changes, he began to conceive of transition as a nonlinear process, an evolution rather than a clear-cut before and after. He decided that he wanted to create something that was exploratory in its approach, guided by subjects with a diverse array of notions about their own genders. He completed interviews with seven people, each one at least two hours long, and then sifted through the hours of recordings for the most interesting moments. A noticeable pattern that emerged was the way hormone-replacement therapy had defied expectations. “Everyone came in with one idea of ​​what gender was and what their relationship to it was, and kind of grew into a different place,” he told me.

“How can we talk about transition in a less medicalized way?” O’Keefe wondered. the film does not attempt to show the concrete effects of transition, and dispenses with the talking-head format that is customary for interview-driven documentaries; it favors, instead, an abstract approach. “Imagine a Body” takes a physical experience and, rather than render it in clinical terms, suggests its complex affective landscape. Interview responses are paired with images, a combination of picturesque landscapes, dynamic rotoscope illustrations, and scenes that subtly convey the changes caused by transition: shaving, or setting off on a run among the trees. With its surprising turns from one voice-over to the next, the film presents a swirling, evocative variety of insights. “Once I started passing just by speaking, it completely changed my world,” one subject says. Moments later, another says, “I hated my voice as a child. And I can’t say I ever stopped hating my voice. Like, I still do.” In delving into the intricacies of trans experiences, “Imagine a Body” does not reduce the evolution of identity to a simple journey from problem to solution. The objective is not merely the treatment of a condition but the capacity to experience a more rich, full spectrum of life.

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