Last year, Cinetalk highlighted November 20th – Trans Day of Remembrance, by reviewing the RIDM’s No Ordinary Man. This year we kick off the 2021 festival during Transgender Awareness Week, with a new documentary about the trans experience. Zuhur’s Daughters (directed by Laurentia Genske and Robin Humboldt) follows the journey of trans sisters Samar and Lohan. Transitioning is already a difficult experience, but to make things even harder, the young women live with their large family as Syrian refugees in Germany. The collision of beliefs and lifestyles weighs not only on the sisters, but also on their relatives.
In Syria, if a family member commits haram (sinful acts), society expects them to be killed. Lohan and Samar’s father is not thrilled about how his daughters choose to live their lives, but he says, “I didn’t raise my kids to kill them.”
As much as the girls yearn to be seen for who they really are, they fall into the same trap as cisgender women. In a still very male-dominated world, the pressure to pander to the male gaze is strong. Why have small breasts when gigantic ones can be purchased? Why should a woman wear clothes that feel comfortable when she can just wear what her boyfriend tells her to wear? Why speak up for that otherwise meek boyfriend when he then asks to pipe down and be more ladylike? Through experiences like these, the girls start to realize that even after every surgery and cosmetic adjustment, some people will still choose to never accept them. Their family members and even some of their transgender friends imply that real happiness and acceptance is not an option. Is there a future for transgender women?
Some might say the sisters are lucky to be facing it together, but in the end, each person’s transition journey is different. It is hard, it is painful, but the more we teach the world about it, the hope is that one day it won’t be this difficult.
RIDM – On Demand, November 14th to November 17th, 2021