Little Miss Westie


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Little Miss Westie
"This is very much fly-on-the-wall documentary, with explanations and expiation left up to those involved." | Photo: Courtesy of BFI Flare

Let's face it: as acceptance of trans kids becomes more widespread, the chances of families cropping up where two children are trans, while still remarkably rare, will also become statistically more likely.

Little Miss Westie, directed by Dan Hunt and Joy Reed, is an interesting, sensitive look at the daily life of a family where this is the case: where first Luca and then Ren broke the news to their parents that they were not the gender assigned to them at birth.

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In some ways this is a pretty standard narrative: a perfect rebuttal to all those who insist that parents 'make' their children trans, or that it is just a phase. Because the transness came up from the children and was initially resisted by parents: “It's just a phase.” But in the face of continuing insistence, and as issues like failing in school and self-harm came ever more to the fore - they listened.

Not that this satisfied friends and family. Some of the former parted ways, with suggestions that they just “let the children be gay” for now, perpetuating the myth that trans and gay are just two sides of the same coin. Grandparents have now disowned their grandchildren. Their loss: but still, it clearly hurts.

Do we need yet one more documentary on transition – even when it focuses on the hot button topic of youth transition? It would be nice to think we did not.

But as one parent, close to the end of their tether, says in the course of a support group session: “All of a sudden everyone has an opinion on whether or not my kid should be on blockers or not.”

There is worry, as there should be in respect of transition. But loaded on top of that is the fact that this documentary does not happen in a vacuum. Rather, it is set against the backdrop of the rise of Trump, and the realisation that the political mood music has shifted very much in the direction of less tolerance.

So in between the challenges of puberty and taking part in the local pageant – hence the 'Miss Westie' of the title – and Luca's first experiences of puberty blockers, we hear that rolling Trumpian rhetoric railing against “crooked Hilary” and all her works. The fear on the part of the parents is palpable.

On the plus side, this is very much fly-on-the-wall documentary, with explanations and expiation left up to those involved: parents, children, medics. No 'concerned' interlocutor to ask faux-reasonable questions. A mostly unobtrusive musical soundtrack. And cats!

Despite the politics, it ends on an up note, with Ren getting ready, just like any other young girl, for the pageant. If this wasn't a trans documentary, the chances are you wouldn't know these scenes were from a trans documentary!

It's been done before. But this is done well.

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2020
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Story of Ren, the first out transgirl to compete in the Little Miss Westie Pageant. Coaching her through the competition is her older brother Luca, who previously took part in the pageant when he lived as a girl.

Director: Dan Hunt, Joy E Reed

Year: 2018

Runtime: 75 minutes

Country: US

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