Markie In Milwaukee

***

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Markie In Milwaukee
"With its light touch, candid camera approach, this documentary gets under the skin of the issue."

At seven foot and just shy of 400 pounds, Markie, of Markie In Milwaukee, is an unusual candidate for transition. Because. Let's face it, Markie (or Mark, as he finishes this documentary) stands out like a sore thumb wherever he goes. A giant brick house of a guy - times two as a woman.

Despite that, Mark, as Markie, carries herself with an impressive femininity. She fits. Or at least she appears to.

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And yet the elephant in the room – no, we've moved on from Mark's size – is the loneliness of being Markie. For after coming up through a series of fundamentalist, evangelist positions across a range of churches, Markie is an outcast.

Because, as a friend and Minister explains, God created man and God created woman and all this transgender stuff is just not natural!

That pretty much encapsulates why Markie is so on their own. No-one from their religion will associate with them, let alone approve of their decision. So the first half of this documentary is a very bleak place.

Markie, broadly happy in herself, is very obviously lonely. Here and there, she interacts with her new “friends” in the local trans community. But those are poor affairs. Anaemic encounters where a stumbling Markie seeks approval for her decision from an audience that claps politely but gives back little of real substance.

Her family has left her. Her wife is gone; her children will have nothing to do with her.

In many ways this is the exact opposite of the typical transition documentary. In place of personal demons vanquished and a struggle more or less supported by people in her life, Markie is on her own. Ostracised by all those nice Christian persons whose approval she once enjoyed.

As she owns to an evangelical audience after she has come back to Mark, post-detransition: “For seven years I put up with all the bullshit. I lost my family. I am virtually alone because of it.

“But no-one in the church told me to detransition!” No, God Almighty himself came down and told him to do it.

Mark never thought he would be on a platform such as the one he occupied in church, again. He was, he explains graphically, “on the brink of disaster and God showed up and called [him] back.”

The documentary therefore falls very neatly into two halves, dividing almost exactly at the mid-point (45 minutes). Before is arid desert, shot, seemingly, in deliberately washed out tones. A winter of discontent.

After is summer. Here is Mark welcomed back into the bosom of the church, attending socials. Here is Mark's family again, for the most part welcoming him back: here his children, here his grandchildren.

Though as one of them explained their take on their dad's decisions, one wonders quite what he sees in them: “He has us. We're his family. Are we not good enough for him?”

Because transition is all about you, the nearest and dearest and nothing at all to do with the individual transitioning! With family like this, Markie never stood a chance. For, as pre-transition Mark makes clear, Markie has always been there and, in purely abstract form, is a success.

But Markie means permanent exile from all she holds dear. Preaching again, post-transition Mark asserts: “I've sinned and deserve to be punished.”

Except his own community has already been doing that very efficiently for the best part of a decade.

With its light touch, candid camera approach, this documentary gets under the skin of the issue. Forget the rhetoric and the preaching. Being trans in Bible Belt America is a very lonely thing. You might survive it if you are young, or not much of a people person, or bolstered up by a creative, academic community. But it is no place for a middle-aged, blue collar fundamentalist.

The documentary, shot over a ten year period, captures tone and mood rather better than it sets out the narrative which, with jumps back and forth to Mark before and after and in-between, is at times quite confusing.

Still, the truth that shines through is that a community whose central claim is that it loves the sinner is, on the evidence of this film, quite unable to love the transitioner.

Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2019
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A documentary about a midwestern trans woman who struggles with the prospect of de-transitioning under the pressures of her fundamentalist church, family and community.

Director: Matt Kliegman

Year: 2019

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: US

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