There was a time, not so long ago, when words like Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and ‘the spectrum’ were not part of the everyday vocabulary. Today you hear such cynical comments as, “If you are a grandparent and have not at least one child on the Autistic Spectrum, then you do not really qualify for the job!
Similarly, concepts such as Transgender, or LGBTI were little known and certainly not spoken about when I was growing up. So I was mildly shocked and amused last month when two of my friends, with whom I have had a relationship for 60 years, visited Cape Town from overseas. One friend travelled South from the USA, and her sister flying West from Australia. Each of these mature ladies spoke quite openly and acceptingly, about having a grandchild who has recently come out as transgender.
Family in Transition
Consequently, it was with some degree of pleasurable anticipation that I attended a documentary film last night entitle Family in Transition. Both the Director, Ofir Trainin, and one of the protagonists Amit Tzuk attended the Cape Town premier and interacted with the audience after the screening of this award-winning Israeli film.
The film opens with a celebratory scene at the wedding of Amit and Gilat displaying the joy and anticipation of their new marriage. They had been friends since the age of 15, and this was the culmination of their close relationship and commitment to each other. As the story unfolds, the audience is made aware of the loving relationship between the parents and the four delightful children they have brought into the world and reared with love, devotion and positivity. The off-spring consist of one son and three daughters all of whom are depicted as warm well-adjusted youngsters who enjoy strong family ties.
Some time into the presentation, the audience is made aware of Amit’s feeling of alienation in his own body and his need to transition as a woman. With amazement, the audience learns of the tremendous degree of acceptance Amit achieves, not only from Galit but also her children who refer to her in the third person as “she” without any trace of embarrassment or unhappiness – in fact with total acceptance. At a coming out party we also witness the acceptance of the couple’s social circle – it seems as if only the older generation struggle with the situation.
There is a delightful scene in which one of the daughters of about 12 years, lying on her bed, is introspecting about her parents’ having a disagreement. She displays uncommon maturity when she concludes, “I don’t know why they bother to quarrel, because they always end up agreeing with each other in the end.”
Challenges of Change
We learn of the struggle Amit endures whilst having hormone treatment during the transitioning process. Despite the frequent spells of tears, Galit is at all times caring and supportive. About a year later it is time for the surgical transformation. This operation requires a visit to Thailand, and we witness the anguish of the children when their parents leave to take this trip. When they see Amit again, she will be fully transformed to her gender of choice. The children will have two mothers.
The trauma of the operation is manifest when Amit refuses to take the medication she has been prescribed by the Doctor. Galit remains a caring companion, frequently offering foot massages and tender words of consolation and caring.
Back Home Again
On returning to the family in Nahariya, in the North of Israel, Galit and Amit have a second wedding ceremony. A glamorous affair where they take the role as stars of the event in identical white dresses adorned with gold embroidery. It is a joyous and happy celebration of the new status of the devoted couple.
Beginnings of a Reorientation
When we witness Amit’s anguish over Galit’s daily walks with a lady friend, we realise there is trouble brewing. Ultimately Galit feels she cannot maintain her place within the family – she needs to be her own person, have her own space. After a difficult divorce Galit enters a lesbian relationship, and Amit subsequently also partners with a lady who accompanied her to South Africa for this screening.
Behind the Scenes
Ofir, who was not only the director but also the producer and cinematographer of this film, was together with Amit after the screening and answered questions whilst filling in the missing links about this thought-provoking story and its production as a documentary film.
We were reassured that Galit and Amit had developed a healthy working relationship with each other. The children indeed considered themselves lucky to have four mothers!
The audience displayed their appreciation for Amit’s openness to share her story. Whilst at times she admitted the intrusiveness of the camera was discomforting during the making of the film, she felt that the production performed a necessary function in educating the public about the profound changes which sometimes needed to be taken in order to achieve an authentic lifestyle.
Galit helps Children
Galit has now written some well-received short stories, in Hebrew, for the benefit of children. She draws on her life experience to educate other families about the rationale for transformation, and her work assists those in the helping professions who counsel people of all ages who deal with the issues of sex change.
It was rewarding and a great privilege to have heard this intimate first-hand story about a caring couple seeking meaning in their lives. Their bravery in discussing this personal experience is appreciated as a service to the public in making us aware of the new possibilities for contemporary alternate lifestyles. Some lifestyles were socially denigrated in former years, but now many previously unaccepted social unions are considered the new norm.