Directed by Dana Greenbaum
Starring Stefoknee Wolscht
Reviewed By Jorge Antonio Vallejos
Stefoknee Wolscht and I performed at George Brown College in October 2012 as part of We Are Who We Are. After the event Stefoknee drove me home. We talked about life, the medical industrial complex and its abuse of Trans peoples, oppression, and suicide.
“That’s how we die,” she said.
Suicide is a large percentage of the deaths in the Transgender community. Violence at the hands of another, usually related to Transphobia, is also a large part.
“Have a copy of my film,” said Stefoknee as she handed me the DVD just before we hugged goodbye in front of my house.
“Let’s hangout during the holidays,” I said.
Her words saddened me: “I might not be around by then.”
Living 2 Lives/Dying 1000 Deaths is the story of one Transgender woman: Stefonknee Wolscht. But it bares similarities to the lives of many Transgnder women. It starts out with a quote by Sandy Stone from The Journal of Transgender Feminism:
One of the ways people justify oppressing people of any alternative gender of sexuality is by claiming that the social norm is natural. That is, it originates from God, an authority to which there is no appeal. All this is in fact, a complete fabrication. There is no natural “sex” because “sex” itself as a medical or cultural category, is nothing more than the momentary outcome of battles over who owns the meaning of the category.
An image of Stefoknee sitting in an empty church talking about her children follows. Stefoknee shares how much she loves her children and how she told her oldest child about being Transgender.
The camera focuses on her face while a violin plays somber music. Stefoknee speaks in a clear voice about her life experiences while important statistics appear in between shots of Stefoknee talking:
- 74% of Transgender people have experienced high incidents of verbal harassment
- 38% of Transgender people have experienced attempted assault
- 32% of Transgender people have experienced physical assault
- 77% of Transgender people have seriously considered suicide
Before Stefonknee dives deep into her story a definition of Trans-gen-der appears:
“Umbrella term referring to people who cross traditional gender norms; can mean people who are transgender; trans sexual, crossdressers, intersex and/or gender queer.
The film covers a lot of ground in 30 minutes: housing discrimination, pre-transition family life, cross-dressing, conferences, violence, sex-reassignment surgery, suicide, and the many difficulties of Transgender life.
What stands out most is the honesty and transparency that Stefoknee displays. She shares her age, pre-transition name with many photos, childhood life, experimenting with women’s clothing in secret, and more.
The simplicity of the film is brought to life by the eloquent and quotable words that come out of Stefoknee. Regarding her application for sex re-assignment surgery she says, “I don’t want to die in this body. I don’t want to spend eternity in this body.”
Raised as a Christian and practicing her face throughout her life (hence the church setting for the film), Stefoknee profoundly talked about the challenge of being a Transgender person of faith, and her words with God:
“My prayers quickly went to, “You promised you’d never give me a cross that was too heavy to bear. You lied.””
As a result of coming out as Trans after 46 years Stefoknee has lost everything: family, job, and home.
Applying for employment and housing as a Transgender person who does not *pass is extremely hard. “We lose all credibility because of the way we look,” says Stefoknee.
On top of being discriminated for who she is Stefoknee fears for her family. “The discrimination is so bad that my siblings fear the way they’ll be treated if people find out that I’m Transgender.”
All this has brought on much stress: “There’s a stress created from suppressing who you really are that is as bad as the stress of knowing that you’re going to get discriminated against.”
The simplicity that Stefoknee enjoyed while growing up on a farm has turned to an extremely difficult life having Stefoknee become part of the 77% of Transgender people who have seriously considered suicide:
“I thought suicide would have been an easier way to fix everything,” said Stefoknee.
Stefoknee is charismatic, funny, and talented. She can steal the show anywhere. More importantly she has a huge heart. If there is a definition of what it means to be an active and loving community member there will be a picture of Stefoknee alongside it.
Living 2 Lives/Dying 1000 Deaths is a good start for people to know more about Transgender life. If there are words that you do not understand definitions are provided. And Stefoknee speaks slow, clear, and concise.
The problems with the film are that the camera work is not always great as there is too much zooming in and out at times. And the film ends abruptly. You’re left thinking, “What happened?”
What is definitely missing from the film is a race and class analysis. It is Stefoknee’s story but the stats given do not share info about Transgender peoples who are poor, of colour, disabled, homeless, or Indigenous.
The Stefoknee I know is living her true life and laughing with me 1000 times every time we see each other. I hope to continually experience more times like this with her.
*Pass (verb): In the trans* community, to pass is to be perceived as the gender you identify as. It’s typically, but not always, used in the context of a trans* person discussing their experience in the public world. There’s some debate around the term in that it connotes that one is trying to pass under the radar as someone they aren’t when that isn’t the case.
Tune in to BlackCoffeePoet.com Wednesday November 21, 2012 for an inclusive interview with Stefoknee Wolscht.