25 years of Defiant Gender Rebels at the SF Trans Film Festival


This year, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) falls on Sunday, November 20. It is, overall, a grim occasion meant to recognize the lives lost to violence: a gun safety group has estimated that the murder rate among trans Americans — specifically, trans women in color – doubled in four years.

But while TDOR is meant to illustrate how dangerous it can be to be trans or gender non-conforming, a slew of trans-cultural events heading into next weekend demonstrate the joy, beauty and resilience of this community through film, dance and live performance.

Kicking off this weekend is the 25th anniversary of the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival, the oldest such event in the country. This year it’s a hybrid event with two screenings at the Mission’s Roxie Theater on November 10 and 11, followed by digital offerings until November 20. With short films that deal with parenthood, Mayan deities and the difficulty of finding a public restroom, the festival also comes on the heels of an election in which transgender Americans found themselves targeted and criminalized.

“Since our founding, we’ve been a politicized festival,” said artistic director Shawna Virago. “We try to be mindful of this moment in America and the fact that this year over 100 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country. It happens everywhere. »

True to its long lineage, the festival combines recent work on contemporary people with reassessments of trans icons and various gender rebels, in particular, beauty presidenta look at Joan Jett Blakk, the drag activist who ran for president in 1992.

“I was thrilled that we received this submission,” Virago said. “I remember that campaign very well and believe that Joan Jett Black was an important cultural figure, physically putting her body on the line. For a black, queer, gender fabulous person to show up at the Democratic National Convention and demand Airtime was extraordinary.

Artist and self-proclaimed “brujx”, Edgar Fabián Frías is co-curator of THEYFRIEND. | Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Next, THEYFRIEND, the world’s premier arts festival that elevates and celebrates non-binary (or “enby”) artists, returns Wednesday through Saturday, November 16-19. Founded by artist Kevin “Vin” Seaman, this year’s multi-day event at Oasis, El Rio, Brava Theater for the Arts and other venues represents a significant expansion from 2021’s shorter run.

Co-hosted with artists Edgar Fabián Frías and KB Boyce, THEYFRIEND features over 20 non-binary artists during multiple showcases and a happy hour (November 13-19), featuring video performances, live music and more.

Sean Dorsey Dance is acclaimed for the ensemble’s unusual partnerships and elaborate costume work. | Photo by Lydia Daniller

Finally, the new dance and storytelling work of trans choreographer Sean Dorsey, The lost art of dreaming, is coming to Z Space for four shows (November 18-20). A meditation on pleasure and hope for a better future performed by five trans or queer identified dancers, it relies heavily on the beautiful costumes and sometimes transgressive partnership that has won Sean Dorsey Dance awards and praise for decades. years.

See also

Nearly 60 years after the Compton Cafeteria Riot launched the modern struggle for LGBTQ+ liberation, San Francisco hasn’t become a haven for gender nonconforming people by accident. It took hard work and vision, and these festivals and shows are here to show how it’s done. Or, as Virago put it, “It’s the moments that are responsible for the things we take for granted.”

November 10-20 | Free-$50
Online and at the Roxie Theater
3117 16th street.

November 16-19 | Free-$25
Various places

November 18-20 | Free-$50
Z space
450 Florida St.


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