Monday, July 14, 2008

Reverend's Report from Outfest: Trinidad

Who knew that a small, predominantly Catholic town in Colorado is also one of the world's leading providers of gender-reassignment surgeries? Thanks to the new documentary Trinidad, which made its debut Friday night at Outfest, the community is about to become considerably better known.

Since 1969, men who have long felt they were meant to be women and, to a lesser extent, women who've felt they should have been born male have been flocking to Trinidad, Colorado. It was in 1969 that the first such surgery was performed there in, of all places, a Catholic hospital. The doctor who did the surgery (and thousands since then) had to petition the Vatican for permission. The Vatican said yes, which may shock people in light of the Church's current, less-than-supportive climate. The approval wasn't so unusual, though, in the immediate wake of the Second Vatican Council, which ushered in an all too brief period of liberalism in the Catholic Church.

Many of those who have undergone gender-reassignment surgery in Trinidad (the name is Spanish for "Trinity," also interesting to Catholics like myself) have subsequently opted to stay in the town, which has resulted in one of the highest per capita populations of transgender people in the US. While the documentary reveals that not all of the locals are pleased with this, many more of the locals have been supportive and hospitable.

Trinidad, the movie (directed by P.J. Raval and Jay Hodges), succeeds at shedding significant light on a largely unknown true-life subject in an effort to develop greater understanding, as the best documentaries do. It also illustrates how powerfully a community can change lives for the better when the majority of its diverse constituents -- families, businesses, churches, etc. -- are united in that goal. Trinidad inspires, both as a municipality and as a documentary. (Watch a clip from Trinidad here.)

More than 20 documentary features are screening at Outfest this week. I'll have reviews of several of them later this week, including the anticipated A Jihad for Love and Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon.

UPDATE: Trinidad is now available on DVD from

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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