We are used to tales of transgender people who, trapped in the wrong youthful skin, are loners, even outcasts. Paul Reed was different: not just the high school QB, but a popular boy who was also his class's valedictorian. Reed's demons were kept well-hidden, to put it mildly - which is why the story of his returning to that Montana high school for a reunion as "Kimberly," as recorded in her documentary Prodigal Sons, is so noteworthy. As Reed tells Details, "I spent the first third of my life pretending not to be a girl, and the second third of my life pretending not to have been a boy."
This would be story enough to make for a riveting documentary, but Reed is attending the reunion with her estranged brother: Marc, wild and rebellious and later victim of a traumatic brain injury.
This, then, was the McKerrow constituency for the 20th high-school reunion in Helena: not just Kimberly Reed, the transgender filmmaker from New York City, but Marc McKerrow, the fun-loving partier, now replaced by Marc McKerrow, the forgetful, slightly impaired, and heavily medicated guy occasionally given to violence.
It's a fascinating story, yes, of families and gender identity and acceptance, but it's also meaningful. Says Reed in Details, in the transgender community, "'it's bad form to talk about your childhood'-your gender dysphoria-'unless you have to.'" While some might debate that, Reed's evident, frank acceptance of both parts of her life is deeply moving, and empowering too. As she said in an interview, "I didn't want to make the transgender version of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?. I'm excited that at Outfest our film will find an audience that wants to see trans film take steps beyond that." Indeed, as Ed Gonzalez wrote in The Village Voice, the film stands as "a rebuke to the overage of documentaries that hermetically reflect on gender identity." It's not surprising that Prodigal Sons has won an enthusiastic reception in the LGBT community, but it's a larger film that deserves a diverse audience. (And no, Details doesn't count.)
Prodigal Sons will be screening around the country starting in February.
Prodigal Sons Trailer [YouTube]
Prodigal Sons Film
DOC SHOT Q&A: Kimberly Reed, Director/Producer, 'Prodigal Sons' [Documentary.org]
The Amazing Tale Of The High School Quarterback Turned Lesbian Filmmaker [Details]
NewFest 2009 Offers Identity Reflected And Refracted By Film [Village Voice]