Some Reassembly Required is a documentary that chronicles the journey of Christopher as he prepares for his transition and the emotional ups and downs as he struggles to find acceptance in his own home.
Melvin: Transitioning is a deeply personal part of your life. What made you decide to share it with the world?
Christopher: Geraldine and I first discussed making a film about this after we met an older transman at a film premiere. He’d just gotten married, and I was really excited to meet him, and Geraldine recognised that. She also recognised that previously, we’d never even talked about the fact that I was transgender (she met me before I began my hormone replacement therapy). In our conversations, we both realised that this was a story that had the potential to impact many lives, especially other guys like me.
I held back then. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a visible transman, seeing as I would most likely be able to just “go stealth” and not have to answer so many questions from people around me. But then I went on the Wikipedia page for the Singaporean LGBT community and saw that the page for transmen reads exactly like this:
I realised how important visibility for transmen in Singapore was, especially for younger guys struggling with their identity, because I remember how it felt for me when I was learning more about being transgender.
M: What’s the most important thing you want your audience to take away from the film?
C: I’d like people to realise that even though we may be transgender, we deal with the same things they deal with. We are more than our gender identity and its challenges: we are brothers, sons, colleagues, friends. Our lives are not solely our transgender identity. In the end, we are as human as the next cisgender person, and it’s our shared humanity that’s most important.
M: What do you think is the most difficult thing about being transgender in Singapore?
C: I think the toughest part for me is usually having to explain why I haven’t gone for National Service! That’s basically sort of a rite of passage for boys in Singapore – everyone with a “Male” on their identification gets called up to do it, and it’s basically two years of being a soldier. A lot of that, of course, has to do with being outed as transgender.
But it’s very important to note that it’s a very different set of challenges for transmen, like myself, and transwomen, who face a lot more discrimination, like struggling to find jobs, and being charged larger sums for rent. The public is more judgmental and less sympathetic due to a lack of education.
M: What do you think is a common struggle amongst transgendered persons around the globe today? How do you feel about it?
C: First of all – transgender persons, not transgendered persons! I’m putting in a link here to explain why.
I think the hardest part of being transgender is knowing that no matter how much surgery we have, we’ll never have bodies exactly like cisgender people. I remember reading about a transgender teenager who recently committed suicide – he had the backing of his friends and his school – but left a suicide note that contained this line: “I’m a prisoner of my own body”. I’ve felt this way before, but that’s the thing – you can’t run away from your own body.
What I’m trying to say is, the hardest part is self-acceptance. It’s knowing that you are valuable, in spite of (and even, because of) the fact that you’re transgender. No, I wouldn’t wish this feeling on my worst enemy, but I know that because of it, I am who I am. I hope that any transgender individual who feels like they’ve been given a death sentence can see beyond that. We should all love ourselves more, I think.
M: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have of transgender persons in our community that you want to set straight?
C: I think the biggest misconception is that ‘transgender’ is a sexual orientation. Which is not helped by the fact that T people are grouped together with LGB people in LGBT. So people seem to get confused when I tell them that there are gay transmen around.
I guess the best way to put this is that gender identity and sexual orientation are independent of each other, and that’s why you can have gay transmen, which is basically a transgender man who is attracted to men (regardless of whether they are cisgender or transgender).
M: Do you have any words of advice for people who are just starting this process of self-discovery and realisation?
C: I’m going to say: trust yourself. Read a lot. Ask questions. Expect disagreements, but trust yourself. And know that you are always loved, regardless of what some people would have you think. You are loved. You are important. And you are beautiful.
The documentary Some Reassembly Required is currently in production. Find out more over on their website.