Mark Anthony is a trans-masculine non-binary drag king who has been performing for the past four years, winning some of the biggest titles on the drag circuit. But when the lights dim and the painted beards and sequinned suits are put away, Isaac (the person behind the character) faces a different audience. Walking the streets in a society that reads people as a binary either/or, Isaac has struggled with a lifetime of gender dysphoria. This short documentary by Hannah Congdon follows Isaac at a pivotal stage in their life, as they undergo top surgery and perform for the very first time in a body that reflects how they identify. This is Isaac’s journey to be recognised as they really are.
Congdon said: “After many a conversation with a close friend of mine, who identifies as a trans man, about the negative or lack of representation of the trans-masculine community on screen, I wanted to try and make a documentary that gave an insight into the experience of transitioning through the celebratory lens of drag. I was lucky enough to meet Isaac/Mark just over a year ago, and it so happened that they were about to undergo top surgery. Having learnt a lot about the process of top surgery via social media and Youtube videos, they were eager to share their own experiences to help other non-binary and trans masculine people going through a similar journey. “My filming of Isaac and their partner Vi — a burlesque performer — coincided with the growing backlash to the planned amendments to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. After 3 years of consultation with the trans community and support groups, campaigners had hoped the amendments would simplify the transition process by allowing trans people to self-identify, as well as recognising non-binary as a legal gender. Instead, the government announcement in September of last year fell a long way short of what had been promised, rejecting the calls to allow trans people to self-identify and making no mention of the need for legal recognition of non-binary people. So what had begun as a film about gender dysphoria and body positivity, increasingly became a film about being the importance of visibility and recognition as a non-binary person. I hope the film can help open people’s eyes to the barriers the trans and non-binary community currently face, but more importantly I hope Isaac can be an inspiration to anyone out there feeling dysphoric or questioning their gender identity. They’ve certainly been an inspiration to me across my time filming, and I'm hugely grateful to them for letting me into this very personal chapter of their life.”
From Isaac/Mark: “Marks as a film went through several transitions, which was quite fitting given the subject matter. I was approached by Hannah, who was interested in documenting the experiences of Drag Kings. It happened that she contacted me just a couple of days before I was due to undergo top surgery and we had the idea to film the process. It occurred to me that I had never seen much documentation of the procedure I was about to go through — my research had hinged on hearsay and social media support groups — and I thought that a visual representation of my experience might be a meaningful legacy. I am well aware that my experience is not universal, given that I was able to have surgery privately, a privilege not available to many trans people. However, I felt that adding the voice of another trans/non-binary person to the conversation would be valuable.
“The making of the film and my recovery from surgery also coincided with the announcement of "reforms" to the Gender Recognition Act and the media storm that surrounded the transphobic writing of a certain author. This gave us the unexpected opportunity to address the additional layer of my experiences as a non-binary person going through social and medical transition. The way the film tells my story feels very authentic, and I feel humbled that Hannah was so dedicated to making my voice heard. I hope it can be informative for those that don't understand the experiences of people like me, and that it might make someone who does feel less alone.”