Gynandrous 'Gendernauts' (BIFF #5) film review by Simon-Astley Scholfield

Arte/Hyena Films 1999, directed by Monika Treut


18 Aug. 99

gynandrous: Applied to those flowers and plants in which the stamens and pistil are united in one column, as in orchids; said also of the stamens (OED).
Bit 1 Monika Treut's Gendernauts documents the female-to-male (F2M) transgender cyber-community in San Francisco. The film is obviously different to earlier films with gynandrous characters such as Liquid Sky (Slava Tsukerman 1982), in which androgynous actor Anne Carlisle plays both a (bisexual-acting New York punk lesbian) woman and a (gay) man. Gendernauts keeps to Sky's gender-fluid principles ("I don't choose my friends by the shape of their genitals") but the punkish gender-b(l)ending transsexuals in Treut's docudrama are real people acting on aspirations to contain both gender (and sometimes genital) morphologies in one body.
gynander: A woman with male characteristics; ... a plant whose stamens are inserted in the pistil (OED).
Bit 2 The featured F2M gynanders in Gendernauts include female-born hormone-enhanced intersexual women (Texas Tomboy, Jordy Jones, Max Wolf Valerio), an intersexual-born intersexual (formerly known as a hermaphrodite), a cross-dressing woman (Stafford), and a female-born transsexual (TS) man ("transman") with surgically attached penis (Les). These gynanders are in various stages of transsexuality. Tomboy and Jones have sparse beards and moustaches from taking testosterone. Stafford's off and over the hormones. Jordy's awaiting breast-to-chest reconstruction, while the iron-pumping Max has had his breasts removed and is awaiting surgical attachment of male genitalia. He proudly wants "big balls".
Bit 3 Treut's quasi-road movie follows the assorted gynandrous Friscoan flaneurs and their lovers and friends as they drive, dine and amble about in the Bay Area's streets, apartments, and transgender clinic. Tornado and "sex queen" Annie Sprinkle are omnisexual het/lez/bi women who have had transmen partners. Friends of the F2Ms include drag kings (Elvis Herselvis), drag queens, M2Fs (Susan Stryker), female-born women (the drag queen-like Pearl Harbor), lesbians, gays, etc. These members of the F2M community and their friends converge at Club Confidential, a cabaret venue for performing drag kings and queens.
Bit 4 In some instances sharp humour comes as a relief. Giggle and wince at the camp reality of Susan Stryker in her sexy nurse's uniform jabbing one of the F2M boys in the buttock with a big intramuscular needle-shot of testosterone. Laugh when Annie matter-of-factly explains how she simply sawed the tip off the detachable penile rod that had popped through the cockhole of Linda/Les's surgically-attached penis, during their copulation ("Lucky, I had a saw in the kitchen"). You may need to laugh, as this bon mot appends a graphic clip of the incident -- urethra and all (spliced into Gendernauts from Sprinkle's landmark F2M film, Linda/Les and Annie).
Bit 5 Most of the transgenders are visual cyber artists. Self-proclaimed "goddess of cyberspace" M2F TS Sandy Stone, visiting professor from the University of Texas, delivers the witty on and off-screen narration, with occasional glimpses of the F2Ms' websites, which include BRANDON (about murdered F2M Brandon Teena) and the Gertude Stein Webpage.
gynandromorphous: Having both male and female characters; applied to some few insects which appear to have both male and female markings on the body (OED).
Bit 6 Gendernauts avoids wallowing in academically-pigeonholing bio-scientific discourse about 'gender dysphoria' and 'transphobia'. Victors rather than victims, these gender-bending outlaws balance their concerns about the unknown (possibly breast cancer-causing) effects of testosterone shots in their female-born bodies with the conspicuous consumption of wheatgrass juice and vegan salads (Man, this is Kalifornia). Never wallflowers, these F2M transsexuals, intersexuals and transvestites celebrate a healthy dose of transgender euphoria (transphoria?) and confidence in their search for gynandromorphous bodies. The Gendernauts transmen suggest new corporeal vocabularies and gender mantras. (Let's sing: "I'm just a gynandrous embryo ... with wisdom borne of pleasure more than pain..."?!) How ultimately frustrating that, as one of the gendernauts reminds us: "not everyone in San Francisco is queer". We all still have a long long way to go...

Bit 7 Details

Gendernauts, by Arte/Hyena Films 1999.
Director: Monika Treut.
Screenplay: Monika Treut.
Cinematography: Elfie Mikesch.
Editor: Eric Schefter.
Cast: Sandy Stone, Jordy Jones, Susan Stryker, Texas Tomboy, Tornado, Max Wolf Valerio, Hilda Viloria, Annie Sprinkle.


Bit 8 Citation reference for this article

MLA style:
Simon-Astley Scholfield. "Gynandrous 'Gendernauts' (BIFF #5)." M/C Reviews 18 Aug. 1999. [your date of access] <http://www.uq.edu.au/mc/reviews/screen/gender.html>.

Chicago style:
Simon-Astley Scholfield, "Gynandrous 'Gendernauts' (BIFF #5)," M/C Reviews 18 Aug. 1999, <http://www.uq.edu.au/mc/reviews/screen/gender.html> ([your date of access]).

APA style:
Simon-Astley Scholfield. (1999) Gynandrous 'Gendernauts' (BIFF #5). M/C Reviews 18 Aug. 1999. <http://www.uq.edu.au/mc/reviews/screen/gender.html> ([your date of access]).

BIFF refers to the Brisbane International Fillm Festival

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