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'Man Made' views the transgender experience through a bodybuilding lens

Director T Cooper tells CNN about making "Man Made," a documentary about four transgender men preparing for the only trans bodybuilding competition in the world.

Posted: Nov 13, 2019 3:00 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2019 3:00 PM

"Man Made" looks at the transgender experience through what seems like a highly specific lens: The only bodybuilding competition for transgender participants. But focusing on competitors at different stages, facing a variety of issues, offers a complex, nuanced view, in a way that does a lot of heavy lifting for a small film.

Setting these various coming-out journeys against this backdrop provides a means of considering traditional images of masculinity, and in the case of bodybuilding, the enormous amounts of hard work that goes into achieving them.

The exposed nature of the sport also serves as a metaphor for the way these men, assigned and raised female, bare themselves emotionally. The release is timed to Transgender Awareness Week.

Director T Cooper spent a long time documenting his subjects, following them as they prepare for the competition. Through their stories, the conversation widens to include not only the four competitors but those around them.

Rese Weaver, for example, is dealing with being periodically homeless, an ordeal that's magnified by being trans; Mason Caminiti acknowledges that he's still self-conscious enough that he won't be naked in front of his wife; Dominic Chilko, adopted, seeks out his birth mother; and Kennie Story grapples with a complicated relationship as he prepares to begin taking testosterone, causing his girlfriend, a lesbian, to question what kind of future they can have together.

Bodybuilding is thus merely the framework against which these stories unfold. We also get to know their families, which have responded to having a trans son or brother with varying levels of comfort and acceptance. Kennie's mom is deeply religious, but says -- while still using female pronouns -- "I love her. That trumps everything."

Along the way, there are discussions about coming out, as well as the heightened dangers and threats of violence that trans people face, including a tragedy that strikes close to home.

The build-up to the competition, known as Trans FitCon, actually feels a trifle anticlimactic; still, the anti-trans protests that surround the event underscore the bigger picture and ongoing struggle for acceptance -- one that will continue, as "Man Made" makes clear, after the posing ends.

"Man Made" is available on VOD platforms iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Vimeo. Transgender Awareness Week begins on Nov. 13.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307449

Reported Deaths: 7096
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20772248
Hinds19888408
Harrison17489302
Rankin13311275
Jackson13097243
Madison9895210
Lee9856169
Jones8290160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7187237
Lowndes6262144
Lamar610584
Lafayette6027117
Washington5280132
Bolivar4769129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4442103
Pearl River4419139
Warren4280118
Marshall4273100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403675
Neshoba3987176
Lincoln3869108
Hancock372085
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3180104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265779
Wayne261341
Leake261073
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245882
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120041
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81823
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518899

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753641487
Mobile37763798
Madison33859494
Tuscaloosa25266443
Montgomery23962565
Shelby23106238
Baldwin20631300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14284311
Morgan14139268
Etowah13662345
Marshall11957219
Houston10380278
Elmore9993200
Limestone9811147
Cullman9470188
St. Clair9426234
Lauderdale9215227
DeKalb8746181
Talladega8058171
Walker7087275
Jackson6754110
Autauga6723103
Blount6483135
Colbert6203130
Coffee5399112
Dale4767110
Russell428838
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia387674
Dallas3527149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256258
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218775
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171440
Washington164038
Macon154548
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
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