No Ordinary Man: Billy Tipton’s Documentary is a new movie released today that tells a different story than so many other movies about transgender people, like Danish girl, The crying game, and Boys don’t cry. These films feature cisgender actors in roles that satisfy the cis audiences’ curiosity about gender dysphoria, focusing almost exclusively on “the perception of deception”.
What this documentary film does differently is set the record straight on this man’s life, with input and guidance from an often overlooked segment of the LGBTQ population: transgender men.
Marquise Vilson, Scott Turner Schofield, C. Riley Snorton, and Thomas Page McBee are among those featured in the documentary film. It’s co-directed by Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt, and also stars trans women. Dr Susan Stryker and Zackary Drucker, including the most recent works, The lady and the val, is broadcast on HBOMax.
It was only after the jazz musician Billy Tipton died on January 21, 1989, that his family and the world have learned his secret. He had lived, played, married and raised children like a man before he died of a perforated ulcer at 74. But when Tipton’s life began in 1914, he was thought to be a girl.
Today, much of the world would consider Billy Tipton a transgender man, or maybe “transmasc”, which is short for “trans male” and is used by queer, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people who do not believe that “transgender” matches their gender identity.
Scholars, composers, playwrights and journalists have been fascinated by his life story ever since they learned of this secret, which has been the subject of books, opera and of course supermarket tabloid titles.
The myth that trans people make the transition in order to cheat or trap people has persisted for decades, despite effective arguments to prove it to be false. same The New York Times couldn’t resist the temptation to sensationalize this aspect of his life story, based on this headline: “A wrong note in the life of a musician; Billy Tipton is remembered with love, even by those who have been deceived. One author in particular, cited by Time, chose to ignore Tipton’s choice as anything other than moxie, calling him a woman posing as a man chasing a career.
“It was incredibly frustrating, obviously, to read the biography which portrayed him as an ambitious woman who just wanted to play jazz music and her love of jazz was so great that even she would change genders her whole life,” co – director and co-writer Chin-Yee, in an interview with a film critic Danielle Solzman for Solzy at the cinema.
“Doing this was so absurd and ridiculous that she was so thorough in her research but had such a crazy blind spot for this really, really important part of this human that she wanted to write about,” Chin-Yee told Solzman. author Diane Middlebrook. “When we searched the archives, to really see that she had read and highlighted and collected texts from trans-men. She had copies of FTM Magazine, she had spoken to Jamison Green, she had read the texts of Kate Bornstein. She had access to it and she decided not to bother including it in the story she was building about Billy Tipton. It was like, ‘Okay, you’re not ignorant anymore; you are someone who is willingly trying to change a person’s legacy based on what you think is the story that should be told.
As Solzman pointed out, a creative decision by Chin-Yee and Joynt to use the videos of trans men auditioning to play Tipton adds additional authenticity to the film and a window into what Tipton’s life meant to their own experiences. Click here for this story.
Ultimately, this movie doesn’t just reframe a man’s life, but sheds new light on men whose lives are too often overlooked, because of where their journey to manhood began.
Watch the movie trailer on YouTube and click here to visit the documentary’s website. No ordinary man now playing in New York, Pleasantville, NY and Los Angeles, with more dates across the country in the coming weeks. Click here for the listings.