Film festivals worldwide are suffering rapid onset gender dysphoria, because every single one carries at least one or two trans-themed films. This time it was the turn of the Raindance Film Festival, which featured two documentaries about men who identify as women – Against the Current, reviewed here, and Girl Like You – reviewed here.
About the documentary
Against the Current is the saga of Veiga, a trans woman born in the Westfjords of Iceland. The film explores a lifetime spent battling against the currents of social expectations, as Veiga attempts to become the first person to kayak around the 2,000 km Icelandic coastline, against the current.Abridged from the blurb
It opens with shots of waves crashing accompanied by wailing voices, hovering over the fishing village that Veiga, the hero of the piece, comes from. It’s a metaphor, presumably, of his tortured/indomitable spirit. The last man who tried this died.
The story alternates between following his circumnavigation in the present time, alongside the story of his life from child to present day. We learn from his parents that he was a normal boy, very boisterous in fact, who had a strong attachment to dad and liked doing things with his hands. As a teen he was troubled, but who wasn’t? He appears to have had an entirely normal and stable upbringing.
Veiga tells us that now he is a ‘woman’ he has an advantage in that thongs pack down smaller than boxer shorts. Whilst he kayaks for 10-12 hours a day he will continue his 3-weekly injections of oestrogen and presumably a permanent wedgey up his arse crack.
Once the whole thing is set up, we learn about ‘Helga and the kids’. Helga is the woman he married just prior to transitioning. Both had one child from a previous marriage. The previous wife/girlfriend and the circumstances of the separation are never mentioned. Veiga and Helga had a whirlwind romance which quickly resulted in marriage, a move to Norway for a new life and a baby. It was then that Veiga revealed to her that he was a cross dresser and that he needed to do it for ‘excitement’.
There is a rather long section in which Veiga repeatedly explains to us that he had to hide his feminine clothes, sometimes creating false bottoms in drawers to ensure that others wouldn’t find out his secret.
Back in the narrative for the present time, his trip with his pal for the first part of the journey comes undramatically to an end as Veiga declares the pal is a typical man, typical slob and then smiles coquettishly. But they had always planned to part after a few days, so why are we being told this? So far there has been zero drama in the water, no tussles with death, not even an upturned kayak.
More on crossdressing
Veiga tells us that dressing up is the only time he feels ‘good and pretty’ and like a ‘sexual being’. He began to meet another crossdressing man in secret, who is introduced to us, and together they would dress up together. More and more the behaviour was impinging on his relationship with his wife, but when she noticed one day he was wearing eye mascara and told her defiantly he was going to go to work with it on, she finally told him, ‘I can’t do this’.
From then we are drip fed the full transition story; the testosterone suppressant he is on causes micturition, he has had castration and penectomy, it was December 2014 (i.e. the trans tipping point) when he realised he was a ‘trans woman’ rather than a man with a fetish, seeing a photo of himself with his daughter with his bald patch showing made him realise he didn’t want to be a ‘bald woman’.
In an attempt to run away from this supposed stark realisation he got a fire arms licence and started ‘killing things’ (cue lots of shots of him with dead wild deer, etc). After the fire arms lesson ended he would drive further and dress up for an hour alone. He says he enjoyed that bit more than the fire arms lesson.
Although the documentary is clearly Veiga’s and entirely sympathetic to him, never probing further when obvious points of concern arise (believing he had a fetish being one, having a compulsion to kill things another), it does allow space and time to Helga to tell us how awful he was to her. Even if it does frame the camera too close up and from her bad side.
Helga tells us that for one whole year everything was ‘up in the air’. He would often cross dress at home and then she would have to check in with him prior to returning to ensure that she and the kids did not come across him in his feminine attire. ‘My husband was replaced by a drama queen,’ she says bluntly.
On the sexual side of things, Veiga was upset that she no longer found him attractive and told her that if she only tried harder she would learn to love the woman he had become. The was a red line for Helga and she wasn’t prepared to cross it.
Using female facilities
Back on the present day trip Veiga recounts his experience of using the female facilities at a camp site. He sees that the shower is occupied by a woman and waits outside until it is free. Then a female employee comes out and tells him the facility is free you can go inside. ‘It wasn’t free, a woman is in there,’ he says. I was talking about the male facility, she tells him.
Veiga is disappointed that people don’t see him as a woman in Iceland and wonders whether he should move to a country where he isn’t known. Of course, no one challenges him that the woman simply knew he was a man.
As he enters the most dangerous waters, on the southern side of Iceland, Helga tells us that they had to live together for quite a while after the relationship had ended. She was unable to leave because she didn’t have the money to get out of Norway. Veiga started to accuse her of affairs and was very controlling. She was so worn down by it all she stopped talking to anybody else and naturally became miserable and depressed. Her daughter was anxious too, as were the older children.
Meanwhile Veiga is on Day 49 of his round trip and laid up in an emergency shelter for a week long rest. He has been paddling against the current now 49 days straight for 8-12 hours per day. That’s when the violins start playing (or in this case, choral singing) in order to exonerate Veiga’s despicable behaviour to the mother of his baby.
Veiga tells us that he finds men disgusting, including himself. He had been so desperate that one day in the kitchen he got a knife out and put his penis on the chopping board. He also tried pills and speeding down a hill on his bike with the plan of passing in front of a truck. This was all because he couldn’t bear the idea of his children finding out.
On the other hand, doing the trip has increased his confidence.
It sounds like once Helga acquiesced to one of his demands he finally agreed they could leave Norway and return to Iceland. Once back he made an appointment with the gender identity service in Iceland, and as he had already been transitioning whilst in Norway, was fasttracked for vaginoplasty surgery (i.e. castration, penectomy and a creation of hole which will only stay open with daily stretching).
The psychologist breezily tells us that there was no need to repeat the assessments previously done on him in Norway and that surgery is normally done after only a year of hormone treatment. Mum and dad say they urged him to wait and see. Veiga had a three month wait.
In fact the surgery had been filmed, presumably also for a TV report, and we see him wake up immediately after the surgery has happened, reaching for his groin.
On day 69 he visits the coastal town that Helga and their daughter now live in. We see him playing with her and her holding back the tears as mum tells her ‘she’s going now’. Helga admits that it is important to keep the relationship going between them for her sake, which appears to surprise Veiga (clearly the thought had never crossed his mind that his ex-wife isn’t choosing to stay in touch for the pleasure of his company).
This leads to a reflection on shore that he did use to want to be with Helga still but appears to be realising that as a gelded man he is no longer attractive to women full stop.
The most overtly political bit comes when Veiga recalls a story about a man standing over him when he slept in a ‘six woman cabin’ on a ship, and a drunkard threatened him. Montage of new headlines float across the screen, including Are We in the Midst of a Transgender Murder epidemic. Unfortunately for the filmmakers they didn’t actually read that article (or perhaps they did, which makes it worse). I did. Here is a quote from that article:
However, there is remarkably little evidence that transgender Americans are killed at an unusually high rate. According to an exhaustive database kept by the HRC, there were 29 recorded murders of trans individuals in the most violent recent year on record (2017), a fraction of the 17,294 murders committed that year. In fact, the transgender murder rate is far lower than the murder rates for African Americans, poor Americans of all races, and “men” in general. Further, most murders of trans persons are same-race domestic or personal disputes, not hate crimes.From the Quillette article by Wilfred Reilly – see here
The other headline we see is 331 Trans People Killed This Year, which turns out to be a short sketchy article with little meat. Great headlines though, every one of them. Then his trans pal tells us that he hears of a murder every week. It’s all very manipulative.
Back in one piece
By day 100 of the marathon roundtrip Veiga finally begins to look a bit knackered and things are nicely rounded off as he nears home, as all the talking heads pop up to remark that Veiga is happier now he has transitioned. He is welcomed home and remarks that the trip was ‘easier than transitioning’ and he has a content feeling that he has achieved it. Which is nice.
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