A FLY-ON-THE wall documentary set mostly in Fremantle gives viewers a pioneering view of love, life and transitioning from one gender to another.
Girl Like That was shot over six years and follows the relationship of The Love Junkies’ drummer Elle Walsh and Lauren Black after the former decides the time has come to become the woman she has always felt like.
Among the couple’s circle of friends were budding film-makers Samantha Marlowe and Frances Elliott, who after a night on the town were wondering what it was like to born in the wrong body. They hatched up a plan for a short doco about the couple going through Elle’s gender transition but it was such a compelling tale it ended up a full-length film which has been picked up by the ABC.
“They were just the quintessential early 20s couple living in Freo; share house, instruments everywhere, that kind of existence, and it was super relatable for a lot of our peers. So that’s why we found the story really unique and we wanted to keep following it,” Marlowe told the Herald.
Elle says Girl Like That helps fill something of a void in Australian content featuring trans people.
“As far as Australian content when I came out, there pretty much was none,” says Elle.
“There was just people putting up videos of themselves on YouTube being like ‘this is how I feel’ or posts on Reddit.
“There were a few films overseas; there was one in Canada that was from early 2000s.”
There were a couple of examples from the UK and America “but really few and far between and nothing on anything resembling a mainstream media”.
Elliott says film is a powerful medium of social change, so she and Marlowe wanted to create something that trans people would be able to look at and feel was a genuine reflection of their lives, but had a broader appeal.
“The main thing that we wanted to do was make a love story, and making it have those really universal global themes of love, self sacrifice and finding yourself,” says Elliott.
“By viewing the film we hope that those people who might not know much about the transgender community or might be bringing their bias to the film, can actually watch it and form a really innately human connection with Elle and Lauren.”
She says at the launch of the film they had tradies come up to say it had changed their perception about trans people.
Elle says having the cameras omnipresent in her life was both “therapeutic” by allowing her to delve deeply into what it felt like to be transgender, but also put a great strain on the couple’s relationship and their individual lives.
“It was quite a big amount of pressure; I definitely felt like there was a responsibility to represent the trans community properly, and almost to not let them down.
“But yeah, having your life filmed, it’s just weird.”
She says during the film she hit some of her life’s lowest points and does worry that some might pigeonhole her from that period, but says close friends will have a continued connection and know how far she’s come.
Having your most vulnerable moments captured for all to see could be daunting when you’re a well-known drummer around town, but Elle says she lives in a supportive community.
“One of the reasons that I live in Freo is that people are usually pretty ‘live and let live’ and there’s not too much judgement on this sort of stuff.
“I don’t get stared at that much, or called names or have people say things under their breath in Fremantle.”
Elle says while transgender is becoming more widely understood, tolerance won’t necessarily make life easier.
“I think gender dysphoria on its own is a pretty nasty beast and I think even if we have complete societal acceptance, trans kids are always going to struggle.”
But she says even recognising that can be helpful as it can help people understand the need to reach out and be supportive.
Marlowe says they are hopeful that hitting the mainstream can make a difference.
“We are hoping that maybe this film can be that moment for trans kids everywhere to go ‘huh, this is what I’m feeling inside, maybe this is what I am’, because to be it, you have to see it.”
Girl Like That is available on ABC iview.
Girl Like That poses the question: Can a relationship survive a gender change?