This clip from the documentary Travestis Pleurent Aussi I feel best exemplifies the tone of the film. The filmmaker Sebastian d’Ayala Valva follows two trans sex workers in Paris. They are Mia, who chose prostitution over working the land in order to help his* family back home, and Romina, who is working in order to fulfill her dreams and goals, which includes a car, a house, and a loving companion. The film tends to switch back and forth from almost flirtatiousness to loneliness and sadness quite frequently. Both Mia and Romina mention that they enjoy who they are as people at different parts in the film, yet eventually they both admit that they would like to leave sex work, and that it is a lonely occupation. Romina fills her life with a “husband” and a “lover” she also has a small dog that she loves very deeply, her role within her relationships almost mirrors a domestic homemaker, whereas Mia lives a solitary life, until his sister comes to stay who is also a prostitute, and he is more concerned about making money for his family, and being financially sound. He also appears to be somewhat of a matriarchal figure of the sex working group known as the Bois de Boulogne, making sure that each worker is charging the same amount so that every one is equal and makes a decent amount of money.
One of the scenes that struck me the most was during a Pride parade that was taking place in the streets of Paris, and Mia, who had mentioned earlier in the film, only wore makeup and feminine clothing while working, was explaining that he was going to be a main “attraction” of the parade since he has had plastic surgery and has breasts. Many people in the parade (which appear to be white middle class tourists) stop and snap photographs of this masculine figure with breasts, and Mia appears to lap up all the attention, and poses dramatically for the photos. While watching the scene I had the feeling that Mia allowed herself to be objectified by these strangers because she was so lonely and any attention good or bad was comforting. I compared her reactions to Romina’s daily life, and her companions and pet and I believe thats how she combats her loneliness, but that can only fill up a void so much.
The documentary also sheds light on the concept of migration within Europe, since both Mia & Romina travel to Paris from their respected homes in I believe El Salavdor, in order to be in a environment in which their work is more accepted, and where they can make more money. In class we discussed why individuals choose to travel and live in other parts of the country away from their families in order to obtain more work, and more money, and in certain countries money being sent home is the second highest on the list for income among families.
Overall this film was moving, and allowed insight into the lives of trans sex workers and how they are battling between staying within the sex work industry and maintaing everyday lives. The only real issue I had with the film is the fact that the director sets the up the beginning of the film to appear as if the ending is a happy one and in fact he ends on a much more somber note. I understand that he could have done this to emphasize the harshness of the environment in which Mia and Romina work, but it was somewhat misleading. Overall I would recommend this film to anyone interested in learning more about international sex work and the personal lives of sex workers.
*I refer to Mia with both male and female pronouns because in the film Mia states that he/she is both man and woman. Whereas Romina uses female pronouns in regards to herself, and also claims transvestites are the “third sex”.