Trans people are relatively invisible within societies where cisgender people dominate. This was true in 1999, a truth Monika Treut tried to mitigate through her groundbreaking documentary Gendernauts. And it’s still true today, so Treut revisits her subjects in Gendernauts for the sequel, Genderation. With this sequel she treats her subjects with respect. This shows when she digs up photos and costumes of one of those subjects, Annie Sprinkles. Sprinkles, a former porn actor and sex worker, has been and is still an activist. And she sees the connection between ambiguous sexuality with the environment. The other subjects have more subtle ways of dealing with the environment and ambiguous sexuality. One of those other subjects, Stafford, wants to move outside of San Francisco, which went from gay and trans hub to a tech hub, to a place with water. Another subject, Sandy Stone, explores the earth with her family.
Gendernauts has many more subjects than Genderation but surprisingly, these fewer subjects don’t distract from the sequel’s disorganized method of presenting its ideas. Both movies throw as many ideas to the screen and sees what sticks, but there’s something about Gendernauts‘ presentation that makes it feel like a mosaic. Here, it shows one of its subjects, Texas Tomboy, talking about getting friends from each generation. This runs opposite to today, when the community feels clique-y, which is harmful for gender nonconforming people. It also seems like the sequel is just about X-ers talking about how the rent is too damn high while Gendernauts has its subjects presenting the spaces where they lived in a carefree manner. There’s something tragic in watching the original knowing that these subjects are living in a city that is inevitably inhospitable. The mess that is Genderation evens out its predecessor, thus the rating below.