People are people, old adages are true. Viewers remember that latter in Shannon Kaplun’s Levi: Becoming Himself, a documentary about Levi Nahirneyk, a Vietnamese-Canadian trans man. The documentary starts off with some interviews which are, obviously by design, insightful. And that insight can be a treasure especially in looking at a member of a community with perceived canonical beliefs. Specifically, he discusses the belief that most trans people do not like their dead names. Instead of calling it a dead name, he calls it a birth name and describes its beauty. But he reiterates that the name isn’t his. That reiteration becomes an echo of some sorts later in the documentary. Levi’s adopted father says that there is no right or wrong path. It’s simply Levi’s path, a path different from every person with their own gender relationships.
Huma beings have relationships with themselves and, obviously, others too. The documentary depicts Levi’s relationship to an online audience, who he reaches out to on Instagram stories and on TikTok. The transitions between home videos, social media posts and regular digital video feel jarring at times. But that’s necessary in depicting any late millennial of Gen- Z-er, regardless of their gender identity. Echoing these formats also display Levi’s bravery, which most older viewers should respect. There’s also Levi’s relationship with his family. Levi’s father also appears in other interview scenes with a slightly different understanding of the events, but not too different. He describes how he sees the positive effects of Levi’s surgery. Meanwhile, the other family members and friends and complex but mostly positive feelings towards. And there’s honesty in that complexity, which mostly comes from Levi’s twin sister Kailyn.
Another nitpick that viewers might see with this is the occasional didactic conversations between Levi and his friends. He, by the way, occasionally goes to Camp Out, a camp in BC for 2sLGBTQIA+ youth. He has discussions with fellow campers about topics like straight passing privilege. Again, possibly didactic. But some of us who even live with other people might not have had in person conversations for days. Their discussion topics might be concepts for people more sheltered that I am. But conversations about straight passing privilege might be natural for him and his fellow campers. They are realities for him and his friends. And there’s something beautiful about these conversations happening in nature. People don’t see 2sLGBTQIA+ people as natural. But nature changes, and we’re seeing snapshots of it just like we’re seeing snapshots in Levi’s life.
Levi: Becoming Himself had its premiere on CBC last night. It is now available to stream on CBC Gem.