America in Transition
Created & directed by André Pérez

Reviewed by T.J. Banks

Tiommi Luckett is an HIV advocate living in Arkansas. Dezjorn Gauthier is a model, legal scholar, and CEO who’s about to get married. Z Shane Zaldivar is a veteran who met his wife when they were serving together in the Marines. Nina Chaubal and Greta Gustavo Martel are married activists and the co-founders of Sisterwood.

All are transgender people and part of filmmaker André Pérez’s documentary web series “America in Transition” (AIT) and his TransOral History Project. The series “features stories of trans people of color and rural trans folks,” Pérez explains, and is “inspired by my experience growing up in Virginia and North Carolina and then coming out in rural Vermont. I had questions about everything from healthcare access to navigating familial relationships but no one to ask. I am working on this project because it’s crucial to show isolated trans people role models and [to] activate allies is diverse communities.”

The voices we hear in this episode are strong and unedited. Z Shane recalls meeting his wife and how long it took them to get together because “I was starting my transition finally, and I didn’t want to move in, being my first year on T [testosterone], like the relationship and that was too much.” But he also lovingly recalls how supportive she was back in the “just friends” days, when she once told him, “‘Somebody’s going to love you for who you are as a trans man.’ I just didn’t realize she was talking about her.” And Tiommi talks about living with HIV: “It’s against the law to enter into a sexual relationship with anyone and not disclose to them that you’re positive, right? Like, I could lose my freedom over this. And, um, no amount of sex is worth my freedom.”

What I love about this is that all of them are just people being people. Sure, they talk about transgender issues, but they also talk about issues that are important to everyone. And in a world where there is so much violence directed at transgender people—so much confusion over what being trans* really is—it is crucial to be reminded of this.

Online access at

T.J. Banks is the author of Sketch People, A Time for Shadows, Catsong, Houdini, and other books. Catsong was the winner of the 2007 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award.