bashing back

Gay Director Israel Luna Is Sick of Bashing Victims Sucking It Up. So He Made a Movie Where They Stab Their Attackers To Death


To Mr. Luna’s credit, he’s far from a transploitation film-maker; he’s worked closely with the LGBT and drag community in specific by featuring trans and drag performers in almost all of his previous films.

Furthermore, Ticked-Off Trannies stands as one of the few American films featuring actual transgender actors in lead transgender roles. Three of his film’s five lead actors are trans, something that neither Transamerica nor Soldier’s Girl managed. Some of the only other films we could find with trans actors in trans roles were Jack Smith’s transgressive 1963 film Flaming Creatures, which features several trans actors in a writhing drug-fueled orgy of androgyny; and the 2003 film Killer Drag Queens on Dope, which stars transgender actress Alexis Arquette as Eva Destruction.

Getting a trans actor to play trans roles forces mainstream audiences to grapple with actual trans-issues. Any viewer who found Felicity Huffman a convincing transwoman in Transamerica won’t grapple with larger issues of detaching one’s sexuality from their gender. When the conversation gets complicated or confusing (as it can), one can always fall back on Huffman’s real-life identity as an actress living as a woman who never actually transitioned from male-to-female. Her performance exposed audiences to trans-issues, but at the exclusion of actual transpeople.

Similarly, consider the outrage when Abigail Breslin played the blind-deaf Helen Keller in the New York revival of The Miracle Worker. Advocates of the deaf and blind asked “Why not get an actual blind or deaf actor to play Helen?” The show’s producer claimed that he needed a star instead of a deaf-or-blind unknown to ensure a return for his investors. And while he’s right, keeping the door closed to trans actors ensures none ever achieve star power.

“Being the first sucks” as the national first transgender political appointee, Amanda Simpson, reminded us. And while we have trans actors like Candis Cayne, Calpernia Addams, Aleshia Brevard, Jazzmun, Arquette, and Alexandra Billings, none have lingered for very long in the public eye. If gay media’s just coming out of its infancy, then trans-media remains damn near embryonic. It will take independent media makers like Mr. Luna to elevate trans-issues from drag stages and talk shows into the national discourse.

“I don’t consider myself an advocate. I’m not really a protester or anything like that,” Luna says. “All of my films feature comedy, even my horror films—that’s just my personality.” He sought to make an entertaining, marketable movie rather an accurate depiction of transgender people that would speaks for the entire community. Anyone who begrudges him for not taking the opportunity to make such a film, he says, should make one themselves.

“[My film’s] like Grand Theft Auto. If you have a bad day at work, you can shoot some people, kill some hookers, trash your car and feel better. It’s the same with my movie,” Luna says. “If we can have movies [like this] out there, than we can move on—it’s a type of release and keeps the momentum going for gay movies. I’m not saying for people to go out and start killing people. But maybe if we hear about the raid at the Rainbow Lounge or some other violence again, next time we can have more balls. We can say, yeah, we got bashed, but if they come over here again, they’ll get their asses kicked. I would love for there to be an article about a guy guy who was about to get bashed but instead the basher ended up getting bashed. I would be able to die happy tomorrow.”