|Filmmaker Elyse Montague explored the image of the pregnant tans man before Thomas Beattie hit the national media with his pregnancy.
āWhen I tell people I want to get pregnant, it takes [them] aback,ā says Elyse Montague, an award-winning filmmaker. āItās a contradiction.ā Oregon trans man, Thomas Beatieās pregnancy may have captivated national attention, and polarized LGBT opinion like no other, but Montague addressed the issue in his 2006 short, Well Dressed, which examined trans and pregnant bodies.
Trans identified Montague began making films as a kid and shot his first narrative, Bathroom Stories, in 1999. While attending Hampshire College, he filmed Through the Skin, a short that catapulted him to international recognition, wining several awards, gaining widespread distribution, and playing at film festivals around the world. Incorporating home movies, vintage public service announcements, personal performance pieces and interviews with his family, the film examines Montagueās shifting gender and sexual identity. Now a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, Montagueās filmmaking was honored in 2007, with a Princess Grace Awards scholarship.
āIt was extremely validating to know that this foundation thatās so prestigious and has such a history was interested in my work. It was very much a mark in my career, and very much a beginning of something.ā
Monagueās latest work, Owls Head (named for the filmās coastal Maine setting), was filmed in his parentsā home and based on real life experiences of featured performers - Montague, a trans friend and Monatugeās 15-year-old brother. āIt was kind of loaded; it wasnāt just like writing something and then getting random people to play it. Iām constantly thinking about layers of performance, and the very fine line between documentary and fiction; and when things transform into fiction - or transcend it.ā
Completing the film this fall, Montague hopes it will be a stepping stone to production oriented filmmaking and collaborations with other trans filmmakers interested in representations of queer bodies. āWhen bodies - that we, as a society, donāt put together in our heads - do converge, as in a trans pregnant person, what happens to our security and language? What happens to the way that we think about gender?ā
While Beatieās case may offer answers, Montague says, āIām [disturbed]ā¦about how heās being represented, [and] astonished over [the] focus on his genital status. People - even people identified as queer - [are] saying some really nasty things. Whenā¦our community is being torn apart over one threatened genderā¦thatās just really sad. If a gay identified man in San Francisco is not going to see [Beatieā] humanness - itās troubling.ā
Still, Montague believes, āItās essential that we complicate the trans body so that it isnāt a linear transitioning from one gender to the other.ā
Montagueās identity reflects those complexities, āIāve been in a lot of different situations where my gender is all over the place; Iāve learnedā¦how context creates identity. I feel more male than I do female but I donāt know if thatās just because the female identity was pushed on me. I definitely identify as trans, but I donāt see myself as a man.ā
āI donāt know how pregnancy will change that,ā Montague admits, āIāve come really close to going on T or getting chest surgery, but it hasnāt happened yetā¦Iām holding out to make any exterior alterations [because] I want to be pregnant first.ā
In the meantime, the 27-year-old plans to complete grad school and move to New York or San Francisco to collaborate with other trans artists, emerse himself in queer culture and continue teaching (heās been a teaching assistant and facilitated filmmaking workshops).
Eventually Montague hopes to make transgender feature films where āThe story doesnāt have to revolve around the otherness of the character and it can be more of a humanist experience. I really want to make work thatās going to speak to people on an emotional level; so that maybe it will in some way register: [this] is a human experience. Like Thomas [Beatie said], āThe experience of wanting to have a child is not a male desire or a female desire. Itās a human desire.āā
Trans author Jacob Anderson-Minshall co-writes the Blind Eye mystery series with his wife. He has an essay in the anthology, Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex and Power, which examines his transition from lesbian feminist to straight white guy.