Trailer: New Doc ‘Little Girl’ is a Poignant Meditation on Trans Acceptance

There have thankfully been more and more queer coming of age stories in mainstream pop culture (most recently, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie), which are surely chipping away at long-ingrained homophobia and bigotry, and moving us slowly towards greater acceptance of otherness. But rarely addressed are the feelings and struggles of much younger children, who are discovering that their still forming identities don’t necessarily align with established societal “norms.”

A step towards correcting that situation, the first US trailer has just been released for the heartstrings-tugging new documentary Little Girl (directed by S├ębastien Lifshitz, opening September 17 at New York’s Film Forum and LA’s Royal, followed by a national rollout via Music Box Films), which bravely and poignantly follows the journey of, yes, a little boy who really wants to be a little girl – and is genuinely convinced that he is, deep down. That boy is 7-year-old Sasha, growing up in a provincial French town, in a country that, despite very low church attendance, is still about 80% Catholic – and so acceptance does not come easily.

As the clip opens, we see his/her determined and empathetic mother recounting, “It really struck me for the first time when Sasha was four, and kept saying, ‘Mom, when I grow up, I’ll be a girl.'” When she tries to explain why that might not actually happen, she suddenly realizes that pain she has caused, and then laments for “…the tears of a child whose life I have just ruined. Whose dreams I have shattered.”

But there are also scenes of absolute and unfettered joy, as Sasha is allowed to explore his identity by playing on the beach as a girl, and by taking ballet lessons. “I feel beautiful!,” he exclaims with hard won happiness when his mother let’s him put on a pretty dress.

As ever in such a situation, school is a particular problem. Though the mother explains, “There are children who perfectly accept her. I’d like the adults to do the same.” And really, it’s not very much to ask, for grownups to act like grownups, and to embrace the child for who she really is – an act of empathy whose only detriment will be to their tired old prejudices.

Yet when a counselor tells her, “Know that you are not alone,” it offers just the measure of hope that seems needed – though ultimately Little Girl is very much about the pain caused by seemingly intractable narrow-mindedness. And really, for anyone with a shred of empathy, it’s hard to get through this trailer without shedding a genuine tear or two (or ten). But the film also wants to rouse us to root for Sasha and everyone else like her, who all only want nothing more than to be left to just be who they really are – the most basic of all human dignities.

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