No Dumb Questions

Cover of No Dumb QuestionsNo Dumb Questions. Dir. Melissa Regan. Epiphany Productions, 2001. 24 min.

Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to ask someone personal questions, but hesitated for fear of being inappropriate or too prying?  Has wanting to know more about transgender people been one of those times?

If so, “No Dumb Questions” is the film for you.

In this 2001 documentary, three sisters, ages 6, 9, and 11, learn that their beloved Uncle Bill is becoming their Aunt Barbara and will soon be visiting.  Shot at their family home, the girls are allowed to ask whatever questions they want in preparation for meeting Aunt Barbara, with the rule that there are “no dumb questions.”

We watch as the girls sort out what language to use and wonder what physical changes their uncle will go through, including hair removal and anatomy.   They navigate the confusion of why someone would want to change one’s sex or gender and what terms to use to describe a person in transition.  In many ways, the thought processes that the girls go through are the same that adults go through when learning that a friend, family member, or co-worker is transitioning from one gender to another.  The main difference, however, is that the girls have been given the freedom to ask what are often uncomfortable questions, particularly for adults.

When it is time for the girls to meet their new aunt, the two older girls initially have great difficulty facing her, despite their earlier preparation and desire to not offend her.  The youngest handles it with ease, hoping her aunt will play Barbies with her.  Before the visit is over, they discover that their aunt is still the same beloved person—though different—and is still “pretty nice” and smart, like she always has been.

Post-visit, the girls learn about some of the harsh realities for transgender people.  They are angry to discover that their Uncle Steve is not handling Aunt Barbara’s transition very well and has chosen to not see her on this trip.  They also learn that even though their new aunt is flying home for the first time as a woman, her ID still says she is Bill, and they immediately grasp the difficulties that Barbara may experience at the airport.

High production values are absent from the film and it feels closer to a home movie than not, but rather than detracting from the film, the lower production values enhance its intimacy.

Though over ten years old, this film is still one of the best…if not THE best… film for introducing people to transgender lives.   At 24 minutes length, this award winning film is perfect for classroom or training situations, providing launching points for discussion.  Charming, candid, and entertaining, it is an excellent start for those new to the subject, while still moving for those more experienced with transgender issues.

Teaching and discussion guides, as well as pricing information, are available at the film’s website, www.NoDumbQuestions.com.  Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.  Appropriate for all ages, though does have one F-word instance.

 

Reviewer: John Otto, Reference Librarian

Shoreline Community College

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