Agnes (her pseudonym) was a pioneering transgender woman who participated in an infamous gender health study conducted at UCLA in the 1960s. Her clever use of the study to gain access to gender-affirming healthcare led to her status as a fascinating and celebrated figure in trans history.
In this playful cinematic exercise that blends fiction and nonfiction, director Chase Joynt (No Ordinary Man) uses Agnes’s story, along with others unearthed in long-shelved case files, to widen the frame through which trans history is viewed.
Through a collaborative practice of reimagination, an all-star cast of trans performers, artists, and thinkers – including Angelica Ross (Pose), Jen Richards (Mrs. Fletcher), and Zackary Drucker (Transparent) – take on vividly rendered, impeccably vintage reenactments, bringing to life groundbreaking artifacts of trans history. This collective reclamation breaks down the myth of isolation among transgender history-makers, breathing new life into a lineage of collaborators and
conspirators who have been forgotten for far too long.
Examining and upending these narratives, as Framing Agnes aims to do, will illuminate not only how media narratives about trans people have changed over time, but also how the concerns of an era are read onto the bodies of some of the most marginalized in society without their consent. While Canada moves to affirm non-binary identities legally, America bans transgender troops, and the UK systematically loses its mind in a panic over our bodies, Framing Agnes—and its new telling of trans history—couldn’t come at a more urgent time.