Representing trans stories: Screening and discussion of CAER (CAUGHT) by Nicola Mai

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Olenka, Violeta, Nicoletta (coordinator of Vivian Love street unit), Jem and Roberta

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed every year on November 20. It memorialises the victims of violence against trans people. For this year’s Remembrance Day, Riccardo Bulgarelli and Chiara Lacroix from the Queer and Feminist Studies Working Group brought researchers, activists, and cooperative workers together to watch the documentary CAER (CAUGHT) by anthropologist and filmmaker Nicola Mai (the film is available on demand on this link).
We screened the film at the cinema La Compagnia, a main venue of the Florence Queer Film Festival in the very centre of Florence. Thanks to FQF directors Barbara Caponi and Giacomo Brotto, in fact, the screening became part of the festival as an epilogue to their rich programme.

CAER is the result of a collaboration between Nicola and the TRANSgrediendo Intercultural Collective, an association that defends the rights of migrant trans women in sex work in Queens, New York. Members of the TRANSgrediendo collective worked together with Nicola on the documentary’s script and editing. The film shows the lives of two Latina trans women, Rosa and Paloma, as they navigate between friends, colleagues, lovers, lawyers, and New York police agents, who regularly arrest trans sex workers (prostitution is a criminal offence in New York). As Rosa says in one of the final scenes of the film: “Our existence revolves around getting caught (“caer” in Spanish)”.

After the film, we invited a few people to the stage for a discussion. We were very lucky that Nicola Mai, the film’s director, could join us in person, together with Barbara Caponi and Giacomo Brotto from the FQF, and Nicoletta Zocco from the street unit Vivian Love of the CAT cooperative, a unit that provides assistance to trans women in sex work in Florence. The conversation started with questions from Benno Gammerl, the liaison professor of the Queer and Feminist WG, to each of the guests. Nicola explained the collaboration between him and the TRANSgrediendo collective, stressing that it was important for him not to appear in the movie, so as not to make it his story. Nicoletta shared this intention: “I think it’s time that we stop speaking for others, and listen instead”, she said, as she invited the women assisted by Vivian Love to come to the front.

Violeta, Jem, Roberta, Olenka each talked about their experiences as trans women from South America and as sex workers in Florence. Their testimonies, told in Italian and Spanish, recalled the blend of languages in Nick’s documentary. We learned about the violence that clients inflict on sex workers, and about the realities of sex work in countries such as Peru. We also realised how present discrimination against trans people is in Italy. Jem recounted that, now that she has started to study again, teachers are reticent to address her by her female name. At the end of the event, Violeta asked for a minute of silence to commemorate victims of transphobia.

The interventions of these four women made us aware of realities that we usually do not see, or choose not to see, even when we live in the same city. The event brought people together and, with the help of Nicola’s documentary, offered a space for listening. We are very grateful to Nicola, Nicoletta, Barbara, and Giacomo for making this conversation possible and to Violeta, Jem, Roberta, Olenka for sharing their experiences with the audience.

Categories: EUI Events, LGBTIQ WG