Gender Identity In The Film Paris Is Burning

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The characteristics of race, class and gender hold precedence over all other qualities during the determination of one’s value. The idea of superiority and inferiority has existed since differences were first recognized by humans. The belief that an individual’s self-worth is measured by their ethnicity, sexuality, and economic status has impacted the lives of many Americans. As equality movements have transpired, victims of discrimination have varied. In the late 1980s, the lack of acceptance in conventional society created hardships in the lives of transgender women and gay men. Paris is Burning exhibits the adversity that minorities faced when trying to attain basic freedom in America. The drag ball community accepted all participants regardless…show more content…
Some of the participants dealt with gender identity struggles. At the time Paris is Burning was filmed, the concept of gender identity was seemingly foreign to society. The common belief was that person’s biological sex determined their identity of male or female. Many subjects in the film were biologically labeled as a sex that they could not identify with, leading to a struggle of self-acceptance in a critical society. Aside from stigmas in society, transgenders often faced negative reactions from their families. Pepper Labeija described her experience as a young transgender. Labeija recalled his mother’s intolerance and described, ”When I had women’s clothes in my closet and she found them, she would destroy them” (Paris is Burning 21:17-21:22). This story provided personal insight into the pain and hardship that transgenders faced within their families — a place meant to provide comfort and safety. Transgenders often dealt with unpredictable reactions from their loved ones. The drag ball community provided a family for gender minorities who did not have close relations with their blood relatives. Labeija explained, “This is a new meaning of family...a group of human beings in a mutual bond” (Paris is Burning

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