The TransNation Festival launched its premiere edition in Los Angeles this weekend, merging a slate of excellent trans-themed films from Thursday to Sunday with the celeb-studded Queen USA pageant on Saturday evening.
Guest-curated and hosted by artist Zackary Drucker, the fest’s film portion included both brand-new releases (like the documentaries Major!, profiling trans-rights pioneer Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, and Free CeCe, tracking the incarceration and subsequent activism of CeCe McDonald) and classics (including the groundbreaking 1968 pageant-doc The Queen, and the rarely seen 1974 Rainer Werner Fassbinder masterpiece In a Year with 13 Moons). Screenings were at Cinefamily in the West Hollywood-adjacent Fairfax District.
Saturday’s 15th annual Queen USA pageant, held downtown at the Ace Hotel, was hosted by Candis Cayne and Curly Velasquez, and featured a cavalcade of trans royalty and allies, including judges Alexandra Billings, Kelly Osbourne and Caitlyn Jenner. Transparent creator Jill Soloway was also honored with the 2016 Champion for Change Award. Other awards presented during the festival included the Jose Julio Sarria Award to Miss Major Griffin Gracy, and the Sylvia Rivera Award to Tiq Milan.
Following the presentation of the film Free CeCe, Transgender Health Program Manager Diana Feliz Oliva brought home the importance of the festival with a personal story from the previous evening. After the Queen USA pageant, she and some colleagues walked over to Taco Mexico taco stand just feet from the Ace Hotel, where the taunts of some cisgender women against the contestants quickly degenerated into physical violence. “So even during this whole TransNation Festival — when we’re trying to highlight and celebrate our existence, our visibility, our resiliency, our triumphs, and our victories — during this weekend, we were plagued with violence and the systematic oppression that continues to happen,” she said. “These are experiences that trans women face each and every day.”
Co-presented with Amazon Prime, the TransNation Festival benefitted the Transgender Health Program at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in LA, as well as the Imperial Court of Los Angeles.