Film

In Boy Meets Girl, Growing Up Trans in the Small-Town South

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What to make of Boy Meets Girl, writer-director Eric Schaeffer’s comic love triangle between young transgender woman Ricky (Michelle Hendley) in Kentucky, her goofy-charming best friend Robby (Michael Welch), and an engaged debutante dabbling in same-sex experimentation? It’s a film that emphatically breaks with the prim-and-proper sexual politics of its Southern landscape, but fully indulges the dead-eyed romantic-comedy meet-cute: While killing time at her coffee shop gig, Ricky murmurs that she might try dating girls — and in flounces Francesca (Alexandra Turshen), primped and curled for church and as approachable as can be. Soon enough, the two are flirting, with Francesca fawning over Ricky’s hair and fashion designs; after a chance second encounter at the local watering hole, a dalliance is born.

There are moments that ring true. Played by the naturally charismatic Hendley (a first-time actress whom Schaeffer discovered through her video blog), Ricky is an uninhibited heroine whose story is less notable for where it ends up than the disarming frankness with which it treats messy sexual issues. A potentially cringe-inducing discussion about female bodily fluids, for instance, proves oddly touching.

Yet Schaeffer displays some strangely magical thinking when it comes to the thornier aspects of growing up transgender in the small-town South. Francesca’s fiancé (Michael Galante), a Marine, is allowed a free pass for his violence toward Ricky, while the internet is presented as a figurative white knight for isolated artists. We need more stories about transgender youth, whether they’re bitter, soapy, funny, gritty, or totally implausible. Boy Meets Girl is too limited to be the torchbearer for a new movement (though with luck it will lead to more roles for Hendley), but it’s admirably one of a kind.

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