Laurence Anyways is a movie directed by Xavier Dolan—a queer Canadian actor and filmmaker. Its release date in the US was June 28, 2013.
The movie takes place in the 90s and focuses on the relationship between a trans woman and a cis heterosexual woman. Laurence, a trans woman in her thirties, is presenting as a man at the beginning of the movie and is shown to be struggling with dysphoria a few minutes into it. She doesn’t come out to her partner, Fred, a cis heterosexual woman, until two years into their relationship.
Fred’s initial reaction is one of shock. After some reassurance from Laurence that she is still essentially the same person that Fred fell in love with, Fred is able to move past the shock and seems to become accepting. She tries to help Laurence when she starts presenting as a woman. The remaining three-quarters of the movie follows the couple as they struggle to reach a point of stability in their relationship. Laurence is becoming more comfortable presenting as a woman and is transitioning hormonally, and Fred keeps going through periods of ambivalence about being in a relationship with a woman. Pressure from family, as well as transphobic attitudes by strangers on the street and society in general, makes her mentally unstable and hesitant about her future with Laurence. Although Fred eventually gets married to a cis man and has a kid with him, the cycle keeps repeating as she keeps coming back to Laurence and then back to ‘normal life’ away from her. There are, of course, other mini stories in this rather long (about 2h 50min on Netflix) movie that intertwines with that of Fred and Laurence—but I’m not going to discuss these here.
I was drawn to watch this movie because I had seen some of Xavier Dolan’s other films and liked them. Most of his movies deal in some way with being queer/trans—so they’re a great change from most mainstream movies that deal with these issues, which are usually made by cis heterosexual men. Unfortunately, the actor who plays Laurence is a cis man. It would have been great if a trans woman could have been cast as the trans character.
Other than that, I was impressed with how realistic the movie was about displaying the issue of coming out as trans to your partner in all its complexity. It isn’t just a one-time conversation and isn’t simply about explaining to your partner what it means to be trans—which Laurence certainly does, in response to Fred’s ridiculous question, “Why didn’t you tell me you were gay?” Coming out as trans to your partner years into a relationship is a process that takes time and a lot of communication. Even in a long-term relationship, there are many ways in which one’s partner can change that one has no control over. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and continued reassurance is often necessary. Also, for a cis heterosexual person, it is difficult to give up the privilege of a ‘normal’ heterosexual relationship; the movie makes this clear.
It is interesting to note that the director chose to set the movie in the 90s, even though it was made very recently. Perhaps this is a reminder that there hasn’t been too much progress since then in terms of how trans people are perceived. They may have had fewer protections under the law back then, but the cultural stigma still remains. Even today, it is hard to imagine coming out to a cis heterosexual partner and not expecting that to affect the relationship negatively.