"Spectrums": a ten-part docu-series explores Israel’s transgender community

By Rachel Myerson
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“Spectrums” has a very clear, and long overdue message: we are all worthy of the freedom to live our lives without society dictating our identity. Each of the series’ ten episodes follows a single character, who, by way of their personal stories, shed light on the trans experience, and challenge societal gender “norms”. The subjects are raw and honest, and viewers may be surprised to see their own lives and internal struggles reflected on the screen. This powerful docu-series lives up to its name: proving that self-identity is never black or white, but a glorious rainbow-coloured spectrum. We chatted with the creators Zohar Melinek Ezra and Afek Testa Launer to learn more. We chatted with the creators Zohar Melinek Ezra and Afek Testa Launer to learn more about the show. 
 
How was Spectrums first conceived?
Zohar: I met Afek before his transition, in Canada. We are both Israeli and connected through language and culture, we became really good friends. We spoke a lot about the lack of understanding in Israel of what transgender is — we knew we had to change the conversation in a way that was accessible, with no boundaries or censorship. We were influenced by the global wave of cultural exchange happening online; people telling their stories with pride and celebration. 
Afek: Growing up, one of the hardest things was the lack of representation in terms of gender identity, but also sexuality. If there was anything, it was always from an outside perspective – a shallow look, not representative of the real experience, a normative perception of the Other.
When we came back to Israel, we wanted to make a story as diverse as our country, to show the trans story from inside out.
How did you pick people to feature in the series?
A: It was a really dynamic process. First, we mapped out the content we wanted to discuss; emotional and spiritual impacts, the workplace, family, bureaucracy, different identities that were Israel-specific. It was clear to us that we weren’t able to represent the entire trans community, but we wanted to show ten individual stories, as diverse as possible. 
Z: We knew we had to talk about homelessness and prostitution, for example.
Because Afek is transgender himself and involved in community work, he knew a lot of people – and, of course, social media really helped. A Facebook post drew all the subjects who didn’t live in Tel Aviv, people who weren’t a part of any local scene. 
How did you help them to open up in front of the camera?
AIt was most important for us to find people who really wanted to share, who wouldn’t shy away from the camera, who believed in our platform and the power of media.
Z: They needed to use the camera as a weapon, and feel that they gained something from participating, that it wasn’t a favor, but a celebratory and fierce representation of this community. It was the first time that Tohar, the subject of episode five, told his family story out loud. He was grateful, and so were we.
 
What do you want viewers to take away from Spectrums?
ZThat society and individuals need to challenge gender norms. Gender stereotypes are hurting us from developing, from interaction. From a male point of view, if we can’t have this outlet, we become violent and angry – it’s a societal issue.
AWe wanted to communicate the vulnerability – not just how hard or fucked up the trans experience can be, but something that was transient and deeper, to break the idea of the Other. We all deal with certain disparities between how we perceive ourselves and our bodies, and how others see us. 
Facebook: Spectrums - Documentary Series.  June 7 at 16:30 Spectrums will be screened at TLV Fest. Cinematheque, 2 Shprinzak St, Tel Aviv. Tickets at 03-6060800 ext. 9 (tlvfest.com) Post screening Q&A with the directors and characters. Get involved with Israel’s transgender community with Israeli Gay Youth

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