'Man Made' views the transgender experience through a bodybuilding lens

Director T Cooper tells CNN about making "Man Made," a documentary about four transgender men preparing for the only trans bodybuilding competition in the world.

Posted: Nov 13, 2019 4:00 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2019 4:00 PM

"Man Made" looks at the transgender experience through what seems like a highly specific lens: The only bodybuilding competition for transgender participants. But focusing on competitors at different stages, facing a variety of issues, offers a complex, nuanced view, in a way that does a lot of heavy lifting for a small film.

Setting these various coming-out journeys against this backdrop provides a means of considering traditional images of masculinity, and in the case of bodybuilding, the enormous amounts of hard work that goes into achieving them.

The exposed nature of the sport also serves as a metaphor for the way these men, assigned and raised female, bare themselves emotionally. The release is timed to Transgender Awareness Week.

Director T Cooper spent a long time documenting his subjects, following them as they prepare for the competition. Through their stories, the conversation widens to include not only the four competitors but those around them.

Rese Weaver, for example, is dealing with being periodically homeless, an ordeal that's magnified by being trans; Mason Caminiti acknowledges that he's still self-conscious enough that he won't be naked in front of his wife; Dominic Chilko, adopted, seeks out his birth mother; and Kennie Story grapples with a complicated relationship as he prepares to begin taking testosterone, causing his girlfriend, a lesbian, to question what kind of future they can have together.

Bodybuilding is thus merely the framework against which these stories unfold. We also get to know their families, which have responded to having a trans son or brother with varying levels of comfort and acceptance. Kennie's mom is deeply religious, but says -- while still using female pronouns -- "I love her. That trumps everything."

Along the way, there are discussions about coming out, as well as the heightened dangers and threats of violence that trans people face, including a tragedy that strikes close to home.

The build-up to the competition, known as Trans FitCon, actually feels a trifle anticlimactic; still, the anti-trans protests that surround the event underscore the bigger picture and ongoing struggle for acceptance -- one that will continue, as "Man Made" makes clear, after the posing ends.

"Man Made" is available on VOD platforms iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Vimeo. Transgender Awareness Week begins on Nov. 13.

West Lafayette
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 72°
Kokomo
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 72°
Rensselaer
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 66°
Fowler
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Williamsport
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 72°
Crawfordsville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 70°
Frankfort
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 70°
Delphi
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 72°
Monticello
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 71°
Logansport
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 72°
Continued Comfortable Temperatures
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 69975

Reported Deaths: 3007
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15152724
Lake7222273
Elkhart468079
Allen3695160
St. Joseph322479
Hamilton2572104
Vanderburgh180013
Hendricks1796105
Cass17609
Johnson1674118
Porter121339
Clark112646
Tippecanoe112311
Madison87265
LaPorte85029
Howard82965
Kosciusko82412
Marshall75222
Bartholomew74947
Floyd72945
Monroe69930
Delaware66552
Dubois65512
Boone64946
Noble63829
Hancock63438
Jackson5564
LaGrange54910
Warrick54030
Shelby53027
Vigo52810
Grant51129
Dearborn47728
Morgan44034
Clinton3883
Henry36519
White34910
Montgomery34321
Wayne33710
Lawrence33227
Decatur32232
Harrison30422
Miami2602
Scott25210
Daviess25119
Greene24034
Putnam2348
Franklin23113
DeKalb2224
Jasper2162
Jennings21412
Gibson2044
Steuben2033
Ripley1947
Perry17212
Starke1707
Orange16424
Fayette1637
Posey1610
Wabash1613
Jefferson1532
Carroll1522
Fulton1502
Whitley1496
Wells1442
Knox1400
Tipton1266
Huntington1193
Washington1171
Spencer1163
Newton11410
Randolph1094
Clay1025
Adams842
Sullivan831
Jay820
Owen821
Rush804
Pulaski751
Brown701
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford562
Ohio564
Pike500
Parke491
Vermillion470
Crawford440
Switzerland430
Martin420
Union330
Warren191
Unassigned0202

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events