Five Spanish trans women from different generations sit down to talk about their unique points of view, common moments and disagreements in ‘Ellas’, the documentary by Atresplayer Premium. They are Miriam Amaya, Carmen García de Merlo, Alex Saint, Lola Rodríguez and Valeria Vegas (Valencia, 35 years old), the author of the memoirs of La Veneno (‘I say! Neither whore nor saint’), and host of the report.
–What news would you say this documentary brings?
– It is a type of documentary that has not been made in Spain for a long time, which is to let people speak without the interlocutor being an external agent. Other times we may have seen interviews with trans people, and it was a kind of documentary, but with a presenter, like Mercedes Milá, in between. And that breaks a bit, because the deal already becomes too journalistic, and that can even lead to the person not opening up in the same way. And in this case, it was the five of us talking to two cameras, to the point of trying to forget that they existed. I think that the documentary has a lot of sensitivity, which is something that has been lacking a lot in this type of format.
-In addition, she is the presenter.
– I am like the common thread, but not for anything in particular, but because one of the five had to know the lives of the others for the documentary to be natural. So, I was the one who was informed about the history of the other four, and I go a bit asking the questions, which are sometimes edited and not seen, and everything is channeled.
– Cristina Ortiz, La Veneno, also appears.
Yes, because they wanted me to also be present as a result of the series, and since there are those tapes that I recorded for hours and hours, they asked to digitize them. It seemed that the tapes were a legend or a lie, which has sometimes been told, but there they are. So, you hear a little bit in the introduction to Cristina theorizing about her gender.
– Is it still surprising to this day that projects like this are done, or is the feeling more like ‘it was about time’?
-More ‘about time’. Not because they have not been done, they have been doing reports in different ways since the early 80s, when the life of this type of information opens a little more, but what happens is that they were not done well. I think the beauty here is that each story is different. The conclusion drawn by the viewer is that trans people are only united by that label, but then we have five completely different lives in which sometimes certain sentimental, work, family situations converge… It is a documentary that awakens a lot of empathy.
-Did you ever think that the memories of La Veneno could be transformed into a series?
“The first thing I thought was: ‘Oysters! Well, he was right: there was a story. ‘ Despite not having any support at that time, I always saw that there was a very shocking story with many elements: the people, arriving in Madrid, transsexuality, prostitution, fame, jail … For me it was verifying that he was right, and the reception of the public reaffirms the same, besides that, obviously, it is very well done. The sensitivity that they have put to make this series has not been seen many times.
– Is it strange to see yourself played by someone else?
–It becomes strange, but I see it from a distance, trying not to get too involved so that I can enjoy it as one more spectator. It’s weird, but at the same time Lola (Rodríguez) asked me many things, and there was a lot of documentation base. And then she also created situations, because the series has things that are fictionalized, as in all ‘biopics’. It’s not all as is all the time.
– How has the public’s response experienced?
-Well, I wrote the book four years ago and the series is still about Los Javis and the actresses, who are the ones who have to take that credit, so I don’t want to talk much more about the series (laughs).
– But would you say that this documentary puts the icing on the cake?
–It is clear that they complement each other, because in the end the series, although it talks about Cristina’s life, also covers many problems of the group, and the documentary talks about them. The difference is that one is fiction, and the other, the reality of a documentary.
– How much do you think these projects can help?
–I think a lot. There will always be a twelve-year-old person, just as I was one day, and it is always good in that pre-adolescent or childhood loneliness to realize that there are people like you and that there are positive cases and visibility, and in around her, a support.
– Where is there more to do?
–For example, the audiovisual field was very lacking in visibility in Spain. The press always covers interviews, reports… when Pride arrives, but not in film and television fiction.
– And the transphobia?
– Transphobia is transversal and exists in all branches, throughout society: young people, older people, institutions, laws … but it is also true that laws, fortunately, have been advancing. This country is not the same legislatively, I am not saying in the times of the Transition, but in the mid-90s, than now. Now, for example, there is a hate crime, and all of that adds up, but it still remains. There are still cases where transphobia is very latent.
–Pablo Iglesias praised ‘Veneno’. Is it important that these types of projects reach politicians?
– It is very important, because in the end they are the ones who go to Congress and have to be aware of the society they represent. It is very positive, regardless of the party that everyone votes for. Precisely, Atresplayer Premium has also premiered a documentary about Almodóvar, and Manuela Carmena, Zapatero and Albert Rivera are speaking alike. It is not the same, because in the end it is a cinephile question, and this is a social one, but that Pablo Iglesias positions himself in favor of a group that has been quite stigmatized helps us a lot.