Trained in the Ways of Men

Trained in the Ways of Men

USA, 2007, 102 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Activism, Discrimination, Documentary, Local Filmmakers / Subjects, Male-to-Female, Transgender
Program: Documentary
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Shelly Prevost

In 2002, transgendered Alameda County teen Gwen Araujo was severely beaten, tied up and strangled to death in the company of four male friends after it was revealed that Araujo — who identified and lived as a woman and had engaged in sexual acts with at least one of the men who killed her — was, in fact, a biological male.
Unlike the story of Brandon Teena (fictionalized in the 1999 feature film Boys Don’t Cry) that unraveled in the conservative Midwest, Gwen Araujo’s tragic trajectory became a hot-button issue in and around the Bay Area, where transgender rights are protected under California state law—to a degree.
This eye-opening documentary combines interviews with Araujo family members and legal experts and footage from both trials (the first resulted in a hung jury) to delve into the heart of the Araujo case, examining the so-called “gay/trans panic strategy” employed by the defense to procure lighter sentencing. Would Araujo’s heterosexual-identified male aggressors have acted differently had they not discovered her transgendered status? Was Araujo putting herself at risk by not disclosing her biology to sexual partners? Was transphobia at play in the courtroom when defense lawyers pursued a “manslaughter in the heat of passion” charge so as to avoid first-degree murder charges?
Trained in the Ways of Men poses as many questions as it answers. Justice may have been served in the second Araujo trial, but ambiguities remain for the prosecution as much as the defense— and for the future of transgender rights in California. — ANDY BAILEY


Community United Against Violence and Transgender Law Center



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