HBO's fascinating, sometimes touching new documentary "Suited" dispels numerous myths about transgender people – the film might even open a few doors for this newly emerging community.
The trans and genderqueer people in Jason Benjamin's film are ready to deal with their insecurities, to face the world and to succeed in life. "Suited" is currently airing in rotation on HBO and sister channels HBO2 and HBO Signature. The film can also be viewed online at HBO.com
"Suited" begins at "Bindle and Keep," a custom tailoring firm with a seemingly unusual clientele – co-owners Daniel and Rachel seek to design suits made to fit the sometimes less than traditional body contours of trans and gender non-conforming people. The company was born in the aftermath of Rachel's difficult search for a suit that she herself could wear. Rachel, who also uses the name Ray, is a transgender gender nonconformist who is comfortable with either name, and with both male and female pronouns.
Rachel's business partner Daniel is a straight cisgender male who takes great pride in his work – he admits on camera that his life has been far more interesting since Rachel introduced him to this world.
As "Suited" progresses, we meet seven of their clients, all of whom courageously reveal their private lives not only to Ray and Daniel, but to Benjamin's camera.
Derek is a straight trans man who needed a suit for his upcoming wedding. The filmmaker drives back to the rural Pennsylvania home of Derek's parents, who share photos of his childhood, when he was still considered female. Mom and Dad admit that their son's transition was a difficult adjustment for them, but as the mom points out, your child is your child and you love them no matter what.
Viewers will also meet Jillian, an attorney, who, in her pre-transition life, seriously considered becoming a rabbi. Jillian needs a suit to wear to an important case where she needs to impress the judge. The conservative world of the legal profession is underscored by the story of Everett, a recently transitioned trans man who attends law school in Georgia. Everett admits to being the only Queer person in his school – he needs a suit that will impress his professors and potential employers at law firms.
One of the most touching stories is that of Judy, a lesbian grandma who travels all the way from Arizona to help her transgender grandson choose a suit for his Bar Mitzvah. Though she is not transgender, Judy still understands what her grandson is dealing with since she herself falls under the LGBT umbrella.
What makes "Suited" so moving is the non-judgmental, casual manner in which filmmaker Benjamin introduces the seven "Bindle and Keep" clients who agreed to appear in his film. We learn not only their personal stories but also a great deal about the transgender phenomenon – for many, life is far more complicated than "I'm male" or "I'm female." Some are somewhere in between.
Ray and Daniel listen to each of them intently – there's more to meeting client needs than just taking measurements. Their dedication to customer satisfaction is a lovely thing to see.
"Suited" emerges as a number of things. It's a human-interest piece, an education, and an uplifting look at how some people live their lives.