Metro Weekly

“Man Made” explores the transgender community through the lens of bodybuilding

T Cooper's documentary follows four trans men training to compete at Trans FitCon

Man Made — Photo: Courtesy of Journeyman Pictures

Following its award-winning film festival run, the bold and nuanced documentary Man Made arrives on digital shelves in time to mark Transgender Awareness Week. Directed by T Cooper, the film follows four trans men of very different backgrounds all training to compete at the Trans FitCon bodybuilding competition.

Cooper, who is trans, says that although he has always been into sports and athletics, the sport of bodybuilding eluded him. “I was always pretty fascinated with the sport, whether it be growing up in L.A. and watching the guys at Venice Beach and some women working out there,” he says. “Even when I was really little, I have really young memories of seeing that, and just being like, ‘What is going on here?'”

The filmmaker — who is also a Young Adult book author and writer-producer on NBC’s The Blacklist — ultimately followed that fascination to Trans FitCon. “I was blown away by the whole notion of these guys just stepping on stage and showing everything they’d worked so hard for, and whatever stage they were at as far as their fitness journey goes, their transgender journeys, their life journeys,” he says. “Obviously, the metaphor of bodybuilding was super interesting and profound for any life endeavor. I think once I found out that [Trans FitCon] existed, I just wanted to know everything about it and figure out how to tell a story about it in the best way possible.”

Photo: Courtesy of Journeyman Pictures

The film explores everything from gender and relationships, to adoption and homelessness, including families and partners who support their sons through transition, and some who become estranged. The bodybuilding training and competition are merely facets of the complex, vibrant lives the film documents. According to Cooper, that was largely the point.

“I wanted to portray…diversity in age, in race, in geography, in stage of transition, in familial acceptance. I wanted someone who had a kid. I wanted someone who was married, someone who was single. I wanted the gamut and was really lucky to get a really cool handful of guys that if you watch the film and you don’t know about trans life and trans culture, you see it and go, ‘Oh, wow. Like I have a pretty good idea about…trans men as a community.'”

Man Made is streaming worldwide on video on-demand platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and Vimeo. Visit www.manmadedoc.com.

André Hereford covers arts and entertainment for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at ahereford@metroweekly.com. Follow him on Twitter at @here4andre.

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