Gender Silent

This film explores the lives of four transgender individuals: Ryan, Jamie, Rae, and Izek who share their stories of transitioning, the hardships that they have been and still facing to this very day. They also provide a sense of hope for the future while making an effort to contribute to the community. The purpose of GENDER SILENT is to give an insight into the lives of transgender people to convey that they are no different from everybody else in society


Discussion Guide*

The film explores 4 themes: Discrimination, spirituality, compassion, and optimism.

The four magnificent individuals share stories of discrimination experienced from all levels of society such as family, work, peers and community. The four courageous individuals against all odds, determined to fight for their right to be themselves in every step of the way regardless of the reality of an unforgiving and cruel society. Spirituality is expressed in many different forms such as through music, religion and even showing an interest in helping out the community. The theme of spirituality connects the four individuals with their inner peace while combating the struggles and challenges they discovered along the way of transitioning. Compassion is a theme that clearly conveyed among the four individuals as they transform discrimination into a sense of strength that keeps them going. Last but not least, Optimism is crucial in the film that provides an outlet to those going through a transition themselves. Stories of success will hopefully inspire many people, families, and most importantly transgender individuals to see that there is nothing wrong with identifying with a different gender. With the four characters success stories, we hope that it will inspire people and offer many avenues to living a great life.

  • What stood out to you the most and why?
  • What challenges do you believe that people of transgender community face in terms of acceptance on the: Individual level? With family and friends? On the institutional level?
  • " I'm a transgender woman, but my primary gender is female,Being Transgender means that I am stuck in the middle of transitioning, right? Just keep calling me transgender for my entire life.It's like if somebody converts to Judaism, you don't call them a trans-jew and ask them every single year, ‘ are you fully Jewish yet?' There's no other me, Rae is not my superhero outfit, I'm Rae all the time."
    • In this quote, what does Rae mean by this? Why is this idea of finishing transitioning genders is of importance to her?
  • Ryan claimed his brother supported him throughout his transition. Ryan claimed his brother said, "He would be like "no you have to call Ryan he, you can't call him she." He was like "you need to accept him now before its too late." Why is support such a vital component in easing the process of transitioning genders?
  • Rae proclaims in the introduction of film, "I get all kinds of responses. This guy in a mercedes stopped his car and said I just have to meet you. I live in the Tenderloin and I walked past this bar called Divas and this cop kinda stopped his car in the crosswalk and just looked at me and said, you're not working this corner tonight, right? I mean he didn't say that but I could tell that it was what he meant. And I'm not, but sometimes thats the reaction that you get."
    • Considering her response to how other people perceive and interact with her, what are common misconceptions or judgements of the transgender community?
  • What as a society can we do to be more inclusive and respectful of transgender folks?
  • What are the example of social conditions that constrain the community's choices from expressing themselves?
  • Jamie clearly voices that she lives her life like any other heterosexual person. Considering her claim, what are positive attitudes that you can take from this statement?
  • Izek confesses about his unsteady relationship with his mother. With those who oppose against transgenderism, what kind of advice or knowledge could you provide after watching the film?
  • Throughout the film, all the characters have explicitly different experiences in their transitions. Why is it important to show the diversity of transition stories in the transgender community to those who are transgender or are in transition?


Partner Organizations

Lyon-Martin Health Services

Lyon-Martin Health Services provides excellent health care to women, lesbians and transgender people in a safe and compassionate environment, with sensitivity to sexual orientation and gender identity; all services are regardless of ability to pay.


HealthRIGHT 360 (formely Walden House)

Haight Ashbury Free Clinics and Walden House have both grown over the years, becoming national models for community healthcare, substance abuse treatment and mental health services. The organizations merged on July 1, 2011 to best serve the most vulnerable members of our community. On July 1, 2012, Haight Ashbury Free Clinics - Walden House adopted a new name: HealthRIGHT 360


Facts and Resources

  • An estimated 1% of the population in America is confirmed as transsexuals.
    The Gay Almanac. 1996. The National Museum & Archive of Lesbian and Gay History. New York, NY: Berkeley Books.
  • The planet Mercury is a symbol used by the transgendered community. The sign for Mercury is a crescent shape and a cross, which represents the male and female principles in harmony in an individual. Additionally, the god Mercury fathered Hermaphroditus, who had both male and female sex organs.f
    The Gay Almanac. 1996. The National Museum & Archive of Lesbian and Gay History. New York, NY: Berkeley Books.
  • The term LGBT or GLBT or LGBTQ was adopted in the 1990s and refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (and queer or questioning) people. However, the term is not without contention with some groups, such as those who are intersex, who want to be included, and others who don't want to be included.
    Emman Bernay, Ed. 2008. Homosexuality. New York, NY: Greenhaven Press.
  • The term "closet" refers to the confining state of being secretive about one's homosexuality. The word cannot be found in lesbian and gay literature before the 1960s and was probably not used before then.
    The Gay Almanac. 1996. The National Museum & Archive of Lesbian and Gay History. New York, NY: Berkeley Books.
  • In 1997, the SF Dept. of Public Health surveyed 392 MTF and 123 FTM transgender people. The results found that 35% of MTF were HIV+, while only less than 2% of FTM were HIV+.
    The Transgender Community Health Project (1999). Available at
  • Some transgender people take hormones and/or have surgery. However, for a number of reasons, many transgender people do not take either of these steps. Some feel comfortable with their bodies the way they are. For others, hormones and surgery are inaccessible because they may be too expensive and/or require parental permission. Gender and Sexuality Center.
  • Because of greater awareness about gender and transgender issues, more and more young people are becoming empowered to express their identity at young ages. Gender and Sexuality Center.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity are different. A personʼs sexual orientation is related to whether the person is romantically attracted to men, women, or both. Gender identity, on the other hand, is about the personʼs own internal identification as male, female, or a gender in between male and female. Just like non-transgender people, transgender people can be of any sexual orientation. Gender and Sexuality Center.
  • In national surveys, 19% to 27% of transgender people report being turned away by health care providers who refused to provide care for them. Outright refusals of care occur across all types of providers, including providers of sexual and reproductive health care.
    The National Center for Transgender Equality.
  • Sexual health education for youth and adults rarely addresses transgender people's bodies and identities. For example, transgender men who have sex with men report a lack of adequate information about their sexual health at rates as high as 93.8%.
    The National Center for Transgender Equality.


Meet the filmmakers

RACHEL CABUGAO is a Bay Area native currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Health Education and a Minor in Urban Studies and Planning at San Francisco State University. She also devotes an abundant amount of time actively participating at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation as she builds her knowledge about diverse populations prone to HIV/AIDs and Hep C. She has grown passionate about political activism, community organizing, and reaching out to those who are the most underserved in the City. Undoubtedly, the amazing interactions she receives in such communities continue to enrich her sense of compassion toward all people. This is her first film project and is thrilled to have the opportunity to enlighten others about the Transgender community and the experience of transitioning.Through these beautiful oral histories shared in Gender Silent, she hopes to reduce stigma and eliminate institutional discrimination surrounding the LGBTQ community.

MATTHEW GROZA is a SFSU cinema student who has an undeniable passion for film. As a filmmaker, cinematographer, and editor, he believes that visual aesthetics should be beautifully detailed and captivating to express pure storytelling. He adores authenticity and the organic artistic feel for life through the camera lens. Unsurprisingly, Matt has a natural affinity toward documentary film for the vast opportunities for learning about multitudinous subjects. Documentary film allows him to carefully craft a story that is emotionally engaging and thought provoking for viewers. In this short documentary film, Gender Silent, he hopes it will increase social equality and encourage audience members to reflect on how far the transgender community has come and how long we as an overall community have to go so all LGBT are respected members of society.

JORDAN BACA is a Health Education major at San Francisco State University with an emphasis in community work. Ever since high school since he been interested in social justice for marginalized groups. This passion for helping others started when Jordon was working and volunteering with a non-profit organization called "buildOn". Through buildOn Jordon has worked around San Francisco volunteering for things such as St. Anthony's Church, Glide Memorial, and various other projects. Volunteering is a passion that Jordon hopes to always be doing. Some of Jordon's future goals include going to graduate school to pursue a masters in public health so he can continue to impacting communities in a positive way. "Gender Silent" is Jordon's first documentary he has been a part of and it has been a great introduction and educational experience to the transgender community and the obstacles that community faces on a daily basis. On top of that Jordon wants to show the film to any friends and family who want to know more about the transgender community through stories and advice by the people interviewed in the film.


PAWARA SOH Born and raised in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Pawara Soh traveled across continents to San Francisco to pursue his knowledge in filmmaking. Throughout the journey, he has always been inspired by little occasions that would provoke his thought and emotion. As a cinema student at San Francisco State University, he enjoys telling compelling stories that would suggest a perspective or awareness to the audience. Living in San Francisco had given him the opportunity to experience various cultural dynamics in the bay area and has learned to appreciate different perspectives with an open mind. The experience has been rewarding to him as he begins to understand a sense of bitterness and happiness in life as it is. Pawara grew up as a Buddhist and applied his understandings to try to comprehend peoples' struggles and insights and approach them with open-mindedness and compassion. He wishes that audience can relate to the individuals in Gender Silent through universal themes such as support, redemption, and optimism as well as to promote social equality, specifically among the transgender community. He has a keen passion to have a career in an advertising firm, while working on more narrative and documentary films. Apart from filmmaking, he enjoys reading, cooking, traveling and hiking.


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      *The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute