In the first 10 minutes of Born to Be Human, the protagonist Yang Shi-nan pleasures himself to the sight of a naked woman, suffers PMS and has his first period. Written and directed by Lily Ni, the film explores what happens when, without his knowledge or input, Yang’s parents choose to have him undergo gender-reassignment surgery to remove his male organs and make him female.
Ni’s cinematography resides firmly in the world of body horror, though what Yang experiences is much more gender role horror. Prior to his surgery, Yang identified firmly as a cis male, his primary hobbies being violent video games and obsessing over pornography. After his surgery, his parents, seeming to mean well, torture him by trying to “help” him identify as female: his room is all pinks and plush animals, and for his birthday he is gifted a princess cake and a doll.
I found this movie moving, but also unsettling in the realism of the character’s struggles. The abuse he suffers as someone who is non-binary are all too real for many. Highly recommended.
Currently available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime: Born to Be Human