My friend Sam wanted me to write a review of a documentary for his magazine, Ugly Planet. This is what I wrote:
Southern Comfort, 2001 Documentary by Kate Davis Starring Robert Eads & Lola Cola
Southern Comfort is a documentary by Kate Davis, a filmmaker who specializes in making films about misunderstood people on the periphery of society. In this outstanding documentary, she focuses on Robert Eads, a female to male transsexual with terminal Ovarian Cancer.
Robert considered his childhood as a girl his “cross dressing days” and he lived most of his life as a lesbian. By the time he got the courage to live his life the way he really was meant to, as a heterosexual male, he was well into menopause. While he began hormone therapy to help with a male appearance, he wanted to get a hysterectomy, but was talked out of it by the doctor with the reasoning that is did not really matter in his post-menopausal state. Not long after he began living life as a man, Robert became seriously ill. He was rushed to the emergency room and was soon diagnosed with cancer of the ovaries, cervix and uterus. Robert felt this was a cruel joke, stating: “the last part of me that is female is killing me”. Thus began the search for treatment. Robert called 27 doctors. After explaining his situation, every doctor either said they were not taking any more patients, or outright said they were afraid he would be an embarrassment to their other patients. He was finally referred to an Augusta, GA teaching hospital 3 hours away. It was full of interns, so he must have been examined 300 times before anyone offered to help. By this time the cancer had metastasized to his bones and his diagnosis was terminal. It can be said that had the doctors not been afraid to treat him immediately, he could have had a much better chance of survival; instead, he became another victim of intolerance. To the doctors, he was expendable.
Kate Davis does an excellent job of making this film by including Robert Eads’ “chosen family” made up of other transgender people, who were not yet out to the public. It was a risk for them to be involved in this film, but they all felt it was more important to tell Roberts’ story than remain a secret in their community. This includes Lola Cola, a transgender male to female, Roberts’ life partner.
The title of the film comes from the Southern Comfort convention held annually in Atlanta created for the transgender community. Robert made a bargain with god to let him live long enough to attend the next conference, as it is where he felt the most at peace. From their website: “Southern Comfort prides itself on being an all-inclusive conference. Whatever your connection to the transgender community-whether you are transsexual, cross dresser or in between; spouse, partner or family member; straight, gay, bi or omni sexual; post-op, pre-op or non-op; young or old; married or single; FtM or MtF; or of any variance—if transgender is an issue in your life, you are welcome at Southern Comfort Conference.”
Throughout the film you grow to love Robert Eads, his life partner, Lola Cola and the rest of their chosen family. It is difficult to watch Robert deteriorate, but comforting to know that he is surrounded by such deep love and understanding right up until the end.