The Pearl explores the raw emotional and physical experience of being a middle aged/senior transgender woman against the backdrop of post-industrial logging towns in the Pacific Northwest. The Pearl leans into the struggle of those who have been reared and successful at being men and have reached middle age or later with a burdensome secret that they can no longer keep.
The Pearl explores the raw emotional and physical experience of being a middle aged/senior transgender woman against the backdrop of post-industrial logging towns in the Pacific Northwest. The lives of our subjects briefly intersect once a year at the Esprit conference in Northern Washington. The annual Esprit Conference on the Olympic peninsula of Northern Washington is a safe haven for transgender women, a place where these biological men can offer sisterhood and camaraderie for one another within the safety of each other's company. The community of Esprit is made up of construction workers and former members of the military, some that have wives that know and some that don't know, many who have children, and all whom have existed as the biological male versions of themselves that others expect. The conference is a touchstone throughout the film, a location and a mood that we revisit over and over, as a break from the oppression, isolation, depression, and struggle that our characters face. Like the brief respite that our subjects get during Esprit, the structure of returning to the conference throughout the film gives the viewer a chance to breathe and recharge before diving back into the difficult realities and tough decisions that each of our characters must face at home with their families, their jobs, their neighbors. Nina lives her life as a woman in one hour spurts with only her sister, her family doctor, and the filmmakers of The Pearl as witnesses. She changes in and out of women's clothing in dark parking lots throughout the Vancouver suburbs. How her wife, children, and grandchildren will react when and if she is able to come out to them is anybody's guess. For Erika, a foreman in an iron-working crew, her coming out has considerably diminished her ability to find work, as the men she has worked alongside for decades find her identity as a woman very difficult to reconcile. While these two subjects offer two ends of the spectrum with the trans women of The Pearl, there are many shades of gray. Many times, our cameras capture how limited our characters' relative safety is around sharing themselves with the world, reflecting back the intense internal isolation and secrecy that our subjects navigate every day. We think the time is ripe for a broader understanding of the experiences of trans people, and this film is capable of compassionately and intimately revealing the rich experiences of women who may be our fathers, brothers, or colleagues.