Dir. Todd Holland
2006 80 min. USA
Recipient of the Frameline 30 Audience Award for Best Documentary and of a 2005 Frameline Film & Video Completion Fund grant, "The Believers" is an unprecedented feature documentary that shatters assumptions about faith, gender, and religion. Built around the world's first transgender gospel choir, the film portrays the choir's dilemma - how to reconcile their gender identity with the widespread belief that changing one's gender goes against the word of God.
Set against the story of the Transcendence Gospel Choir's founding, the documentary reveals the lives of its members, including Tom, once a radical lesbian feminist; Ashley, choir founder and professional sound engineer; and Bobby, a recovering drug addict and former sex worker. The film takes us from the Transcendence Gospel Choir's shaky beginnings - a heartwarmingly chaotic, cacophonous group unable to agree on much of anything, arguing over appropriate wardrobe and learning to sing with transitioning voices - through their transformation into the polished, award-winning choir and close-knit family they are today, garnering major performances and winning an Outmusic Award in 2004 for the album "Whosoever Believes."
The intimate personal stories shed light on the complexity of balancing social change, family history, religion and identity. At the heart of their dilemma is a struggle for acceptance within two worlds historically at odds with one another. As one of the film's subjects eloquently says, "I'm living in a window. I get to see both sides."
"The Believers" is a unique story of determination and perseverance and an important look at the intricacy and diversity of spirituality and the LGBT community.
“The Believers provides a unique teaching tool for faith communities to begin to understand the lives and struggles of transgender people from a faith-based perspective.”
- The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing
"...The Believers, a documentary that charts the formation of the Transcendence transgender choir, is at heart an old-fashioned success story -- through hard work, adversity and perseverance, the choir finds itself reaching unexpected heights. While charting the course of the choir, The Believers also delves into the personal histories of some of the choir members, both male-to-female and female-to-male. These provide some of the films most emotional moments, from Ashley's harrowing tale of escaping from her shotgun-carrying father to Bobbie Jean's visit to her ambivalent-yet-loving Memphis family. The look on Bobbie Jean's aunt's face when she realizes that there are also women who become men is priceless."
- Metro Weekly