Film documentary; Mama Gloria is a celebration of the life of an incredible woman| BFI FLARE 2021

Mama Gloria tells the story of a woman who paved the way for others like her. Her journey as a transgender woman has inspired so many others. Now as she reaches her golden years it is time to celebrate everything she is and what she has achieved.

There are 1.5 million people who identify as transgender in the US. 14% of them are senior. As a transgender elder, Mama Gloria has become a matriarch of her queer community in Chicago. In the documentary we learn her life story. She begins her timeline as a young boy with a flamboyant mother and a grandmother who works as a seamstress for pageant drag queens. As she grows, she shares her journey of realisation as she finds her sexuality and identity.

Gloria tells us about the personal relationships she had as a transgender woman. She discloses an abusive relationship with a man she couldn’t stop herself from loving, as well as learning about how her mother, grandmother and auntie helped her become a lady. It is a beautiful moment as Gloria recalls how they wouldn’t let her leave the house without looking immaculate.

In the documentary we hear about her friends and family who don’t just tolerate her but love and cherish her. Some of my favourite moments was listening to them exude admiration as they tell stories about their Gloria.

She has achieved so much, not just for herself but as an LGBTQ+ activist and a transgender role model. Gloria established a charm school to help young, homeless transgender people in Chicago. The story of her life and the school she set up inspired a play called Charm which played to sold out theatre audiences. In 2014, Gloria received a Living Legend Award at the Trans 100 Awards.

But Gloria’s story is not over yet. In the documentary, Gloria gives us a glimpse in to what it is like to be LGBTQ+ in the golden years of life. This is something society rarely shows us. For Gloria, it seems her biggest fear about growing old is that she will come to the end of her life alone.

Gloria’s narrative celebrates her life story. She also makes it a celebration of the strength and the nurturing spirit of the black women that supported her throughout her life.

Mama Gloria is a small peek in to LGBTQ+ history and a story of one incredible woman. Against the backdrop of the current, anti-transgender political sensationalism in the media, Mama Gloria feels like a shining beacon of hope.

Mama Gloria will be available on BFI player as part of the BFI FLARE festival 2021. Click here to find out more about the BFI Flare Festival and to watch the film.

Find out more about Mama Gloria on the official movie website.

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