"Crossing Over": A Documentary Looks At The Difficult Journey Of Trans Immigrants
The project began as a film on transgender women seeking political asylum in the U.S., but developed into a story that exposes transphobia and celebrates the strength of human survival.
Crossing Over, a documentary directed by Isabel Castro and produced by Katrina Sorrentino, explores the lives of undocumented transgender women.
The film follows three transgender women:
The director of the film, Isabel Castro, shared her personal thoughts on this project with BuzzFeed:
My parents, both born in Mexico, thought it imperative that their kids grow up in the United States. They believed that an American education would give them opportunities that they had only dreamt about. Immigration issues have been at the forefront of my work because my parents worked so hard to give me these opportunities, and the realization that immigration is often necessary for people's educations, livelihoods and in the case of this project, survival.
I came across a community of transgender immigrants in Los Angeles when an immigration lawyer told me about her work representing LGBT asylum seekers. She told me stories that left me speechless; the pain and suffering that many of her clients endured in their home countries seemed unfathomable.
42-year-old Francis Murillo came to the U.S. to escape a life of abuse.
She succumbed to depression and alcoholism, but found employment as a housecleaner in 1997.
The film finds her on the brink of her final asylum hearing as she prepares with her lawyer for trial.
44-year-old Brenda Gonzalez came to the U.S. after completing her studies in order to escape the emotional and sexual abuse she endured in Mexico.
She survived by working as a prostitute, which lead to her contracting HIV.
Now fully medicated, her HIV is completely undetectable.
The youngest, 28-year-old Abigail Madariaga, also found work in the sex industry and battled a drug addiction.
She works as a dancer and plans Quinceñaras to put herself through community college.
Abigail was granted Asylum in 2009.
When Castro began filming, she could not have forseen the impact these women's stories would have on her.
I went to Los Angeles to hear these stories first-hand, and after doing so, I realized that their stories had to be told. Although this started as a project to raise awareness about the complexities of immigration, it has grown into one that is trying to raise awareness about transphobia (both in Latin American cultures and in the United States.)
These women's stories have taught me lessons in self-identity, tenacity and above all, strength. I hope that these photographs, and the documentary in progress, will teach others these lessons as well.