Returning to our childhood home: reflections on the short “Selma after the Rain.”
The short “Selma Depois da Chuva” made me revisit a lot of trans people narratives (people who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth) about their childhood and process of gender affirmation/self-determination. Ensuring multiple stories and the refusal of a single story narrative, I would like to describe a few (of the interpretation that this short film brought up) of many trans life stories.
This short starts with a journey, a trip back where they grew up, to go pick up their mother who once denied and excluded their identity.
It made me think about the expression “The good son/daughter always comes back.” (illustrated many times during the movie, “I was the one who managed to stay and go”). For many trans people, it’s so difficult to detach from their childhood despite the multiple violence that goes on in various contexts, especially in the family context: being kicked out and being mistreated but when fathers/mothers get sick, they return, because they never really left, especially because of the feeling and need for acceptance from the other. It’s not only trans people who look for acceptance in others, a big part of us (if not all) wish to be appreciated, to feel like they belong, to feel affection and we tend to act in favor of the appreciation/acceptance of other people, especially those who are special and significant to us. This process of wishing that people would appreciate us, that they like us, gives us a sense of our own existence and all of this is legitimate, however, in favor of this same acceptance, there are those who cease to be what they are. How far are we willing to go in the name of others’ acceptance? When Selma arrives, her mother asks: “Nelsinho didn’t come?”. This question once again reinforces the denial of the daughter’s identity by the mother. This denial is not only in the question but also in the return to Selma’s past, through a childhood room with photos of an unrecognized identity. There is an absent father, however present in the mother’s discourse, a violent and punitive father, portrayed by multiple violence against Selma in her childhood, one of the “most painful”, the violence of not existing.
Selma’s mother rebels against God and questions Selma: “Did I hurt you?”. Selma’s silence denounces the constant violence in childhood – from a place of non-belonging and, once again, from the non-recognition of her identity.
The soundtrack also portrays the suffering and sadness in/from childhood, how much that place forces her to be silent.
The mother asks Selma: “Is Nelsinho dead?” [he didn’t die, he never existed, he was always Selma, trans people do not cease to be, they will always be what they identify with]. The rain turns into a “scream from Ipiranga”, a scream that doesn’t want to be silent anymore, as illustrated by the song “I want to leave, I want to talk!”. The mother watches Selma in the rain and after the rain, she says: “We won’t tell anything to your father”.
After the rain, there is a turning point in the mother’s acceptance process, it illustrates a moment of affective lucidity [with a knowing look, she fixes her daughter’s blouse]. After the rain, the two leave the house – begin their journey – close the door on a childhood of suffering and non-recognition of an identity. A journey of acceptance, affection and belonging begins. And if this short film had a happy ending [a large part of trans people’s lives don’t have the possibility to make peace with the past] may many trans people’s lives have happy beginnings and endings! May they exist as they wish. For this, we always need to build networks of affection and care practices. Only the practices of affection are revolutionary because they are made up of resistance and solidarity!
Integrated Researcher at the Psychology Center of the University of Porto (CPUP). PhD in Psychology from the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Porto and Master in Psychology of Justice from the University of Minho.