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American Beauties is an award-winning documentary on Asian transgender immigrants. We enter the secretive, often misunderstood world of immigrant male to female transgenders. In a series of illuminating interviews, Amanda, Imani, Kimberly and Kosal give revealing insights on the issues closest to their hearts: discrimination, prostitution, and sex reassignment surgery as well as their former lives, and their dreams for the future.

Interview Transcript (Part 1)

Announcer
: Good evening, everyone. Thank you for coming to tonight's event. I would like to welcome you, personally, and you must enjoy the show, the most beautiful girls in the world. Thank you.

Kimberly: But sometimes, like when you're working on the street, you're inside the bar. And they date you, I'll pay you like 500 dollars or 600, and just date me. Of course, you're gonna say, "Yeah, let's go." And then, when you start having conversation with that person, and you get to know that person, and then you ask them, "What do you like to do?" or "How much?" blah blah blah, and then, if they said, "I wanna lick your pussy" or you know, blah blah blah...Of course, you're gonna get shocked, right? "Hey, excuse me. Let's stop there. I'm transsexual. I have a dick."

Kimberly: What do I wanna be when I was 16? To be a girl, of course. That's my goal to be...to be like this, like a girl.

Amanda: But, actually I was born hermaphrodite. I was born with both...What they used to do...which was common, was they'd pick one gender, specifically, I mean...like a...um...in Philippines, like you know, they wanna give you at least...you know like a - they think they're giving you something good but they would make you like a man, so that you have a better chance of, you know, of surviving. I mean 'cause man is supposed to be, you know, dominant than the woman, and they make more money and, you know, all stuff. But then, most of the time, they pick the wrong gender.

Imani: I was scared because I have five brothers and they would beat me if I act like a girl. And my father really really hated me if I act like a girl. Well, actually his family, everybody in his family, his brother's kids, he has ten kids and five of the boys are gay. And, they're fafafines (a Samoan word which means boys grow up to be girls.) also. So, he kinda knew someone of his kids is gonna be fafafine. But, it came out to be me.

Kosal: Around I was 18, just start getting ready, you know, start dressing up in drag and stuff like that. And, just recently I started doing it more and more and more. And as time progresses...it's kinda hard that you decide to, because I came from a traditional, very Chinese oriented family, extremely strict, and my mom is kinda sick. So I don't wanna like break her heart, so I kinda do it, on like DL, like...not my whole family knows about it, definitely not my mom and my dad.

Kimberly: I don't know about transgender before. I just hang out with regular people, go to Karaoke bars all the time and go to the club and...that was it, like stay with friends. I didn't work, I just stayed with friends. We just go out, have fun everyday. But then, I moved to one of my friend's and she hook me up for the job, and when I got that job, one of my friend told me, "Okay, I wanna bring you to this place that will fit in to you." I was like, "where?" and he goes, "Divas".

When he got me there, everybody was like, "oh, you're a guy?" you know. It was interesting. But that time, they told me that you looked like a girl, you know. We don't believe that you're one of us, blah blah blah. Just dress up nice and take pills, shots and stuff. And that's how I, you know, have an idea how to become...like right now, you know.

Amanda: I've always felt like I've been, like I'm a woman, and I've always acted like a girl, and...and...to me, I'm a girl. I mean, you know -

I tried, Gee, I tried hard to be a boy but you can't be something you're not, you know. I never felt gay. I mean, yes, I live with it, you know, I live and interact with gay...the gay community but I never really fit it.

One Halloween night where I am...one of my friend said, "Oh, you know, we're going drag, and you know, and we go out and..." And, the first time I put on that dress is like, it was like, it was like I woke up, is like, you know, like something happened like, like I felt so comfortable, you know. And...I've been, it's been like that ever since.

I mean, I was like what 17 when I did that and it was my sister's clothes. I sneaked her clothes out and I'd wear them to go out. And, I'd wait 'til when she's sleeping, I would, you know, I would take her clothes and she'd wake up, I'd be like in the bus stop and she'd like, chased me from, you know, to the bus stop saying "Give me back my dress!", you know. And, years later on, she used to take out my dresses, you know, because I had better dresses than she did.

And so, I mean, I guess that, that even down in the end but, I mean, even with her, she wasn't all to accepting. Um...I mean, after these days, she calls me him, you know, and I keep telling her, I've been more sensitive, I mean it's like I don't care if you call me him or whatever, you know. But, I mean, other people can respect me and say her or call...you know, or call me Amanda or, you know call me by my name and...show common respect, you know.

Gender itself is a...cliché, I mean, you can't measure a man by, you know, by the penis and you can't measure a woman by the vagina. That's, that's my point.

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