By David-Elijah Nahmod
Jamie Peebles lived for 63 years as a man.
Happily married for thirty years and with two daughters, she came to realize that she had not been living as her true self and began her transition as she was approaching her golden years.
Roger Sherman’s new documentary, The Second Life of Jamie P, which premiered on May 12 at Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Google Play, chronicles Jamie’s journey to her true self. It’s an eye-opening story, told in real-time, which paints a moving portrait of the heartaches and joys that come with transitioning. It’s not only Jamie’s story, it’s the story of her family, who struggles with having to say goodbye to the man they thought they knew and to get to know the woman who is Jamie’s real identity.
“I have no control over this quite literally,” Jamie tells the camera. “Because I am compelled by my emotional being to be myself. And once you start being yourself, you really don’t want to be any other way. And it’s so uncomfortable to go back to a persona that you learned, that you realize isn’t you.”
Disappointing people, hurting people, is the furthest thing from Jamie’s mind.
“I didn’t mean to take anything way from you,” she tells her daughter’s fiancé Nick, who had looked up to Jamie as a second father. “I didn’t mean that, that’s not what it’s about.”
The film follows Jamie as she goes on her first shopping spree for new clothing and as she steps out into the world dressed as a woman for the first time — it’s a frightening but exhilarating moment for her. She knows that there’s no turning back.
Jamie also shares the practical side of transitioning, the many things she must do for her transition to be complete. There’s the painful process of electrolysis, in which every strand of hair from her beard is removed. There are hormone treatments and breast augmentation surgery. There’s learning how to apply make-up, and then there’s her gender confirmation surgery, during which her penis is surgically transformed into a vagina. This surgery costs $40,000, and Jamie doesn’t know if her health insurance plan will cover it. She fights with the insurance company, and eventually, the surgery is paid for.
The surgical procedure is performed by Dr. Marci Bowers, a transgender physician whose specialty is performing these kinds of surgeries. Jamie couldn’t have asked for a better doctor than Bowers, who sits with her and guides her through the process. Sherman’s camera is even allowed into the operating room, where Bowers explains what the procedure entails as Jamie’s correct body is bestowed upon her.
Sherman and Jamie, it turns out, are old friends.
“Jamie came into my life over forty years ago,” Sherman tells Echo. “We have been friends since we met in college in a very intense film and photography program, and we have stayed friends ever since.”
Sherman knew that as soon as Jamie came out that her story would make an amazing film. At first Jamie wasn’t sure that she wanted to participate in the film.
“She didn’t want to add this to her burden,” Said Sherman. “She didn’t want to be a star, she didn’t want people to ask her why she’s doing this. We spent the summer or 2016 on the phone quite often where I was basically saying ‘Jamie, I’m here for you, talk to me about whatever you want’. And inside I was saying ‘please, please, please decide to make the film.”
At the end of that summer, Jamie realized that a film like this could do good. And indeed, Sherman shares that the film was not made for the trans community.
“This is a film for cisgenders,” he said. “We hope transgenders will like it, we hope that transgender people will understand that it’s not made for them, that it’s Jamie’s personal story. Most of us don’t know transgender people well enough to as difficult and intimate questions. Jamie is the first transgender person that I know well and so by the end of that summer she saw that this was a film that could actually make a difference.”
Sherman reports that he didn’t do fundraising for the film. The project was self-funded so that filming could begin immediately, while Jamie was in the thick of her transition.
“Most films about transgender people are a little bit after the fact,” he said. “You’re right in the middle of it in this film. I wanted people to experience what Jamie was experiencing. Violence against transgender people is going up. I feel that the more people that see this film the better chance there is to change a few minds. I’m guessing I got into film making to change the world and I’m doing my bit one little thing at a time.”
Look for The Second Life of Jamie P on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Google Play.