Transformation is a process familiar to both transgender people and bodybuilders, so the lure of bodybuilding to trans people is undeniable. The subject is also the focus of “Man Made,” a documentary film made by T Cooper, a director who is himself a trans man.
“Man Made” takes us into the heart of transgender male (FTM) culture, revealing unexpected truths about gender, masculinity, humanity and love. Four trans men (who like the film’s director were born and raised female), take a variety of life paths toward stepping on stage at Trans FitCon, the only all-transgender bodybuilding competition in the world (held in Atlanta). “Man Made” is a character-driven, intimate, and riveting verité-style competition film, but also a unique social justice narrative. It speaks to the ways in which we all choose to define and reshape ourselves, both figuratively and literally.
Daniel Villarreal interviewed the director for his Outsports Extra Points Podcast in November 2019.
The film, which has been cleaning up on the festival circuit, features Mason Caminiti, a trans man and competitive bodybuilder whom I met at the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. I persuaded Caminiti to write about his journey for Outsports and his essay on how bodybuilding saved his life was one of the most powerful we’ve ever run on Outsports.
“Bodybuilding empowered me to take control over my life by transforming my body in ways that I couldn’t fathom,” Caminiti wrote. “It also made me realize that what I do and who I am has real, measurable, physical, and mental results.
“Most importantly, my success matters not only to me, but to others. I let nothing stop me, including the opinion of naysayers and the self-doubt that lingered most of my life. I realized that I, Mason Caminiti, counts and belongs to something greater than HIMself. I’ve lifted weights as if my life depended on it because indeed, it has.”
In an insightful essay on the film in the New Yorker, Rachel Lipstein succinctly summarizes bodybuilding’s appeal to trans people: “Bodybuilding offers a ready metaphor for personal transformation, and the film embraces it, showing how exhibiting one’s strength, after years of privately embodied pain, can be freeing — even euphoric.”
The award winning trans-bodybuilding documentary “Man Made” was released November 7th, 2019, worldwide on VOD platforms including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Vimeo, by Journeyman Pictures. An older version of this story did not include this information.