As governments across the globe are taking steps to deny trans children the medical care that can save them from enduring serious dysphoric damage, Sébastien Lifshitz offers his documentary Little Girl as a positive, humanizing counter argument. To capture the personal and emotional turning point in Sasha’s life, the documentary is shot intimately. While the mom will occasionally speak directly to the camera to fill in her thought process, the camera also lingers on Sasha playing and just being a normal little girl.
From as early as age three, Sasha has told her parents that she was going to be a girl when she grew up. Now at age eight, they have decided that telling her no and making her cry is only doing more harm than good. They allow her to be herself during family times. Her bedroom transforms into a little girl’s, and her closet fills with dresses. Unfortunately, for the time being, she is forced to pretend to be a boy for both school and ballet class. The dissonance that this is plaguing Sasha results in her mother taking her to the doctor to discuss transition options.
Like with my earlier review for Valentina, this is where I admit that as a trans woman myself, the rest of the review is going to end up extremely personal. I am incapable of assessing this subject on a purely objective level. The first meeting between Sasha, her mother, and her new doctor is some of the most emotional storytelling I have ever seen. The camera holds a tight closeup of Sasha’s face. Her timid, single syllable answers to the doctor need to be flushed out by her mother so she can nod in agreement. The tears that well up in her eyes are a mixture of pain from admitting that pretending to be a boy in public is emotionally scaring and joy as the doctor assures her that being trans is normal and that she can present as a girl full time. The mixture of pain and relief in this moment resonates as a fulcrum for the rest of Sasha’s journey.
Medical documents in hand, Sasha enters another relatable step in transitioning: self-actualization. In the shots of her in ballet or school previously, Sasha seldom smiled. Up until receiving the doctors note she only looked happy while at home being herself. Once she received her medical form and started being herself full time, she was always beaming. This moment is special for any trans person. Going out in public even for the most menial tasks without worrying about being seen is liberating. By capturing these moments, the positive impact on Sasha’s life could not be clearer.
My personal bias on the topic is going to heavily bias my feelings towards this film. If I were to say anything negative it would be that the score is unnecessarily melodramatic at times and mixed a little loud. That small misgiving aside, Little Girl was an amazing and important documentary for this time. It clearly shows the life affirming impact that acceptance and appropriate medical care can have for trans youths.