“Please Mind The Gap” is a short film by Mitali Trivedi and Gagandeep Singh that tells the story of a PAGFB (Persons Assigned Gender Female At Birth) who navigates through a hetero-normative society every day. The movie is an attempt at moving gender out of the binary box that exists in people’s mind and emphasises on the need to understand gender as an individual’s journey of personal discovery. This has been achieved through its central character, the protagonist- Anshuman, a Trans man who shares his story of commuting in a Delhi Metro every day and dealing with the public perception of his gender identity.
The movie opens with a metro rail journey, and the story begins to flow with Anshuman’s narrative. The title of the film is a familiar Metro announcement which often rings true for Anshuman, who is always mindful of the ‘gap’. This gap is crucial for him, and he prefers to stay in the middle of the spectrum- not because he is confused about his gender but because of the social construction where transgression is forbidden.
He shares his story of fighting gender norms on a daily basis in public spaces. Even ‘normal’ activities such as using public toilets, security checks, boarding a train, choosing a general or ladies compartment, attending phone calls, choosing a name for social media account etc. often lead to awkward, uncomfortable and humiliating experiences. His metro commutes are filled with many bittersweet memories where sometimes he is identified as a man which delights him and sometimes as a woman which he dislikes. What never changes are the stares that scrutinise him and try to guess his gender.
The movie raises important questions about public spaces segregated around gender lines that often become an obstacle for people who do not ‘fit’ into this narrow understanding of gender. It beautifully captures the feelings of people outside the binary, who have worked their way around obstacles, unpleasant experiences and redefined/reclaimed gender for themselves through its sole character. This is the story of a man who is seen as a woman ‘socially’ owing to his biological gender ascriptions.
One must watch this movie for two reasons. First- because it’s a rare story about a Trans man. Rare because the social ‘conditioning’ of a woman, makes it difficult to ‘self-assign’ or redefine gender compared to a man transforming his gender identity. Second- watch the film if you are interested in understanding the concerns and realities of life as a trans person. You could also watch the movie for an entirely different reason- the Delhi metro, if you commute on a daily basis like me, you will instantly relate with how perfectly the filmmaker has captured every nuance of this public transport.
The movie ends with Anshuman running to board a metro and entering a ladies compartment. But we find him getting anxious and uncomfortable because of the stares from the women, and he heads towards the other compartment where he looks equally flustered. The ending scene gives us a sense that we have a long way to go as a society. The recent partial scrapping of Section 377 is only a small step and would mean nothing if we as a community are not open-minded and non-interfering. We need to step up and be downright supportive and not just ‘tolerant’.