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Measure of a man: The Opposite Sex, a two-part showtime documentary, begins with the gripping journey of trans man Rene Pena, a God-fearing, married truck driver.



The Opposite Sex: Rene's Story opens with documentary subject Rene Pena jogging jogging

Aerobic exercise involving running at an easy pace. Jogging (1967) by Bill Bowerman and W.E. Harris boosted jogging's popularity for fitness, weight loss, and stress relief.
 through the countryside. Handsome, muscled, and driven, he's a prime example of masculinity masculinity /mas·cu·lin·i·ty/ (mas?ku-lin´i-te) virility; the possession of masculine qualities.

mas·cu·lin·i·ty
n.
1. The quality or condition of being masculine.

2.
. That only grows more obvious when the traditional, God-fearing Pena, a truck driver, interacts with his pretty wife of 11 years, Wona, and their two young sons. But appearances can be deceptive--although everything about Pena's mind and heart shows he is a man, his body still forces him to face the fact that, at least biologically, he is a woman.

Films and documentaries exploring the transgender transgender or transgendered
adj.
Transsexual.
 experience have become all the rage General Public's All the Rage was released in 1984 by I.R.S. Records. Track listing
  1. "Hot You're Cool"
  2. "Tenderness"
  3. "Anxious"
  4. "Never You Done That"
  5. "Burning Bright"
  6. "As a Matter of Fact"
  7. "Are You Leading Me On?"
  8. "Day-to-Day"
 thanks to the success of Boys Don't Cry, Southern Comfort, and Soldier's Girl. But Bruce Hensel Dr. Bruce Hensel is an Emmy Award-winning medical, health and science reporter for KNBC, a television station in Los Angeles. He had previously acted in and the 1980s TV soap opera Capitol.

Hensel was a guest on the hit radio show Loveline.
, MD, a heterosexual practicing physician and emergency room director who has been a medical reporter on Los Angeles's KNBC-TV for more than 15 years, wanted to make a powerful film that presents the process of transition from start to finish.

The result is The Opposite Sex, a documentary in two parts, with each part telling the story of a different individual. The first part, Rene's Story, airs May 3 at 9 P.M. Eastern and Pacific on Showtime show·time or show time  
n.
1. The time at which an entertainment, such as the showing of a movie, is scheduled to start.

2. Slang The time at which an activity is to begin.

Noun 1.
. Jamie's Story, which follows a male-to-female transition, will debut in June. After each segment, Hensel moderates a panel in which trans men and women talk about their own experiences.

"I was so fascinated that so many people are so prejudiced about what they don't understand," Hensel explains. "I also knew that I could show the medical side. No movie has ever shown the full journey."

Pena wasn't Hensel's ideal choice for the female-to-male segment. Since the now-33-year-old was so masculine, Hensel feared that the audience wouldn't believe Pena was a biological woman, and he felt the medical journey he was hoping to capture on film would be too short. But after a meeting with the couple--and with prodding from his business partner, out reality TV producer Stuart Krasnow--Hensel changed his mind. "When we interviewed Rene and Wona, [the decision] was a no-brainer," he explains.

What was initially a liability became an asset once Hensel heard Pena's personal story. Pena tells The Advocate, "I told my room when I was 3 years old that God was going to make me a boy, and I never turned back from that statement, not one day of my life." He refused to wear dresses and fought attempts by his family to make him act or appear feminine. At 11, Pena decided to live his life as a boy. "I just happened to have the strength to be what I wanted to be," he says, noting that other transgendered transgendered adjective Relating to a person who has undergone genital/sexual reassignment surgery Transgender health issues Hormonal therapy, cosmetic surgery, fertility options–eg, egg and sperm banking. See Sexual reassignment. Cf Transsexual.  people often wait decades before taking that step. "I may be different, but I'm not special."

Pena's reason for doing the project was clear: He wanted to get his "lower surgery" paid for and performed by a world-class doctor. In his early 20s Pena had a double mastectomy mastectomy (măstĕk`təmē), surgical removal of breast tissue, usually done as treatment for breast cancer. There are many types of mastectomy. In general, the farther the cancer has spread, the more tissue is taken. , but he'd never had a medical procedure to alter his vagina vagina: see reproductive system.
vagina

Genital canal in females. Together with the cavity of the uterus, it forms the birth canal. In most virgins, its external opening is partially closed by a thin fold of tissue (hymen), which has various forms,
. Although the film's producers refused to pay for any surgery, Pete Raphael, MD, a Texas surgeon who performs an innovative procedure that transforms a clitoris clitoris /clit·o·ris/ (klit´ah-ris) the small, elongated, erectile body in the female, situated at the anterior angle of the rima pudendi and homologous with the penis in the male.

clit·o·ris
n.
 into a penis, did the work for free. One of the distinctive elements of the film is its graphic medical footage, which shows exactly what Pena went through to become a man.

Aside from Pena's unswerving determination, Hensel was fascinated by his relationship with Wona (the couple are in the process of adopting the two boys who live with them). Intensely loyal to one another, the former high school sweethearts were reeling reel·ing  
n. Maine
Sustained noise, as from hammering: "Hark that reeling, now, you'll wake the baby!" Anonymous.
 from being shunned by their church after Pena's transgender status was revealed. "They have so many layers," Hensel says. "They really love each other in the deepest way possible."

The Penas gave Hensel complete access to their lives, which play out with intense emotion on the screen as one revelation alter another comes out into the open. Both Pena and Hensel insist that the film does not exaggerate. "The pain you see is the pain that's really there," Hensel explains. "And triumph, the triumph is really there."

Lisotta also writes for L.A. Weekly.
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Title Annotation:television
Author:Lisotta, Christopher
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 11, 2004
Words:685
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