Directed by Carlos Aparicio, Susana Aikin • Documentary • 1995 • 58 minutes
Carlos Aparicio and Susana Aikin’s The Transformation follows one person’s journey to reconcile their identity, religion, class, and sexual orientation following harrowing news. In the groundbreaking 1990 documentary The Salt Mines, Sara was one of three female-identified sex workers in Manhattan living on the streets. In the 1995 follow-up documentary, The Transformation, Sara discovers that she is HIV+, and decides that she is not going to die on the streets. Sara accepts help from a group of Born Again Christians who, in exchange, demand her complete transformation: from female to her born gender of male and from queer to straight.
Sara, now known as Ricardo, is taken to Dallas where he attempts to transform himself inside and out. Ricardo becomes a Christian and marries fellow churchgoer Betty, and together they start a new life away from his past. Meanwhile, the church organizes a trip to New York to “rescue” other trans sex workers and invites Ricardo to go along with them to preach his example. As Ricardo travels to New York and meets up with old friends Gigi and Giovanna, Ricardo is forced to look back on life, and consider whether his current “transformation” is true, or simply a desperate exercise in survival. Ricardo and the church committee return to Dallas empty-handed. This film, coupled with The Salt Mines, offers an early unparalleled look into gender, sexuality, health, and class as they intersected in the early 1990s in New York City.
— Emmy Award, 1997