“What if the world told you that you do not exist?” This is the central theme of We Exist – Beyond the Binary, an independently produced documentary featuring Lauren Lubin, a former Division I basketball player who identifies as non-binary. The film traces Lubin’s journey of gender discovery (and top surgery) and includes interviews with physicians and other LGBTQ advocates (including Kristin Russo and Tyler Ford).
It’s a personal and personable story. Lubin is at once straightforward and eminently charming as they narrate their gender identity journey from their childhood/school age years as a “baller” through to the present day, as they prepare for – and undergo – top surgery. Home movies and photos serve as a background for their story, including the harrowing experience of being pulled out to sea by a rip current. Lubin’s near-drowning was a turning point for them and it anchors the narrative well.
While Lubin tells their story in a way that’s quite touching, there are some real breakout moments that bring the reality of living as a non-binary person into a deeply-cutting fine focus and shed a blazing light onto the broader significance of their experience. One of these moments comes when Lubin says that they experienced human rights for the first time when they met with their surgeon, Dr. Garammone. Woah. Seriously. Woah.
The film project started seven years ago and what it ultimately became is very much a reflection of how gender identity (especially non-binary identities) has broken into the media from being very much hidden and unknown. Nylon’s article “‘We Exist: Beyond The Binary’ Proves Nonbinary Visibility Is Paramount” delves into this (and more) with the film’s creators – it’s an excellent read.
While the film focuses on Lubin and their journey, the intercuts with Drs. Garammone and Vavasis provide medical and academic grounding on the experiences shared by many non-binary individuals.
I hope with Lubin’s efforts to get We Exist into schools and other wide-audience forums that more non-binary folks can experience human rights in their daily lives instead of having to wait so long for validation as Lubin did.
The film ends with self-submitted video selfies of non-binary individuals identifying themselves and the city in which they live. It went on for longer than I expected and almost right away, I was bawling.
Laurel. Irvine. I exist.