Ren & Luca is a documentary that follows two transgender siblings as they navigate puberty, school, and transitioning leading up to and during the Trump era. Ren competes in the Lil' Miss Westy Pageant; her older brother, Luca, coaches her on posing, make-up, and talent. He knows his stuff because he competed six years ago when he was living as a girl. Moving and unflinching, Ren & Luca will challenge fundamental ideas about gender identity while entertaining audiences as this tween and teen bicker, struggle, and compete while coming of age.
This past year has been a rollercoaster ride for the family. Ren and Luca both began actively transitioning. Ren began dressing full time as female and had a puberty blocker surgically implanted. Luca primarily dresses male but insists on a more gender fluid style, sometimes wearing lots of pink and jewelry. Just recently, Luca began testosterone treatment.
Horrified at the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election, the family scrambled to legally change the kid’s names and gender on their documents. It was a complicated and expensive process involving a court hearing but they managed to get everything in order before Trump was inaugurated. Now that he and Pence are in office, the family worry about what further hostile actions the new administration will take against the transgender community and how that will impact the safety of their kids.
Amidst all of this change for the family, Ren has chosen to compete in the Lil Miss Westy Pageant with Luca as coach. Local contestants, ranging from toddlers to eighth graders, showcase their makeup and gowns, talent, and community spirit. The dynamic between the two siblings as they ready Ren for competition confronts traditional gender norms in a wonderfully entertaining and organic way. The preparation, rehearsals and competition itself provide the film a vibrant narrative spine. Whether she wins or loses, this experience will change the family forever offering a rare window into the lives of two very young gender pioneers.