A film about transgender people’s participation in sports.
A reflection on change, will, and the power of dreams.
Valentina Petrillo, a visually impaired athlete, always perceived herself as a woman, even when she was running and winning competitions in the male category. For a long time she tried to comply with society’s rules, but in 2018, at age 45 she decided to begin her transition. She also knew that she didn’t want to give up her athletic career. She thus embarked on a difficult battle, demanding that sports federations comply with the international guidelines on transgender people’s participation in sports. Today, after a long struggle, she is the first Italian transgender athlete competing internationally in the women’s category. Her story was featured in hundreds of articles and tv appearances in Italy and abroad, and her courageous challenge of unscripted societal rules is an inspiring example across continents. Despite all odds, her dream to participate in the Paralympic Games continues to drive her forward.
How the project was born
Valentina met activists from Gruppo Trans at a time when she was about to stop running. She wasn’t allowed to compete with women, because legally she isn’t one yet, but she couldn’t share men’s spaces either. Sports authorities didn’t know how to deal with her problem – or they refused to face it. But to Valentina, who is an athlete with disability, running is a way to feel strong, to feel at home in her own body. That’s how the decision to make this film was made at first: to give her the support she needed to keep on fighting.
A documentary film with a potential impact
The film addresses an important and controversial issue: transgender people’s participation in professional sports events. In other countries inclusion of trans women in sports is already a debated subject, polarizing public opinion more on an ideological level, rather than on the scientific level. In Italy is still a somewhat unknown subject, but much debated at the grassroots level. Trans people excluded from sports are many, judging by the number of people searching for answers from the sports associations. UISP – the Italian Association Sports for all, partner of the film project, was the first Italian organization to include trans people among its associates, thanks to a special card named Alias.
A protagonist, many identities
This film will not shy away from contradictions and debate.
Valentina speaks with many voices, and her body poses several challenges to the norms. None of that is left behind.
Valentina is a disabled person who runs fast, because she found in the sports practice the setup that makes her feel at peace with herself.
Valentina is a woman: it doesn’t matter if she was born that way or if she chose to be a woman, the difference is not so big anyway. Valentina is not a failed male: she had all the traditional male symbols at hand (work, family, home, sport success), but she was ready to question everything. Her story is not one of trans realization but a human success story. A coming-of-age story based on a double realization: to be a woman and of the limits that society still imposes on women as “the weaker sex”.
From this point of view the threshold of 5 nanomoles that we chose as the title for the film is telling: in the track and field sector this is the limit of testosterone allowed for athletes who intend to compete in the women’s category. It represents a symbolic boundary between male and female, an arbitrary limit which shows the shortcomings of rigid gender binarism.