TORONTO (Reuters) - A teen's struggle over identity is approached with humor as well as gravity in "About Ray," the latest movie to focus on transgender issues as the subject of gender fluidity becomes a prime time debate.
The story revolves around three generations, a lesbian matriarch, a single mother, and a teen who is born female but is determined to become Ray.
"It was all inspired by being a mother, having a family, and being part of a family," director Gaby Dellal told a packed audience at the world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend.
The film features Susan Sarandon as a stalwart from an older generation raised on sexual, not gender, politics and Naomi Watts as a single mother who just wants her child to be happy.
Elle Fanning, now 17 but 16 during filming, hopes the movie will help society better understand the struggles of transgender youth and help families of trans teens with the changes they must undertake to complete their journey.
"I think people aren't as educated on the topic as they should be. They need to understand exactly what it is," Fanning told Reuters.
"It's not an option, it's actually just who the person is, it's who they are inside, so why would you prevent someone from being who they are?"
Before Ramona can make the physical transition to Ray, her mother, played by Watts, must track down the man whose name appears on the birth certificate to get his consent. But it's not only the male characters that offer resistance.
Sarandon is a comic foil as the lesbian grandmother who struggles to accept her grandson.
"About Ray," which opens in North American movie theaters later this week, follows the premiere in Venice last week of "The Danish Girl," starring Eddie Redmayne as one of the first people to undergo male to female sexual reassignment surgery in the 1930s.
The transition to a woman of former Olympic champion Caitlyn Jenner, and TV series like "Transparent" and "I am Jazz" have also put the issue under the spotlight.
"It's such a beautiful time to be alive with this kind of fluidity because it means that for all of us the definition of what you can be and how you see yourselves and what's possible has just broken open," said Sarandon
Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Andrea Ricci