A Transwoman Deals With Fatherhood In ‘5 Lessons in Happiness: She Is My Father’

She Is My Father

5 Lessons in Happiness: She Is My Father’ follows the story of Hsiang (played by Lin You Xing), a club performer who suddenly gets a call from her daughter Ling (played by Guo Si Yu) whom she has not seen for the past ten years. 

What do you do when the person you thought you knew was, in fact, a totally different person? Read on.

5 Lessons in Happiness : She is my Father

The short film starts with Hsiang walking around the marketplace. She says that being a woman, the best way to live is to go back to the necessities of life (whatever that means). Hsiang says that she wants to be an ordinary woman. That which is ordinary is the most beautiful, she says as she walks back home with her grocery in hand. 

On the road, she spots a handsome young man running and she immediately oohs and ahhs at how sexy he is as he zips his jacket down. She flips her hair coyly and— record scratch— stumbles onto the ground with her bag of oranges rolling down the street. She fumbles to reach for the fruits when the young man suddenly approaches her, handing Hsiang her… fake silicone boob. Horrified, Hsiang lets out a shriek.

Moments later, Hsiang is hand-feeding an old man the oranges she bought. He calls her “sweet daughter-in-law and asks when she plans to marry Shu (played by Ying Wei Min). Shu stutters out a response, chiding his sick father, saying they’re doing well enough even if they’re not married. His father retorts that a responsible man would not say something like that. Hsiang placates the elderly, saying she will marry Shu as soon as she gets her new ID. The father says she’s lost her ID for a while now so why is it taking her so long to reapply for a new one? She tells him she’s willing to wait and she feeds Shu another orange. They share a smile.

Back home, Hsiang tells Shu that she must go to Thailand next month to get a gender-reaffirming surgery because her removable fake breasts have been failing. Shu assures her that she doesn’t need to do anything so why is she making herself suffer? Hsiang answers that if this isn’t for Shu then it’s for his dad at the very least. Shu counters that his father doesn’t really know what’s going on. Hsiang says that hasn’t he noticed that ever since she started taking hormones, her body has been changing a lot— her skin is smoother and her breasts are bigger. Besides, the changes helped his club business so much. Shu comments that she’s just a backup dancer, sometimes a comedian. Hsiang whines and asks are those things not important. Shu hugs her and tells her that she is important to him. Hsiang caresses his face and tells him that the first half of her life has been lived through other people’s expectations so it’s time for her to reclaim her true self. Hsiang stands by her decision to get her surgery next month. She takes out a hospital document that shows her dead name and narrates that she hasn’t been living as that person anymore but as Hsiang- Hsiang.

Later, after practicing for a dance number with her friends, Hsiang gets asked if she got permission from her husband for her gender reassignment surgery in Thailand. Hsiang nods but she confesses that she’s scared. Her friends hug and comfort her, saying they’re rooting for her. Hsiang tells them it’s not that, she’s scared that once she gets her operation she’ll outshine the other two and become the main dancer. Cackling!

5 Lessons in Happiness : She is my Father

Her friends tease her that once she’ll get her surgery, she might be able to get pregnant. Hsiang considers it, but there’s no need for that because as it turns out, she already has a daughter Ling who unfortunately suddenly informed Hsiang and Shu that she will be visiting her father. The only problem is Hsiang is in the process of transitioning and Ling has not seen her father since she was 5. Their only form of communication was through cards. Hsiang decides to ask Shu to pretend to be her father and that’s exactly what happens when Ling rings the doorbell to their place.

Shu greets Ling and quickly excuses himself from his house to avoid awkwardness, leaving the parent-daughter tandem alone. Ling quickly deduces that Hsiang is Shu’s lover based on their house. And later at dinner, the two share a meal with Hsiang even lovingly feeding her daughter.

Ling confesses that she has always wanted to spend time with her dad on her 18th birthday. Hsiang guesses that she’ll be staying until August 29 which is Ling’s birthday. Ling asks how she knew and that her father must have told her. As she eats enthusiastically, Ling remarks that she’s right in asking her father for help. Help for what? Well, as it turns out, Ling has a bun in the oven which shocks Hsiang.

After dinner, Hsiang inquires how her pregnancy came to be. Ling tells her that she was deceived by a man. Hsiang offers her a doctor who can help with her abortion. The problem is Ling wants to keep the baby which shocks Hsiang again. 

Later that night, Ling calls her father on the phone which comically enough is Hsiang’s number. Hsiang pretends to be Shu and asks if she’s being treated right by Hsiang. Ling says yes, too bad she’s not really pretty. Ack!

Ling asks if her father’s still not done with work and if she won’t be back tomorrow. Hsiang makes up an excuse saying the group will be touring Southeast Asia so she’ll have to stay with “Auntie Hsiang” in the meantime. Ling asks where exactly they perform and Hsiang tells her they perform in 5-star hotels. An idea seems to develop in Ling’s head.

The next day, Ling is nowhere to be found and has left a letter for Hsiang thanking her for her hospitality but she’s off to look for her dad and will be following her father to Southeast Asia.

 

What kind of ending would you choose for ‘She Is My Father?”

  1. Ling accepts Hsiang after her surgery and the two live together.
  2. Hsiang returns to living as a man to live with Ling.
  3. Hsiang pushes through with the surgery and comes out as trans to Ling. Ling refuses to accept her and their relationship is ruined.

 

Writer’s thoughts:

What a complicated situation to be in! But all things considered, this writer hopes for a happy ending where Hsiang can live her truth and Ling can accept that her father is the same person she knew growing up. The fact that Hsiang is her father and Hsiang is a woman are two realities and ideas that can co-exist and one can only hope that a young person like Ling would be open-minded enough to accept that. 

As a side note, this writer is also happy that abortion is legal in Taiwan where women have free reign over their own bodies and have the freedom to choose to be responsible parents or adults. While it remains a controversial topic to this day, the fact that Hsiang was supportive and considerate in offering her young daughter a way out is something to be lauded. 

Watch ‘5 Lessons in Happiness: She Is My Father’ on GagaOOLala. Enjoy watching either version on a bigger screen because GagaOOLala is now available to watch on your smart TVs by downloading the app on Google Play, Amazon Appstore, and Roku.

 

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