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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Trade **

Starring: T. Ashanti Mozelle, Austin Miller, Tiffany Fallon, Rain Valdez, Marlynne Frierston Cooley

Director: Trae Briers

Country: USA

When straight-laced lawyer Michael (Miller) encounters Shawn (Mozelle) outside a convenience store one evening, he is drawn to his free-spirited flamboyance and arranges to meet with him again. While his wife (Fallon) is trying desperately for a baby, he instead begins to experiment, discovering that Shawn lives much of his life as Coco and that he wants to do the same. Leaving the respectability of his white collar life behind, Michael becomes Honey and walks the streets with Coco, picking up clients in their cars and exchanging sex for cash. But this new and secret side to his life can’t stay concealed for long.

This is a very peculiar film. It’s about the trans identity, but troublingly associates that with sex work. Michael doesn’t just want to be Honey, he just wants the thrill of being a prostitute. For Coco, turning tricks is a means to an end, but for Honey it is the end itself and we never really discover if this is about gender identity or sex. Though Coco is a pretty rounded character, Honey is decidedly not and there’s no nuance to her hopping in and out of cars, wiping her mouth clean as she hungrily looks for more.

Ashley, the wife, becomes an absurd sub-plot as well. Though decidedly not the tired old trope of the submissive wronged woman, her reaction as she begins to uncover the truth is bizarre and completely not what you’ll expect. There is an unpredictability about Trade for sure, but it’s bonkers and is playing for shock over attempting to say anything of value. With trans rights at the top of the agenda for most LGBT activists today, a sensationalist movie that denigrates it to a fetish is not helpful whatsoever.



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