Assembled from over 10 years of footage, Markie in Milwaukee tells the story of a
midwestern transgender woman as she struggles with the prospect of de-transitioning
under the pressures of her fundamentalist church, family and community.
A fundamentalist Baptist and one time licensed minister, Markie Wenzel made the decision at age 46 to come out as a transgender woman and start living as female. It was a decision that ended her 20-year marriage and estranged her from her three children. It also saw her dismissed from her church and exiled to the margins of her community.
We meet Markie in 2008 as she is putting the pieces of her life back together, employed as a TSA agent and working toward her goal of sexual reassignment surgery. But over the course of the following decade, Markie begins to question her path. She misses the births of her grandchildren and starts to re-evaluate her faith. She also continually struggles to present herself as feminine at a height of seven-feet tall. It all comes to a head on the eve of her surgery when she makes the sudden decision to abandon her female identity and go back to living as male.
This leads us into a fascinating second half following Markie through her “de-transition”. She literally lays her female identity to rest at the family's cemetery plot, rejoins her former baptist church and tries to rebuild her relationship with her family. It’s a process that creates an unsettling tension, and as the final moments of the film unfold, we are left to wonder if Markie's female identity is gone for good or if it will - inevitably - return.
With over a decade of vérité footage and contemporaneous interviews, filmmaker Matt Kliegman approaches the film with a Diane Arbus-like observational style that is at once intimate and voyeuristic, tragic and hopeful. Markie’s aim is simple - to be a good person, and lead a simple devout life. But her struggles are emblematic of a larger conversation rooted in our country's fixation on identity - political, spiritual and personal - and people’s deep fear of those who don’t fit neatly within their own communities. As we watch we are forced to ask: When those around you won't accept you for who you are, how do you find a way to accept yourself?