Friday 3 June 2016

I Want to To Be A Woman (aka Cambio de Sexo, Forbidden Love or A Change of Sex) Transgender Movie

Victoria Abril plays the young male who seeks GRS

Transsexual Male to Female SRS Film

I Want To Be A Woman 1977 dir Vicente Aranda with Victoria Abril & Bibi Anderson
In a small town, José Maria is a teenager with a big problem: He imagines that inside of him he is really a woman. His family environment makes things more difficult for him. His rude father is a male chauvinist who afraid of his son softness put him to work chopping wood and tries to force him to have sex with a prostitute. However, José Maria flees from that adventure feeling guilty.

UK Film Poster
He escapes to the city where he tries to be accepted as woman with tragic results. While working as a hair dresser he meets, Bibi, a transvestite who works in a cabaret and José Maria goes to work with her. He is not José Maria anymore, but Maria José. In the cabaret, he falls in love with Durán, the owner of the bar. Durán, reluctant at the beginning, nevertheless starts a relationship with Maria José, who wants to go all the way, and plans to travel to London to have a sex change operation. (synopsis from Wikipedia)
Intimidated by his father. "You'll cure yourself of this.."

Living as a woman 

'I want to be a Woman', is a very rare and hard to obtain Spanish movie from 1977. English language editions are limited to the early VHS tapes from the 1980s. I initially saw the film trailer (see below) when I was about 13 years old. I so desperately wanted to see the movie and by the time I was old enough our video hire shops in the UK had suffered the Video Recordings Act (1984), which meant that many obscure films were lost.  I always had this film at the back of my mind as something I had to see.

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I spent years searching for an old VHS copy. Remember this is the days before the internet and I had to rely upon visiting film fairs or boot sales were old VHS tapes were traded.  It took about 11 years to finally find an old original VHS copy of the film.
Victoria Abril in 'boy mode'

The film was initially released in the UK in 1977 under the title of 'Forbidden Love', alternate titles were 'I Want to be a Woman', 'Change of Sex' and the original Spanish title 'Cambio de Sexo'.

The original UK film poster doesn't really give you an idea of what the film was about. 'They Broke All The Laws Of God And Man', states the poster. Forbidden love always suggests homosexuality not transgender issues. Perhaps   the original title was simply too much for public display in the UK at that time. By contrast the UK video release used the tag line "WARNING A true and disturbing story of sexual confusion. Contains surgically explicit scenes".

Jose decides to castrate himself to become female

The fact that a real female plays the part of a young boy who becomes female may put many off this film. After all Victoria Abril is far too pretty to be a passable male, but I feel she does pull it off to an extent. The film also stars Bibi Anderson, who befriends the young male and introduces him to performing in the striptease and dance shows of 1970s Barcelona. Bibi Anderson is herself a post operative transsexual, and the film features her nude before and after SRS. The film is very sincere and covers the prejudices that are faced by a young transitioner.  Rejection of the father, school life and lovers. Some scenes are rather amusing, such as the sequence when she is depressed and she decides to throw her hormones on the floor and crush them with her high heels. Then there is the wincing moment when she takes a cut throat razor to her penis and ends up in hospital. I also found the hypnosis sequence interesting, testing her to know if she really is a transsexual or not. The hypnosis reveals that she feels 'safe and comfortable in women clothes', so a genuine transsexual LOL. There is footage of SRS via a slide projector and cartoon animation in the doctors office, demonstrating what will happen during the surgery.

Here is the trailer:

UK VHS Tape Box
The film does have a happy ending, albeit rather glossed over and fantasised. When you consider the limited public information about transition and transgender, at the time it was made, they have done very well. My biggest problem with the movie was the soundtrack. It's really  awful, I would say it has the worst music ever used in a movie. The 1970s disco music sinks to new depths, but I guess this was popular at the time but now sounds so out of place today.

The film is now available on BluRay but it is the original Spanish edition. No English audio or subtitles. This is easily available on Amazon or via eBay. So unless you understand Spanish you're stuck with trying to obtain the UK video release from the early 1980s.

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Crossdressing support group


  1. Can't remember my high school Spanish, unfortunately. Much more believable than "Orlando". Ironically, Madrid was originally sacred to the goddess Cybele. May she come back!

  2. OMG!!! I've been looking for this film for years. Saw it on TV a looong time ago, probably not long after its release. Thank you! Now I just need to find it somewhere, but thanks for putting a title to my memory.

  3. I've never seen this film, but the 2014 Australian TV movie Carlotta appears to be a remake. The film is a docudrama about the life of Carol "Carlotta" Byron. Search "Carlotta Film" on Youtube.