Jerry Jones left his wife and 4 sons to begin his transition to Jheri – this being in the 80s long, long before the average Joe knew very much about transgendered people and what it all meant. Forget average Joes, Jehri couldn’t find a doctor in all of Mississippi who was willing to talk about her particular concerns. Jheri was in her late 30s when she left to build her new life, and though surgery was always a goal, her financial obligations were first and foremost to her kids so it wasn’t until age 60 that she was able to scrape together enough to go to Brussels and finally have the surgery she dreamed of.
Now 74, Jheri lives in a trailer park with two of her grown sons, Brad and Trevor, after years of estrangement (her ex-wife didn’t feel Jheri should have any contact with the kids). Jheri helps another son, Wade, run his business, and is grandmother to his two kids, who don’t know Jheri is transgender. After hiding her true identity for so long, this lying in reverse doesn’t sit well with Jheri either, though she wants to spare her grandkids any pain or bullying.
With grown children dependent on her, some of them disabled, Jheri struggles more than most 74 year olds, but not only does she still pray before every meal (like a good old gal in the Bible Belt), she also sings and dances and struts her stuff in her kitchen when a good song comes on. Her joie de vivre is infectious, admirable. Suppressing her true self for so many years means Jheri loves her hair and makeup and high heels, and she’s living her best life now.
Life is complicated. Families are complicated. Jheri is a remarkable woman, a remarkable matriarch, and so is the documentary that tells her story. It’s not always nice or neat, and I admire the candor, and the courage it takes to be so revealing. Director Moby Longinotto pulls together something truly unique – above all, sending the message that it’s okay to still be figuring things out, it’s okay to not have all the answers. Love solves a lot, and I truly believe that sharing like this will go a long way in destigmatizing which is still a difficult concept for some – but on screen, Jheri is a woman, mother, and grandmother like any other, filled with hopes, dreams, and perhaps some regrets. She is inspiring and real and relatable. These are some Joneses worth keeping up with