Tipton was born in Oklahoma in 1914 and with the limited resources of the 1930s had no choice but to transition alone. Entering the heady world of jazz as a pianist and band leader, he enjoyed a long and successful career, becoming a husband and father of three adopted sons in the 1960s. He never shared his gender history with anyone and when he died in 1989, the press seized on the public outing, generating much lurid coverage and incredulity. Featuring archival footage plus interviews with one of Billy’s sons, along with trans historians Kate Bornstein and Susan Stryker, this creatively constructed documentary employs blind casting to spotlight an array of trans masculine actors that put themselves in Billy’s courageous shoes. With a stand-out performance from Marquise Vilson, this is a true commemoration of Tipton’s enduring significance in transgender history.

Zorian Clayton, Programmer

Language English

Accessibility Available with closed captions and audio description

Running time 84 minutes

Please note, this film contains transphobic archival footage.

Sales The Film Collaborative

How to watch

  • On BFI Player in the UK with a ticket or festival pass
  • Watch at any time during the festival
  • 4 hours to finish once you start watching

Ticket prices