An unforgettable Girl

Washington Blade Online – Brian Moylan

Lifetime movie about slain trans teen offers a moving life lesson

Cable’s Lifetime Channel, no stranger to gay audiences looking for a ?Golden Girls? fix, is also well known for its made-for-television movies. Such projects fall into two categories: those starring the likes of Tori Spelling and Valerie Bertinelli that are about amnesia, stalkers and other such melodrama and those about mothers with difficult teens or children with strange medical conditions.

?A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story,? which premieres on the channel on Monday, June 19, at 8 p.m., falls into the latter group. Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl stars as Sylvia Guerrero, the mother of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager in California who was murdered by three men in 2002 after they discovered that she was biologically male.

Though the film is framed with dramatized scenes from the trial of Araujo?s assailants (two were found guilty of murder and the third pleaded guilty to manslaughter), it is more about Araujo?s relationship with her mother, and it is a powerful tear-jerker.

Take, for instance, a scene where Guerrero, who has been trying to force Araujo to dress as a boy for months, finally realizes that she must accept her daughter for who she is. In a crying fit, Araujo screams, ?I?m a freak,? and Guerrero answers, ?You?re not a freak. We just need to redo your makeup. You know they have waterproof mascara.?

Expertly acted by Ruehl and J.D. Pardo as Gwen, the scene of a mother?s love and eventual acceptance is extremely touching.