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Imagine being a superstar jazz musician, one of the biggest of your time – but you are carrying a secret that is revealed only upon your death. This is the story of Billy Tipton, a transgender icon often overlooked, until now. Frequently defined by the indignity surrounding his death in 1989 at the age of 74, this careful documentary peels back the layers of Billy’s personal life, beyond the tabloids, in a way never before seen on film. This documentary is told through the stories of his family, friends, historians and -- in an unusual twist -- a group of trans actors who have studied Billy down to his mannerisms and inner thoughts.


The 1980s were a difficult time for the LGBTQIA+ community and there was a lot of fear and ignorance around the language people used to describe transgender individuals. This documentary frames the context of the time through trans storytellers, who beautifully share what the musician means to them. The archival footage is woven together along with brilliant trans activists who explain the importance of Billy Tipton’s life and legacy. A reminder of how far we have come and how far we have to go to protect trans lives, No Ordinary Man is as urgent and timely as ever.  


– Jade Velazquez, Damn These Heels programming committee member


Directed by Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt, this Canadian documentary originally premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival and won the 2020 Inside Out Film and Video Festival Best Canadian Film Award.


  • Year
    2020
  • Runtime
    84 minutes
  • Language
    English
  • Country
    US
  • Rating
    Not Rated
  • Director
    Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt