Outfest Award-Winning Love, Jamie Paints A Picture of Trans Liberation
The profound, short documentary by Emmy-nominated director Karla Murthy, tells the story of Jamie Diaz, a Mexican-American trans woman, currently serving a life sentence in a men’s prison, through her art and letters to a penpal.
By Gisselle Palomera
August, 1, 2023
A hand holds up a picture of two people, Gabriel Joffe, a white transmasculine person, holding hands with Jamie Diaz, a Mexican American trans woman. Courtesy of the filmmaking team.
Love, Jamie is a profound, short documentary by Emmy-nominated director Karla Murthy, on Jamie Diaz, a trans woman who is currently serving a life sentence in a men’s prison in Texas. The short, which screened as part of the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival, features recorded interviews of Diaz, letters she sent her penpal Gabriel Joffe while incarcerated, and art work she has created throughout her life sentence. Diaz is a Mexican American artist who has been incarcerated for nearly 30 years.
The documentary shows that Diaz is a reformed person, who aims to be a beacon of liberation to those who struggle with addiction and the government forces that fail to keep queer and trans people safe. Diaz is incarcerated in Texas, where the United States is currently seeing some of the harshest, continued, political oppression against the trans, non-binary and intersex community. Texas House Bill 2862 states that ‘inmates should be housed according to their biological sex.’ That is just one of the many laws and bills that are currently being proposed and passed, to keep trans inmates in unfavorable and even unsafe conditions.
She aims to fill the never-ending time with art. Within the prison walls, it became very clear what her path to liberation was. Her first experience as an artist came when she was 15 years old and soon after being incarcerated, she decided to set out to create the largest collection of LBGTQ+ art in the world using watercolors she bought from the commissary. She also uses paint brushes she makes from her own hair, creating works of art and comics that allude to the female form in a way that conveys beauty, strength, resilience and liberation from the queer and trans lenses.
A sketch of a person fused with the bars of a prision cell. Art by Jamie Diaz. Courtsey of the filmmaking team.
Diaz and Joffe met over a decade ago and continue their friendship via mail and phone calls. Throughout the course of their friendship, they have affirmed each other’s transitions, as they go from addressing one another by the names they used pre-transition, to their current names.
Joffe is a former volunteer for Black and Pink National, an organization whose mission it is to abolish the prison industrial complex and provide the LGBTQ+ community with resources during and after incarceration, when they received a letter from Diaz. Though it was hard to sift through all of the mail they received from the incarcerated LGBTQ+ community members across the nation, Diaz’s letter stood out to Joffe because it contained her art. The two wrote back and forth and eventually established a kinship bond. Diaz began signing her letters ‘Love, Jamie’ and ‘Auntie Jamie.’
Murthy creates a compelling story using shot-by-shot scenes of the outside of the prison that flows naturally, regardless of their inability to interview Diaz on film and the recorded audio conversations between Joffe and Diaz, painting a picture of the liberation and authenticity Diaz dreams of.
In a more recent letter to Joffe, Diaz says she began her Hormone Replacement Therapy while incarcerated, even after facing backlash for her ‘extreme hairstyles.’ She lives vicariously through Joffe, who has more access and resources for their transition.
She paints herself as a statuesque, femme with pencil-thin eyebrows, a tall, white pompadour, and a voluptuous body on high heels, in her art.
An art curator, a white man with glasses, is maintaining art in a gallery. Courtsey of the filmmaking team.
Diaz will be up for parole in 2025, after serving 30 years in prison.
Even before her release, her art has already begun to circulate the art world.
Daniel Cooney Fine Arts now looks after her art and has made significant strides to get her art and her story known, so she has a foundation when she is finally liberated from prison.
Diaz’s story is indicative of the bigger issues we continue to struggle with in the queer and trans communities. Texas and many other states continue to gain traction in their anti-TNBI political agendas. There is a lot of work to be done to protect the TNBI community, specifically the youth who cannot fight legislation on their own.
Love, Jamie won the Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Documentary Short Film at Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival.
Gisselle Palomera (they/them) is a nonbinary, Mexican-Colombian, multimedia journalist from East Los Angeles, CA. They report on issues affecting QTBIPOC communities and use their own experiences to educate and create safe spaces within media.
Palomera is also an Outfest Inclusive Press Fellow for the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival. Learn more about the program here.
Get the latest in queer events, media, and culture. Sign up for our newsletter here