On Tour: Lancaster, PA

2 May

March 30, 2017 | REAL BOY| Lancaster, PA

We couldn’t ask for a more wonderful end to our tour than the events at Millersvillle University and the Ware Center in Lancaster, PA.

The day starts early and our host Barry Kornhauser comes to pick us up in downtown Lancaster and takes us out to the university, which is four miles out of town. The campus is beautiful. There are ducks, swans, and turtles in a large pond at the center and the entire campus is beautifully landscaped. As we walk through campus to the classroom where we’ll be presenting, Barry tells us about the history of the college, including the bit of trivia that an early president of Millersville University from the late 19th Century is best known for writing the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Our first stop is a lunchtime gathering of students from the social work department. We show the trailer and then gather in a circle to talk about gender identity and the other issues in the film. Joe shares his own personal experiences of coming out as trans and how his family responded at the time.

Dr. Tiffany Wright, chair of the Millersville University President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Diversity, has joined us and she also shares with students the work being done on campus to create greater inclusion. The school already has a preferred name policy and the commission is working on putting other policies in place to support their trans students and teachers.

I am struck by how important these small, informal conversations are. Students asked for advice for their own lives and took the opportunity to learn more about how to ask respectful questions about gender. They also learned more about how they can become involved as active allies at their university and with their future clients.

We then head across campus to a joint class of undergrads, including those from a Philosophy class entitled “Gender, Utopia and Society.” The room is full and the students ask fantastic questions about both Joe’s experience as a trans man and a musician and my experience as a filmmaker and storyteller seeking to honor and represent people with love and integrity. We talk about gender and media and music and addiction and families.

One student in the back row thanks Joe and I for bringing these stories into popular conversation and shares that she is also trans. Her voice is shaking and she confesses that it’s scary and vulnerable to tell people, especially in such a public way, but that it feels good to be open about it. Everyone in the room claps for her.

We head back into town and start the tech check for the evening’s event. The lobby is already starting to fill with people. When the doors open, the audience starts pouring in. The beautiful Ware Center fills with people. By the time the program starts there are more than 200 people in the theater.

The event begins with a panel discussion featuring Dr. Meg Day, a professor at Franklin & Marshall College; Dr. Tiffany Wright from the Millersville University President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Diversity; Alexis Lake, a local therapist specializing in LGBT practice, and Tara Stark, a member of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. They each share their thoughts on the film and the ways it resonates for them personally. They invite the audience to track what is—and isn’t—present in Ben’s story and to look for the nuances. As a director, it is an honor to know that these people have taken the time to watch the film, think deeply about it, and prepare these comments to share with the audience.

The film begins and I can feel the engagement of the audience. They laugh and respond audibly to moments in the film. In the final scene, I can hear the sniffles in the room. I am deeply honored and so happy to be here.

Following the screening, Joe plays a set of music. He’s on fire and people are LOVING it. This night really feels like a special event, the culmination of an amazing month on the road. I’ll soon be on a plane home, but for now, I am so grateful to be in this theater in Lancaster, PA. We have truly done what we set out to do — engage, connect, discuss, and share a story we care so much about.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

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