Tag Archives: transgender

On Tour: Bloomsburg, PA

4 Apr

March 8, 2017 | REAL BOY| Bloomsburg, PA

The drive from Reading to Bloomsburg winds through late-winter countryside, interspersed with coal mines, beautiful dilapidated buildings, and one-street micro-towns built to house the coal miners who worked in the area. There are more than a few Trump lawn signs and one HUGE Trump flag dominating the front yard of a house on a rural road. I count two confederate flags—one in the window of a home and one pinned to the front of a bar, alongside beer signs and handwritten for sale notices.

We’re white and gender-conforming, so no one seems to look twice when we stop for gas or food, but we talk a lot about what it would be like to be a young queer, trans, or gender nonconforming kid in one of these towns.

When we arrive on the Bloomsburg University campus, the theater manager welcomes us to the Gross Auditorium, a beautifully renovated Victorian-style theater with a gorgeous stained glass window in the ceiling. After a tech check, Joe and I walk across the street for cheesesteaks. The headline of a front page article in The Voice, the Bloomsburg student paper, reads: Gender Inclusive Bathrooms are Here to Stay. Following the Trump administration’s recent reversal of an Obama [advisory] extending Title IX protections to transgender students, Bloomsburg University made a commitment to keep their bathrooms gender neutral. This gesture, which I have come to take for granted in many of the places I frequent in Oakland or Los Angeles, feels like a huge step forward here in Bloomsburg.

It’s meaningful, too, for the Bloomsburg University students who join us on the panel after the screening. For the young trans man who has only recently come out to the larger school community, or for the pan-romantic, asexual, agender person who knows that their feminine presentation means most people will assume things about their gender that aren’t true, this story, this event, and the wider efforts of the university community really mean something.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas


On Tour: Reading, PA

24 Mar

March 7, 2017 | REAL BOY| Reading, PA

We arrive in Reading, PA, a small community of brick buildings near a river. The Miller Center at Reading Area Community College is right downtown and is the center for art and performance in Reading. When we arrive, Natalie from the Miller Center introduces us to a small group who have gathered to talk with us about issues of gender and sexuality.

The group is small but engaged. A father has come with his two gender expansive teens. He’s supportive of his trans seventh grader and his questioning high school freshman, but he still has questions about what this all means — for his kids and for himself. A young person in their early 20s has driven from a nearby town, where the local Planned Parenthood hosts the area’s only LGBTQ youth support group. They give their name and preferred pronoun (the gender-neutral pronoun, they/them) and share that as a non-binary person who spent their childhood in foster care, the group is the only place they’ve found supportive community. “It’s my home and my family,” they tell us.

After our conversation, we visit the Miller Center lobby to see an art exhibit by Andy Hurley, a young trans man from Philadelphia who has been documenting the physical and emotional aspects of his gender transition through photography.

Joe opens the evening with a set of music. He plays several of his most beloved songs, including “A Guy Named Joe” and “Ghost Boy,” and closes with the theme song from Real Boy (the one that makes everyone cry)—“For My Family.”

After the screening, Joe and I are joined onstage by the photographer Andy Hurley and Sara Grove, a therapist at the fantastic gender-affirming counseling center, Sanctuary Counseling. Sara mentions how important it is to be having these conversations about gender identity in towns like Reading and shares he own story of how she came to do this work. Andy talks about how the themes of family in Real Boy resonate for him and how hard it’s been to navigate his own family’s rejection and disapproval. “But I’m taking care of myself and doing what I know is right for me,” he says.

The evening ends with a group of people who gather to share their own lived experiences of gender transition or parenting a gender nonconforming child or supporting a friend who is transitioning. I am reminded how many people are touched by these issues — in big cities or small towns, red state or blue. And I’m grateful to be part of this work.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

On Tour: West Long Branch, NJ

24 Mar

March 6, 2017 | REAL BOY| West Long Branch, NJ

I have been looking forward to the On Screen In Person (OSIP) tour for months, hoping for the opportunity to meaningfully connect with audiences around our film about a young trans man and his given & chosen family. I am traveling with Joe Stevens, one of the film’s protagonists. Joe, a touring musician, is known for his smoky baritone voice and his songs that resonate with deeply universal themes while exploring his identity as a trans man.

Monmouth HS crop 02

This isn’t our first road trip. We traveled together a few times during the making of REAL BOY. Once I joined Joe and the film’s main protagonist Bennett Wallace (and Ben’s dog, Honey) on a road trip from Tucson, AZ to Los Angeles, CA. We all squeezed into a big white conversion van and drove from hot springs to music gigs to sand dunes. Camera in hand, I perched myself between the front seats where Ben & Joe took turns as driver and passenger, storyteller and DJ, and tried to keep the dog from eating my sound gear between bouts of filming.

This time we’re on our way to our first stop on the OSIP tour — West Long Branch, NJ.

In the morning we head to the local high school where we meet with their GSA (gender & sexuality alliance) to talk about REAL BOY and the issues it addresses: gender identity, family support, mentorship, addiction & recovery, and the healing power of the creative arts.


We move to the library to accommodate the group of 20 or so students, eager to talk to us. Like most audiences, they want to know how the main characters in the film are doing now and why I decided to make a film on this topic. But they also have questions that speak to their own experiences as young LGBTQ people (and their allies). “Adults keep saying, ‘It gets better.’ Do you think it really does get better for LGBT people?” “Do you think we’re going forward or backward in terms of LGBT issues?”

Before we know it, the bell rings and the students gather around us to take selfies and have Joe sign their postcards for the film. One of the students tells me it was their first time talking with adult queer people and how important it was for them to see that “there are adults out there that made it far in life.”

Later that evening, we screen REAL BOY at the beautiful Pollak Theater at Monmouth University. The film looks and sounds fantastic in the newly remodeled concert hall. After the screening, Joe plays a few songs for the audience and he is immediately surrounded by newfound fans. A junior at Monmouth University tells us the film was a turning point for him. He has recently come out as trans, but his family back in Queens is not supportive. They still refer to him with female pronouns and use his given name. He doesn’t know any other trans people at Monmouth and has only a few friends he can talk to. Coming out as trans was hard, but it felt right. The film made him feel less alone, he said. A small group of students and community members stayed on to ask questions and tell their own stories. It’s late when we leave the theater, exhausted, but so grateful.

If this is day 1, what’s possible for a month on the road?

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Shaleece Haas

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