Monday, June 18, 2007

San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival Showing

Trained in the Ways of Men showed on June 16th at the Castro Theater. The Castro is a beautifully restored, old fashioned theater. It is truly like the ones I remember when I was a kid. It holds 1400 people. The audience that day was really into the movie. They would clap when something was said that they really agreed with. There was hissing when Michael Magidson (defendant) reads his response to the verdict. “You will never break my spirit”. It is sad to see him unrepentant. You really feel like he is so detached from how people feel about what he did that he still does not think he did anything wrong. I am a believer that people do make mistakes and that they can change, but I don’t see any willingness to change or understanding in Magidson. He is a very dangerous man and needs to remain in jail. Jose Merel on the other hand has expressed remorse. He has apologized to the family and it is obvious that he knows he did something wrong. He needs to pay the price for what he has done but there is hope for him.

There is incredible support for the family and the issues in this movie. I have received hundreds of emails and many festival invites. Sylvia Guerrero, Gwen Araujo’s mother, was at the showing. She was given a standing ovation. In fact at every showing of this movie we have both received standing ovations. The showing was sponsored by the Transgender Law Center and the Community United Against Violence. I thank everyone for their support.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

CJ Pascoe Book: Hey Dude You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

CJ Pascoe Ph.D. spent 18 month of fieldwork in an Alameda County High School to write her book, Hey Dude You’re a Fag. CJ studied the interactions among today’s teens in regard to their gender identity and sexuality. I found this book to be an extraordinarily candid look at how teenagers employ the pejorative use of the term fag to enforce gender stereotypes. It has long been acknowledged that schools have serious issues with homo/transphobia and this book continues to confirm that fact. CJ looks at the deeper root causes as to why youth develop these prejudices and the many examples she uses to underscore her points make for a very good read.

CJ discusses how common high school skits performed in front of the student body reinforces gender stereotypes and homophobia. She relates how subgroups such as the GSA and girls basketball teams reside on different social rungs. She explores the reasons for asymmetry in how lesbians are treat as compared with gay boys.

CJ’s description of the torment that one young boy, Ricky, goes through just because he wants to “dance like a girl” and doesn’t conform to masculine stereotypes, is very reminiscent to what Gwen Araujo had to go through in her high school. Both were called names and bottles, rocks, food, etc were thrown at them. Both were the target of constant harassment and name calling. Both were physically threatened. Both ended up having to leave school functions under the threat of violence. All this happened with little or no teacher intervention. Both left before finishing high school. This is usually the start of a very negative outcome for a young adults. In Araujo’ case it was death.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to have an accurate view of homo/transphobia in high schools today. Click here to order.

I interview CJ Pascoe in my movie. She talks about her research in the Alameda high school she studied and how it applies to the defendants in the case.

PFLAG Friends of Our Children Award

I was very honored to be awarded the Friend of Our Children award from the local Fremont/East Bay Chapter of PFLAG. I have worked with many of the PFLAG members in the Not In Our Town project after Gwen Araujo’ murder. As a result of this effort the City of Newark (where Gwen was murdered) made many modifications to their policies
to be more LGBT friendly. All of the city employees underwent mandatory LGBT training.

PFLAG has also sponsored the International Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial that I organize every year. This memorial helps to raise awareness about the high rate of transgender violence and the lack of resources put towards solving those crimes.

This award means a lot to me. I used to be a youth group leader and was not allowed to teach anymore after I transitioned. I have five kids and five grandchildren. I’ve been a soccer coach for both boys and girls teams. It was a very sad day for me when I was not allowed to this anymore. I redirected my efforts into helping transgender youth. My movie was just one of those efforts.

I was also presented a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition by Pete Stark. Stark has been an active supporter of the LGBT community.
The same night I got my award, Nina Moore, President of the Fremont Board of Education, was also given a Friends of Our Children award. Nina has striven tenaciously and courageously to make both Fremont schools and the entire Fremont community safe and welcoming for all.

Earlier in the year I had spoke at a Fremont school board meeting that Nina was presiding over, in favor of an anti-bully training program the board was considering. Surprisingly, there were many people there that spoke out against the training. I thought to myself, how could anyone not want teachers better trained to handle bulling? Especially, in light of the recent shooting at Vagina Tech. But there were many who spoke out against the training. Apparently, they felt that the anti-bullying would somehow condone homosexuality. Talking with some of the speakers privately, I still wasn’t able to understand their reasoning.

After the award ceremony, many people came up to thank Nina, including myself. As I stood their waiting, I listen to a woman emotionally tell how important her defense of anti-bullying was to her. She conveyed her feelings so strongly that Nina began to cry. We all stood there with tears in our eyes. I know Nina felt how strongly our community feels about her stand against bullying. It was a very special night.

3rd Annual San Francisco Women’s Film Festival

Scarlett Shepard, the executive director of the Women’s Film Festival in San Francisco, invited me to show a trailer of my movie. Scarlett (left) is shown with me, Shelly.
I was honored that I would be asked and I very much wanted to support the festival in any way that I could, so of course I said “Yes”. I didn’t even have a trailer at that time! I was happy that I did agree because it gave me the chance to meet a lot of interesting filmmakers. It also forced me to work on the trailer which I knew that I needed to do. The festival website can be found here.

I got to meet independent film director Guinevere Turner. Guinevere Turner has appeared in many films including Go Fish, Dogma and Chasing Amy. She is also a writer and has worked on the television series, The L Word and the movies American Psycho and The Notorious Bettie Page among others. In the picture to the right Guinevere (left) is shown striking a pose with me(right).
She showed two of her short movies. One entitled “Hung” was about a group of lesbian friends that take a potion that cause them to grow a penis for a day. You can imagine how funny that would be and it was! I’m very interested in movies that cause the audience to step outside their normal roles as men or women. I like movies that make people consider what they might do differently and then asked why don’t they do that anyway. Why does the ownership of a penis give them “permission” to do something they would like to do or experience? We are so very accepting of gender roles even though we claim not to be.

I would encourage people to attend this festival as it brings visibility to many new filmmakers that you may not see in other film festivals. Sadly, the filmmaking industry has a very poor record of inclusiveness for women. Women accounted for only 7% of directors in 2005, representing a decline of 4 percentage points as compared with 11% in 2000. Visit this site for more information women in filmmaking:

At the college that I attend filmmaking classes, I noticed that there were less than 50% women in the class. Maybe somewhere around 25-35% women, depending on the class. This suggests that women, for whatever reasons, do not enroll in film classes at the same rate as men. Maybe it’s because the lack of role models or maybe it’s because of the technical aspects of filmmaking. I’m not sure. Further, as you move into the more advance classes there are even fewer women. This suggests that many are not continuing to completion. How will the future of filmmaking change if we can’t get women through the filmmaking schools? What can schools do to change this trend?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

When should someone disclose?

Gwen felt she was female. The defendants, apparently all heterosexual men, were attracted to her. It is typical for transgender females to date outside the gay community. Gay men, for the most part, are not attracted to females. That is why they are gay. So it is common and usually necessary for transgender females to find their boyfriends in the heterosexual community. Often telling someone that you are transgender will forever change the way they think about you. In the case of a romantic relationship, it could mean breaking up. Very often telling someone means telling everyone in the peer group. This information is so “juicy” that many people can not keep it to themselves. Everyone finds out very quickly. When should a transgender person disclose, if ever, that they are transgender? If they are post operative do they still need too? Should you wait for someone to fall in love with you before you tell them?

Deceit or Authenticity?

Gwen was a pretty, seventeen year old transgender female. She lived that way 24/7 and had been living that way long before meeting the defendants. When the defendants saw her they made assumptions about her anatomy that ultimately turned out to be incorrect. The defense claimed that Gwen deceived them. Was it deceit?

Panic Defense

The heat of passion, manslaughter defense, requires two things. First, the defendant must be provoked by the victim into such a state that they act without reasoning. The second requirement is that a typical member of the community would act similarly. The example given in court was; if a person wearing red were to enter an area control by a gang whose color was blue, and a gang member, in a heat of passion, killed that person it would not be manslaughter. This is because a typical member of the community would not be provoked into a state where they lost control. Yes he was in the heat of passion but was it reasonable to be in that state? The defense was claiming that the typical Alameda County resident could be expected to be in a similar state if they found themselves in that situation. This is sometime known as the "gay panic defense".

Since to reach a verdict all 12 jurist must agree, all that is really needed is one out twelve. That is 8.5%. So would 8.5% of the people of Alameda act that way? The jury in Alameda did not agree with that defense and found the defendants guilty of second degree murder. Unfortunately, the Fresno case was never brought before a jury. Would a typical member of Fresno County acted similar?