On today’s menu, an interview with Caleb Seguin, one of the creators of Youth in Transition, a part of this festival’s “The Queer Kids Are Alright” program. This locally-produced documentary short looks at what it really means to be a transgender youth in our society. Enjoy!
Tell us a little bit about this project. What inspired it?
I can’t take all of the credit for deciding to create a documentary. I was in a video production focus program called Studio LC, and one of the program’s requirements was to create a documentary. Ben Bray and I decided to team up for the project, and it took us a long time to settle on a topic. I guess you could say that the inspiration came from inside both of us. We both felt very strongly about the issue, and agreed that there is not nearly enough media available on the topic. I especially saw the need for more transgender media resources because I discovered a real lack of them when I was searching for support and representation. The project was a small step toward filling that gap – small, but a step none the less.
Caleb, in the film there is discussion about the confusion and discrimination that transgendered people often experience from within the LGBTQ community itself. Can you expand on this?
I think that Kelly Dear really summed it up nicely in her interview in the film. When we began making it, we wanted to emphasize the point that trans people have a completely different set of challenges from LGB people, and that by throwing that T at the end of the acronym, it’s easy to forget the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity. One of the things that really exemplifies the fact that there are differences is the discrimination that exists within the queer community is the transphobia that exists within the community. The issue is that the community is so vast. When you get right down to it, a trans person who identifies as straight has nothing at all in common with a cis-gendered gay person. It is completely possible for neither to understand the other, and as we all know, a lack of understanding is the root of discrimination. The only thing that everyone in the LGBTQ community has in common is the fact that they’re all oppressed – but that has never really made a difference. Just as there are homophobic racial minorities, so too are there transphobic LGB people.
What would you say the biggest challenges were in the making of this film?
I think the biggest challenge was overcoming the obstacles that were created by our very limited resources. There were just the two of us, working on a very tight timeline with no budget and cheap equipment. We faced endless logistical problems and technical difficulties – at one point I lost six hours of editing due to a computer crash. In the end, we couldn’t actually get a lot of the footage we had planned on, which is why we ended up having to use to many stills and stock images. To be honest I would love the chance to do the whole thing over with better equipment and a longer timeline.
What were your hopes and goals in making this film? Did you ever think it would reach such a large audience?
When we first made the film, I never thought I’d see it screened outside of my school. It made it’s first appearance at the presentation night we held for the purpose of screening all of the films made that semester in the Studio LC focus program, however I assumed it would retire after that. I never imagined it could have made it to a film festival. I was shocked and honoured when Reelout requested that I submit my film. It’s far beyond what I had in mind in the very beginning.
There is a section in the movie with quotes from other transgender youth. Where are these from and why did you choose to include them? I got the quotes that appear in the film from an online FtM community called, The Men’s Room. It’s an international community that I found to be an excellent resource whenever I had questions or needed support. A lot of trans-identified youth had shared heart-wrenching stories for the community to read, and I really felt that the powerful words of those youth needed to be heard. I contacted a number of the individuals and explained my project to them, asking if they would mind me using their words in my film. All of them replied that they would love the opportunity to share their stories with a larger audience, and hoped that they could, in some small way, make a difference.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge since making the decision to speak out about your new identity, and the most rewarding aspect of your choice?
I don’t think there’s one challenge that I would consider the biggest. It’s really a whole lot of little ones. My life has just generally gotten a lot more complicated. My ID confuses people. I just got my name legally changed, but the gender marker doesn’t match, so I’m forced to come out to anyone who sees my ID. I’ve had to come out to everyone – my neighbours, my extended family, my piano teacher – everyone. I don’t get to choose who to tell based on how well I think they’ll take it. The worst part is probably the waiting. I started the process of trying to get hormone replacement therapy a year and a half ago, and I’m still waiting. I’m hoping I’ll be able to start before I go to University next year. There have been countless rewarding aspects of my decision to start transitioning. I don’t know how I survived before I came out. I have way more confidence and optimism than ever before. It just feels like a huge relief.
If people could glean only one thing from watching this film, what would you hope it would be?
My hope is that my film will bring the idea of the “trans youth” into reality for viewers – take it from the realm of the abstract and make it real – put a face to it. The film was created for an audience with little to no education on the topic, and so at a queer film festival it will likely seem a bit elementary, but the message, I think, is still the same. My intention was to answer the question, “what is it really like to be transitioning in high school?” I want people to know that parts of it are really tough, but that the others make it all worth it.
Youth in Transition! Catch it Saturday January 29th at 4 p.m in Ellis Auditorium