Before I begin let me give some backstory as to who I am: a Transgender Woman. Growing up I always knew myself to be a girl, but I had the world trying to tell me the exact opposite. This creates a lot of inner turmoil in children. Gender can be a very tricky thing, and while being transgender is becoming more accepted, there are still many more steps that need to be taken until trans people feel fully a part of society and not just on the fringe. With building audience empathy and understanding as a goal, I decided to make my Capstone film highlight a transgender experience.
First off, let me explain a few terms that some might not recognize right away. Transgender people do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, whereas cisgender people do identify with their assigned gender at birth. These are two terms that are important to know moving forward — not only in this post but in life as well. We live in a very cisgender-dominated world. Everything we see in popular culture and media fits into the gender binary of cis man and cis woman. What this does is create a lot of self image issues among youth, especially those who question their gender. Gendered advertising is quite literally everywhere. It is the norm in our society, and what we see from the day we are born until we die.
Not only is cisgender considered the norm, but those standards are then placed on transgender people as if they operate under the same way of life. This is known as a cis-normative society. Transgender people that adhere to the cis-normative ideals imposed upon them (passing themselves off as the gender they identify with without question from cis people) are looked at as more “normal,” whereas those that don’t pass do not receive the same luxury. They are looked at as cross dressers or men in dresses. Those who pass also struggle with their cis-normative status because then they live a life of hiding. Being transgender in our society is a real Catch 22.
Constantly trying to appease cisgender people can be tough since many trans people also already deal with body dysphoria. This is when you feel a disconnect between your brain and body and is a serious form of depression and the leading reason for many transgender suicides.
For my Capstone project I wanted to create a music video featuring the music of local Shepherdstown band, Fable Circuit. The video highlights how the simplest of tasks for a cisgender person, getting ready in the morning, can be really debilitating to get through for trans people. Considering I am a transgender woman myself I felt I could accurately represent the experience. (If you would like to watch the video I have provided it below from my Youtube Channel.)
When shooting this music video I didn’t need to worry about audio, as Fable Circuit had already professionally recorded their own EP. I was completely responsible for the visual approach however, and I used a DSLR camera to shoot all of the scenes. The camera quality was amazing and made for some really beautiful shots. After everything was shot, I edited all of the footage in both Adobe Premiere and iMovie on my MacPro laptop. I used Premiere to clip the shots together and sync them with the music, and I used iMovie to edit the lighting and color of the footage.
A lot of the research I explored was of trans women’s role in Hollywood and other forms of media. I wanted to make sure the video was tastefully done with no inappropriate moments. Characters of trans women are often used for comedic relief or they are portrayed as murderous psychopaths. There has been a push for better and more balanced depictions of trans people recently and I made sure to use these examples as a base for what to do. Some influences for me include Ruby Rose, who identifies as non-binary in her Break Free music video, and Hayley Kiyoko’s music video featuring a trans woman out on the town at night.
I wanted to make sure my representation of trans women was one other trans girls could relate to. I also wanted to make sure cisgender people watching could empathize with this girl just trying to get ready. I think I was successful in accomplishing both of those things.
After graduation I plan on continuing my internship with the American Conservation Film Festival finding movies that are made to make a difference in the world, and hopefully start working in the film industry doing that exact same thing. My end career goal is to become a film director but plan on working my way there from wherever I need to start.
If you are interested in seeing anymore of the work I’ve done here at Shepherd University, go check out my online portfolio.