Alex Gibson

Trinity Segal with the Boston Girl Guide discusses one of the most important documentaries of the year for the gay/lesbian/transgender community with filmmaker Alex Gibson on her latest project Transgender Teens, which recently aired on the Discovery Health Channel.

BGG: Has your career as a filmmaker been officially launched by the success
of this film?
AG: I have always been working in journalism, mostly as a photo journalist
but this film kind of landed in my lap. Now there's been a lot of talk about it,
a lot of good feedback on wanting to know more about this, so I'm hoping more
projects will come my way.

BGG: Do you have any new projects in the works right now?
AG: We are working on some proposals with the company I worked with on the last film, getting some ideas together. With the Matthew Shepard Foundation I'm also trying to put a book together on homeless queer youth

BGG: Do you intend to make another film on transgender teens?
AG: Probably not unless there was additional funding available. I'm hoping
this film was thorough enough. On the topic of transgender, the company I did
the film with did another show called Sex Change, that dealt more with adults.
It was very informative & educational. As far as another film on transgender
issues? I would like to do one in regards to female-to-male. The interest
doesn't seem to be there from the networks for whatever reasons.

BGG: How has your film been received by networks? Are you finding there is an interest in learning more about transgender and gay communities?
AG: The Discovery Channel was amazing. They really picked up the subject and ran with it. They funded this project and if that wasn't enough, they also did
a webpage dedicated to education. After people saw the film, they could go to
the website for more information on the topic. They don't usually do that.
It's rare that they pick up a topic and put that much effort into educating the
public on a specific show. I was a bit surprised and was very grateful that
they were willing to offer that. I haven't had any problems- you always think
that you will but it was actually a great experience. It ended up being a
really good venture.

BGG: How did you come up with the idea of making this film?
AG: I got the idea from working with kids on the streets but Advanced Medical
Productions actually came to L.A. with the idea. I got set up through the
L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center with the producers. So they had the idea and had
pitched it to Discovery and already had it in the works when I got asked on to the project.

BGG: So the G&L Center brought this opportunity to you?
AG: Yes, the Center is great. I had launched the exhibit I did for the
Matthew Shepard Foundation. The premiere exhibited at the Center and some people there knew of my work. So when the production company came to the Center, I was invited to their meeting because I had worked with the street youth so often. They asked me to come in and give them, well, hints on how to get interviews with these kids. On thing lead to another and I ended up actually doing the film itself.

BGG: What impact do you hope the film will make on people when they see it?
AG: Understanding. Even in our own gay community there is so much
misunderstanding about the transgender population. It's unfortunate you know... here are some amazingly strong individuals who are just trying to be who they are. I hope that with this film that compassion can be brought forth. That an
understanding can happen. I have met some amazing beautiful people and I think that everyone should be given the opportunity to have an understanding of who they are. I'm hoping that is what this film will bring forth - understanding.

BGG: Has the film been well received in the gay community?
AG: It's been received really well. People & friends have had great comments
and even in the straight community I've heard "Wow, these are things I did not
know- I didn't even know what transgender was." Specifically in the gay
community, the response has been great- they've been asking more questions, and wanting to know how they can help or how they can get more information - books to read. Just so they can understand it more in depth. That's always a good sign to me. It means that a seed has been planted.

BGG: What do you think is the most profound thing you learned in making the
AG: Good question- In any project, if you can get a look at your own, like,
vices and you get it. For me the most important thing has been to walk into a
situation and to tell a story as it is. The most profound thing I learned was
about courage. The individuals that I met have an amazing amount of courage. I
was really impacted by that. Even the people that are supporting this
community- it is their courage that I learned about.

BGG: Can you tell us about the making of the film- was the timeline
AG: The project was on a bit of a deadline. I met last Spring with the
production company when they were in the proposal stage. Then in late August they asked me to join the project so we came together to start working. So it
immediately went into two months research; my own research here in L.A. - setting up interviews with organizations, talking to different people about what would be important to cover.Just finding the kids to interview was a huge process. Going out every night to the streets, trying to talk to the girls to build that trust. First it was a lot of research, then prep work trying to get the interviews together and setting things up- you know- 16 hour days (laughs). Up through New Years we were shooting. I'd go up North to visit Katrina, down here spending time with others, just in their daily lives. We were actually shooting two months ago and finished editing a week before it aired!

BGG: That's amazing. It says alot about you to do such great work under
incredible pressure.
AG: You know, if you love what you're doing it's easy to do. This is a topic
I felt was really important. So I dedicated my life to it... I was working
with some really great people and so it was easy to do. When doing things you
love, it's easy to get caught up and lost in it.

BGG: Where was the project filmed?
AG: In Los Angeles, San Francisco, and a little bit in New York. It was done
primarily here in Los Angeles & the Bay Area.

BGG: Has the film been screened or released on the East Coast?
AG: Yeah, it was premiered on the Discovery Health Channel in early June both
on the East & West Coasts. I know we're going to distribute it abroad. If
they have Discovery Health Channel overseas then it was seen there, too (laughs).

BGG: If someone out there is contemplating transgender and is suffering from
the struggle that may come with that decision, do you have any recommendations
on support or resources?
AG: Here in Los Angeles the Children's Hospital has some great programs set
up for teens specifically. They take you in, there is therapy available,
medical assistance. They've done an amazing job with their program. Also the LA Gay & Lesbian Center is a great resource. The Kruks/Tilsner Transitional Living Program for street kids is a great transitional program that helps them get off the streets and get a job, etc.

BGG: Any other specific plans or distribution for Transgender Teens?
AG: We are looking to put it in film festivals, absolutely.

BGG: Were you permanently touched or deeply affected on some sort of personal basis by any events that happened during or around the making of this film?
AG: Watching the transition of Katrina was very powerful for me. She was very
timid when I first met her and she just blossomed like a flower in the short
time that I was able to spend with her. That was such a gift. The second gift
was after the premiere screening, there was a get-together with friends to
watch the film on the airdate.LaVanna, who was featured in the film, had left the screening room early. I didn't know what had happened to her. I caught up with her and she was half way crying. She explained to me "I have never seen myself look so beautiful" - she was so thankful that the film was so positive about the topic of transgenders. Two days later she had given me a call after she just got off the phone with her mother. Her mother had called her right after she saw the film and said "I'm sorry for always calling you the son that wore a dress. I will now call you LaVanna and consider you my daughter." That was something so powerful that really impacted me. The visual media can affect people, even people that are involved in the film itself.

BGG: That certainly conveys hope for those individuals that are out there
that are alienated from their families.
AG: Yes, and the population is quite large although it's very hidden. I hope
the Boston Girl Guide targets a big part of the gay community because I had
found that there are a lot of prejudice in the gay community and that really
surprised me. I think that comes from a lack of knowledge on what this topic
is about. My hope is for people to be open enough to read a book or see a film
to get more information. It's so important because even in our own community we need to try to accept one another as much as we can.

Contact Information:

Alex Gibson

Resource Links:

Transgender youth resource sites

Transgender Forum / Variety of Transgender related information:

Discovery Health Channel Links: