Dominick Evans: Filmmaking, Disability & Trans Visibility

Dominick Evans: Filmmaking, Disability & Trans Visibility

"I fight for justice because I never want anyone to experience the very painful struggles I have had to endure. I want to make things better for future disabled kids, future generations of trans people, and anyone intersectional, marginalized, or who has otherwise been oppressed."

 

I was excited to interview Dominick because he's an important voice in the trans and disabled communities. He's a filmmaker in New York City working on an intriguing queer film and other interesting projects. Dominick shares about his experience as a disabled, trans man and the visibility and representation of disabled and trans persons on and off screen. I've been learning from Dominick since I started following him on Twitter, and this interview has opened my eyes and ears even wider. Dominick, also, hosts a Twitter chat called #FilmDis, which takes place on Saturday evenings.

You are a film director. What films/shows are you currently working on (and what are they about)?

Yes! I have my BFA in film from Wright State University, a school in the Midwest. I was the first person to complete their production program who uses a wheelchair. This is an incredibly big deal because a lot of disabled students were frustrated at the lack of peer support, which seems to be common in a lot of film schools. Disabled students do not feel welcome or included in many art programs. I know that was a battle that I faced, and I luckily had a few professors strongly in my corner.

However, other disabled students using wheelchairs in the program before me were not able to handle the lack of inclusion, and felt they had no choice but to quit. Nobody should ever feel that way, if they want to be educated in a particular field. They ended up getting film degrees, but not a BFA in production. If they wanted to work in production, which was why they were in the program to begin with, they never should have felt like they had no choice but to quit.

My experience with my peers was a nightmare. Nobody wanted to include me, because of my disability, and film is very collaborative, so I had to find my own crew. I ended up working with a lot of upperclassmen, who were much more willing to look past my disability, and give me a chance to prove I was capable. Without them, I probably would not have made it through the program, and without the strong support of my professors, I probably would have quit from some of the bullying I received. Needless to say, I made it!

I am currently working on a film called Inamorata, which I started working on the script as part of my senior project in 2014.  While I have struggled to find the financing for the film, I feel like it’s one of the most important films I’m going to make. Inamorata Is the story of a same-sex female couple living and loving one another in 1960s suburbia. It explores the idea that women deserve the right to have control and say over their bodies, their sexuality, and the ability to choose to be with who they love. The writer is my film partner, best friend, and girlfriend, Ashtyn Law, who just has this beautiful way of expressing things, and the script is so wonderful. We have a few of the roles cast, and the women have been very devoted to the project, in spite of the problems that have cropped up with getting it made.

I’m also working on a variety of television show pilots, which I’m terribly excited about! I can’t really give details on those projects, but all of our film ideas revolve around marginalized protagonists, and these are stories that weseldom see told. The president of the Academy recently spoke about a lack of inclusion in the film industry, and she mentioned every group who needed more visibility in Hollywood, except for disabled actors and crew members. That was very telling to me, and is part of why I believe disabled actors should have the opportunity to audition for everything I make.

The stories are not necessarily about disability, but disabled people can be gay women, mothers, daughters, lovers, and a lot of the stories we are developing are stories that are universal to the human experience, so we can cast a lot of the actors we don’t see on television. I want to include Native American and indigenous actors, Latinos, people of color, Asians, transgender people, genderqueer people… the world is so diverse, and yet all we see on television and in film is this cookie-cutter ideal that seldom reflects this diversity.

You recently moved to New York (last year?). Was this to pursue your filmmaking career? How is it being in New York and is it helping you find more opportunities for your filmmaking?

I did recently move to New York, and I live in the greater Metro New York area. I really need to be in a place where I have access to the city, because not only is there a much greater talent pool, but also I have access to a greater diversity of crew members. I prefer to work with mostly women and trans people on my film crew, because most film crews are primarily male dominated. Women are just as capable, and I would like to see more diverse film crews, that include crewmembers with disabilities, as well. I just really like collaborating with others who may not have been included like me while in film school. We are unwanted, so we have to stick together!

Unfortunately, New York is also very expensive and it is not very accessible to people with disabilities, so while it is much better for me, career wise, the barriers I face, as a disabled person are also working to hold me back. I have to fight, to even get some of my basic needs met, as someone with complex disability needs, when I would rather be spending time working on film projects!

We definitely need more diverse voices working behind the camera, especially as directors. I'd love to hear you share about why you think this is important and how we can make this happen more. Do you work with diverse people on set?

I kind of already answered this question on a basic level, so let me go into more detail! My first film, trip, a short about a teen mother struggling to choose between a life with her boyfriend, lots of sex, and drugs, and something better for her son, had more women on our crew, than men, and I was very proud of that. It is not always easy to find a lot of women working in the Midwest on film crews, especially handling sound, G&E, and camera. A lot of the keys were in a kind of teaching role, because a lot of women are not often trained in these areas, especially G&E. I also like that there was racial diversity on my set, and at least two people in wheelchairs. My producer/co-editor also has a disability, so it was good to collaborate with her.

It is important to have diverse voices behind the camera, because we bring authenticity to the story that is being told. I seldom see Hollywood getting stories about disability right, and that is because they’re not reaching out to the disabled community or including disabled actors or writers. A lot of them claim we don’t have enough experience to be included, but we cannot get experience if no one will hire us.

The last time SAG did a study on disability was in 2005, and according to the over 1000 SAG actors who identified as having a disability at the time were working, on average, four days a year. That’s not a sustainable career, and many of them mentioned workplace discrimination as a part of the problem. I’m told there are now 2200+ disabled members of SAG, but having worked with many of these actors on initiatives for more inclusion, I know this number (of how many days they work per year) hasn’t changed that much. There are 58 million disabled people in the United States alone, and over 1 billion worldwide. Nobody can tell me that at least a handful are not talented. We rarely see anyone with a disability in film or television, and that’s a huge tragedy.

I see the same thing in the trans community, although our community is a lot smaller than the disability community. Still, we cannot show we have talent if we are not even being allowed to audition, and that’s the reality for many trans and disabled actors. It is even worse for disabled crew members. This is mostly true for those with physically visible disabilities. Those who have invisible disabilities, or not yet visible progressive disabilities, they face a different barrier.  In many instances, they have to live with hiding their disability, for fear they will be fired or not hired again. I know an actress with a progressive physical disability, who is finding it harder to hide her disability, so she told her agent, and was immediately dropped as a client. It is a really terrible thing to have to hide your disability, and it can be very exhausting. It also prevents actors with disabilities from getting workplace accommodations they need. So, less visibly disabled actors are facing their own battles that are equally problematic.

As for how we can make it happen, we need disabled and trans people being included in conversations about how to diversify Hollywood. We need more training for disabled people especially, in film. Disabled people benefit greatly from technology, and the technological advancements of film have really opened up work opportunities for disabled people. I think a lot of disabled people don’t realize this, so I am working to try and change that. Additionally, I am trying to also encourage acting programs to make it clear disabled actors are welcome.

"I also know that disabled people are some of the best problem solvers, because we are living in a world designed for nondisabled people. Our entire lives revolve around problem-solving..."

 

From there, filmmakers need to be willing to include disabled and trans people in their creative endeavors. We have voices that have not been utilized, so we have a unique and fresh perspective, which is something that is currently lacking in Hollywood. I also know that disabled people are some of the best problem solvers, because we are living in a world designed for nondisabled people. Our entire lives revolve around problem-solving.  You need to have people that are great at problem solving on film sets, so filmmakers would be wise to utilize our talents.

I love your website. It's very informative and educational, especially on trans and disability rights and representations in the media. You have a blog post called "Important Tips on How to Portray Disability Accurately in Film." I was wondering if you could share what some of those tips are. Also, how has disability in film and tv been portrayed in the past compared to how it is today?

I find that the more I watch film about disability, the more militant I become in my belief that nondisabled actors should not be portraying disabled characters. People always make a lot of BS comments, when I say this, most of which are inaccurate, such as disabled people don’t have the stamina for long days on film sets (most people call me “severely disabled” but I’ve been known to work for 12 and 14 hour days with little problem), there are not enough of us around, and it’s just acting. However, what we are seeing is the same thing we see with other marginalized groups, such as people of color, and that is performances that rely on harmful physical stereotyping.

The tips I utilize for how to portray disability accurately all rely around including disabled people in various parts of the filmmaking process. I would say the same thing for the trans community. We need to have transgender people telling their stories, acting in stories that feature transgender characters, and working on films they feel strongly represent their values. In the disability community, activists have long utilized the expression Nothing About Us Without Us, but with 25, almost 26, years passing since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, and disabled people still being very discriminated against, often considered the invisible minority, many of us who are activists have shortened it to “Nothing Without Us.” What that means is don’t leave the disability community behind. We are here, and we want to make films or act in films, work on films, edit films, animate films, too!!

When we actually see disability portrayed, the story is always about the disability, and rarely about the person. I am a disabled person. I’m proud to be disabled, even if parts of my disability can be frustrating, at times. Because disabled people are often not included, nondisabled filmmakers do not understand the nuance between making us just people, and acknowledging many of us identify as disabled. For me, my disability is an integral part of my identity, but it’s not the only part of me. So, disability needs to stop being used as a plot device, and start being used as an integral part of identity, much like being gay, trans, or any other identity that helps shape us. *it should be noted, not everyone sees their disability as a part of their identity…there is still a lot of ableism in the world – internal ableism is prevalent. Some people hate being disabled, and their feelings should never be denied. However, I am of the firm belief that the more we integrate disabled people within the media, so they become a normal part of the everyday narrative, and the more we see diverse disability experiences, the more people will be able to accept that disability does not have to be the end of the world. For many of us, we still manage to thrive.

dominick3.jpg

How would you like to see the trans community be better represented onscreen?

The trans community is a little bit different from the disability community in that there is not nearly as many of us. However, in spite of that, we actually have a little bit more visibility than the disability community in Hollywood. This is mainly true for trans women, more specifically this almost always means those who fall under the identity of transsexual women. We owe that in large part to women like Laverne Cox, Angelica Ross, Candis Cayne, Jen Richards, Zackary Drucker, Janet Mock, and yes, even Caitlyn Jenner.

As angry as many trans people are at Cait, there is absolutely no denying that the American people now know the word transgender thanks to her very public transition. Her show has allowed trans activists like Jenny Boylan and Kate Bornstein to share the work they’ve been doing for years and years on a national platform not previously open to trans people. Kate has been doing international advocacy, longer than I’ve been alive, and this is a new audience, often a lot of young people, who have more liberal ideas about gender, and they’re seeing her message for the first time. Of course, we need to move beyond the reality series format.

I was really disappointed that the lead in Transparent is being played by a cisgender man, and while I think the show has given some amazing opportunities to trans actors in secondary roles and trans writers on their writing staff,  I find it hard to forgive this. I really struggle with the idea that it’s okay for a man to play any woman, and a lot of that has to do with male privilege. I don’t think if you have ever experienced male privilege, and lost it, or never had it, and gained it, you can truly comprehend the misogyny against women that is present in our society.

I don’t really experience male privilege that much, because as a person with a physical disability most people kind of ignore that I am even a human being let alone one with a distinct gendered identity. My gender is often rendered invisible because people who look at me often cannot distinguish me from my wheelchair, so even though I usually read as male, I’ve only experienced male privilege a handful of times that I really remember...where it stands out.

The first time, it just absolutely blew my mind. I was being considered for a fraternity in college, who eventually were forced to exclude me, when someone outed me as trans. The scandal of that seemed to have started a national conversation within the fraternity, so they now allow trans male members…a victory for me too late, but I digress. To not have had to feel like I had to explain myself…to just be seen without question and acknowledged and included as “one of the guys…” It was just so overwhelming to experience that. I remember thinking, this is what male privilege is, and it made me want to cry, and also made me sick to my stomach simultaneously. It was on that day that I vowed to fight the status quo, and it strengthened my feminism unequivocally.

Anyway, I don’t think anyone can understand the differences in how men and women are treated, unless they experience it firsthand, regularly. I also think we would be so horrified if a strong cis-female role went to a male actor. Men overwhelmingly receive roles in Hollywood, so taking a role away from a trans actor, who could have shone in this role, it just makes me angry. It is so selfish, and uncalled for. I don’t care if it’s just acting. It’s just not right, and nothing could convince me otherwise.

That being said, I would love to move away from roles that do not stereotype trans characters. I believe including trans writers in the writing rooms of television shows that feature trans characters is imperative. I love Laverne Cox, but some of what OITNB has done truly angers me. In the last season (spoilers!) she is telling her son these horrible things about women that I know a trans woman would never ever say. They are things that kind of reinforce the idea that trans women are just not real women. We need to stop trying to classify who trans women are or aren’t, and just let them start being actual people.

Beyond that, transmen are decidedly absent from inclusion in Hollywood, and that is a travesty. We also only seem to see stories upholding the gender binary, and we know that gender is way more complex than that. We need trans actors in film and television that defy the gender binary. We need stories about people that are gender nonconforming. Trans is an umbrella for more than just transexuality… which is people assigned a male identity at birth who identify as women and vice versa – transsexuality often upholds the gender binary, so there are so many trans stories that go beyond that, which are not being told at all. I would really like to see that change.

Tell me more about why it's problematic for non-disabled persons to play disabled persons and non-trans persons to play trans persons onscreen?

The main problem is that nondisabled actors playing disabled characters relies on harmful physical stereotyping. When nondisabled people are playing disabled roles, they have to show the audience they are disabled, so even if the disability is an invisible disability they take on exaggerated physical actions to represent the role. Their voice, their movements, their reactions, and every other physical aspect of their performance typically becomes overly exaggerated, as if to scream at the audience, “Hey, I’m disabled!!!”

Just think about any actor playing someone who is autistic or has a mental health disability. When we see an actually disabled person portray disabled characters they don’t have to pretend to be disabled. They simply are. They can focus on actually acting as a different person. Instead, nondisabled actors have to not only worry about portraying the character, but also have to make sure they are upholding these negative physical characteristics.

The problem is that this gives audiences the idea that this is what disability is like, and it affects how we’re treated in public. It affects the kind of services we receive. Nondisabled actors can get out of the wheelchairs and move on with their lives, but we, as the disabled community, must live with the negativity developed from their performances. It remains something that continues to affect our lives even after the film is no longer being promoted in the mainstream media.

This is because we are not seeing the true representation of disability. We are seeing what a nondisabled person thinks having a disability is like. I can’t even go out in public without being harassed, and that’s because people only see disability as it is portrayed in the media. I mean, some days I cannot leave my house without people praying over me, touching me without consent, pointing and staring, saying rude things, telling me how sorry they are that I’m alive, and on and on. Imagine how that would change, if disabled people started being included in the narrative of shows, and those stories were not. necessarily about disability. We would begin to ‘normalize’ seeing disabled people, and we would not see these kinds of harmful reactions to disabled people participating in public life.

Disabled people need to be writing disabled characters, at least until Hollywood has a better idea of what actual disability is like, since they seem to get it so terribly wrong, and disabled actors need to be cast in these roles. Ideally, disabled actors will have the opportunity to be cast in roles that have nothing to do with disability. Our lives are not all about our disability. You would never know that from film. We need that nuance. Also, casting directors need to be willing to audition disabled actors, because right now many of them are not even willing to let us into the audition room. Casting roles in non-accessible rooms is not acceptable, and really should be against the ADA, but Hollywood utilizes multiple loopholes to keep disabled actors out.

As for transgender portrayals, I get very angry when people say a man has to play a trans woman, because the story tells of her life before transition. One, not all trans people have physically transitioned. Transitioning is very expensive. Some are in the early stages of transition. Others are never going to transition for a variety of reasons. Any of these people would be perfect for these roles. There needs to be a lot of changes to how transgender is portrayed on screen.

First, as I said above, Hollywood needs to recognize that transsexual stories are not the only trans narratives. Many trans people do not follow the gender binary, they are genderqueer, or they are some other form of gender nonconforming. We only see transsexual stories, and the story often only seem to revolve around the person transitioning.  Like the disability community there is great diversity in our stories, so we need to see more stories about people who just happen to be trans, and fewer stories about trans people.

Second, trans actors are not getting the right to audition for trans roles. A lot of excuses are made for this, and none of them are good enough. We cannot gain experience if we cannot have opportunities. We also see the same problem as nondisabled actors portraying disability, in that non-trans actors again rely on harmful physical stereotyping. I mean, just look at the way Eddie Redmayne attempted to portray femininity in The Danish Girl. I have friends messaging me, saying, we did not know being transgender was a mental illness, to which I reply, its not! But that’s how he portrayed it, and now transgender people are going to have to live with that misconception.

 

"I think if we cast Eddie Redmayne as Peggy Carter or Jessica Jones, people would be rightfully horrified. He would be taking an amazing role away from a wonderful female actor, so why is it okay to do the same thing to a transgender person?"

 

It is also a bad misconception for people with mental health disabilities, because the portrayal reinforces negative stigma against mental health. Both communities are already facing so much stigma, and maybe if they’d hired a trans actor they could’ve told the director that this characterization was actually quite harmful. As someone not trans, Eddie does not know any better, and he thinks he actually was helping us, but just like his performance in The Theory of Everything, it did nothing but hurt the community the film is supposed to represent.

I also don’t understand why people don’t get that trans women are not men. For many, they never felt like men. I think if we cast Eddie Redmayne as Peggy Carter or Jessica Jones, people would be rightfully horrified. He would be taking an amazing role away from a wonderful female actor, so why is it okay to do the same thing to a transgender person?

How can feminism be more intersectional when it comes to including disabled and queer/trans persons? 

Feminists need to acknowledge that intersectionality exists and ensure their feminism is intersectional. I hear constantly that one community ignores intersectional members of said community.  I experience this as a trans quip (queer crip) in both the LGBT and crip communities.

The disability community rejects the fact that I am trans. Not all disabled people are like this, but plenty are. I’m more comfortable with disability activists, who are more likely to understand intersectionality, but I’ve also been called horrible names, usually by disabled men, such as “fag”, “he/she”, “girlie man”, and “freak.” How anyone in the most excluded community on the planet could be so hateful is beyond me. However, it happens! Disabled women will also be exclusionary, however, in my experience, they are less likely to engage in the name-calling, although I have not been immune to that from cis disabled women before, either. I also see a lot of disabled people trying to make the experiences of trans disabled people or disabled POCs, their own. I know many disabled people who will talk about their experiences of intersectional inclusion, and other disabled people will make that experience entirely about them, even when they may not be intersectionally excluded, in the same way. There is not a lot of listening going on, for many in the disability community, and I think we could do better.

In the LGBT community, I have faced far more exclusion for being disabled. When I was in college, we had to have multiple meetings with the LGBT groups disabled people attended, because the disabled students felt excluded. I know some of that was access issues, but ableism is often so prevalent and it is systemic to our culture, that many do not even consider we can participate. I have struggled to find acceptance within the trans community, and I would really like that camaraderie, but I’m really not finding it. This is equal between the trans community and the larger LGBT community. I know it is worse for my LGBT disabled friends who are also people of color. The more systems of oppression we face, the greater our barriers are when it comes to inclusion.

So, if our own communities are not practicing intersectionality, how can we expect anyone beyond those communities to do so? Well, we have to. People need to start thinking beyond themselves if we want the world to get better, and I’m not immune from that. We need to be willing to call ourselves out for our privilege. We also need to be willing to listen to the voices in communities we do not represent. I try to share stories about every person, but when I do so I try not to make them about me. For example, if the story is about a Native American woman, I’m going to try to share that story in her words. I’m going to try to advocate, as an ally, using her own words, and not my own. We all know our own oppression the best, so I want to share these powerful testaments, and make people aware of communities beyond their own, but I also want to respect those individuals, their culture, and their community in doing so.

dominick4.jpg

You call yourself a "crip crusader". Tell me more about what this means and your activism around it. 

The Crip Crusader is my gaming persona. It is a play on the caped crusader, who we all know is Batman. Batman fights for justice for all in a cruel, unforgiving world. I feel like I’m fighting for justice for everyone, not just myself, not just disabled people, not just trans people, but every person. Anyone who has been left out, discriminated against, felt worthless because of how people treat them, or felt like they do not belong…they are who the crip crusader represents.

As a crip crusader, I hope to make the world of disability less invisible. I hope to motivate people to change the way they think about disability, feminism, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, race, culture, and perhaps even religion. Nobody should be judged based on who they are. Nobody should have to be afraid to live their lives authentically. My life, lived authentically, has not come without great sacrifice. I lost family. I lost people who were supposed to be my friends. I’ve been treated horribly, and yet still, I would never want to go back to what life was like before I came out as trans. Nothing, except maybe life with my family (my girlfriend, our son, our shih tzu, Molly, and even my mother in law, brother in law, and nephew), has made me happier than having the ability to transition, and I truly love my life as the trans man I am.

I fight for justice because I never want anyone to experience the very painful struggles I have had to endure. I want to make things better for future disabled kids, future generations of trans people, and anyone intersectional, marginalized, or who has otherwise been oppressed.

Where did you grow up and what was that experience like? 

I was born in Toledo, Ohio, and I grew up in a small suburb known as Walbridge. It was a very small town, surrounded by train tracks and corn. My father was much older when I was born, because we were his second family. I have two older brothers who are 20+ years older than me, and a brother who is two years older than me. I only speak to my very oldest brother, who is the only one to accept me, although we have very different ideas politically! We just never talk about politics!

My dad died when I was 20 years old. I am the baby of the family, and we had a lot of problems. I think I realized he loved me too late, and I do have regrets about that, although we were able to make our peace before he died. I’m almost exclusively Polish because he grew up in Toledo’s old Polish village, which wias segregated from the rest of the city. He grew up speaking Polish, and my family has only been in this country for three generations. My grandfather was born to Polish immigrants, a few years after they came over. I never knew my grandparents because my father was much older when I was born. My grandmother had been dead for years, and my grandfather died when I was 2 ½.  My dad denied us a lot of access to our Polish culture, although he was proudly Polish, and I’ve been rediscovering that as I have studied my genealogy.

I came out as transgender, two years after my dad had died, so he never knew. He knew I was attracted to women predominantly, though I identify as queer/quip, and have had a few relationships with men. I wonder whether he would accept me because my mother does not. She is 12 years younger than my father, so she was in her 30s when I was born. She had expectations on me that I did not fulfill, and that caused a lot of contention between us. I’m very independent, self-sufficient, strong-minded, and strong-willed, and she wanted me to be more compliant, and follow the path she wanted for me, as opposed to making my own.

 

"The last card I received from my grandfather was the first time he called me Dominick. He made it very clear before he died that he accepted me as I am, and that’s probably the happiest most wonderful thing he could have done for me."

 

Her parents helped to raise me, because I was sick a lot growing up, and my parents were both in school, when I was really young. So I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. I was amazingly close to my grandfather, who died a few years ago, and I still miss terribly. He was the kindest, most wonderful man, and I was very lucky to have him in my life. My grandmother had many issues in her life, and I think that affected her a lot. She was very untrustworthy, because her family had lost everything during the Great Depression. She had a really horribly terrible life until she met my grandfather, and I don’t think she was ever completely able to leave that horrible past behind. I did not connect with her as well as my grandfather, and I know that my mother was jealous of that, but I also wonder if my grandmother struggled with that, as well. Still, I have mainly happy memories, of both of my grandparents, and I was very lucky to always be able to count on them.

The last card I received from my grandfather was the first time he called me Dominick. He made it very clear before he died that he accepted me as I am, and that’s probably the happiest most wonderful thing he could have done for me. My mother denied me access to visit him when he was dying and threatened my family from being able to see him if they gave me any updates, on his condition. I was heartbroken, and I still cry when I think about what they put him through. They did not just deny me access to him, but they also denied him access to me. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the cruelty of that. So I just hold on to all the wonderful memories I have of him.

My hometown was very segregated. I had one black friend and one Asian friend growing up, and I could never have come out in that environment. My black friend’s family left when we were in fifth grade, because of the racism. I liked driving my wheelchair around town with my best friend, who was also in a wheelchair, but I did not like that small-town atmosphere where everybody knows your business, and where many people are incredibly judgmental. I was told, probably a decade ago that I had been outed, and it was not safe for me to come home. I don’t consider that place home, and have not for a long time. I was tormented in school for being different, even though I was very smart and did well. I have many happy memories from growing up, but I, also, faced lot of discrimination.

I don’t know if I really feel like I have a hometown, although I have a lot of affection for Michigan, as I lived in Ashtyn’s hometown, right outside Flint, for about eight years. It was a very non-accessible place to live, but there was a lot of great food, and I have some great friends there. My nephew lives there, so in some ways it feels like home. My heart was really torn up by the water crisis  going on there right now, and I’ve been trying to advocate for disabled and trans people in the city, who are not being acknowledged in the media, and may face further barriers to getting clean water.

I also lived in Centerville, Ohio, which I loved, because it is very accessible, and it’s located right outside Dayton, Ohio, which is, surprisingly, very cultural. It is also LGBT friendly, which was also true of Michigan. I really did not experience discrimination for being transgender the same way I did when I lived outside of Toledo. Centerville is the place that feels the most like home. I lived in the Dayton area from 2000 to 2003, and from 2010 to 2015. There’s a convenience to the area, which I don’t find in New York, and it is much cheaper to live there. If only I could blend Dayton with New York! It would be perfect!

I read in your bio that you grew up wanting to sing and act. Do you have any desire for singing or acting now?

I actually was a singer and actor, with about 20 years of vocal and acting training. I was a very distinguished singer trained in opera and Broadway styles, and I performed in many musicals and with Toledo Opera youth. I miss performing, but I love directing more.  I figure that if I really want to perform, I can always cast myself in something. However, I have struggled to regain my voice back since I transitioned. Some people lose their voice forever because of hormones. I just think I need to find mine again. It is really different to sing now, but I do think one day I will sing again, and it will be glorious!

What future film/tv projects do you want to create?

There are so many amazing film projects and television projects I want to work on. Ashtyn and I have a huge folder of ideas, which would be wonderful if even a quarter of them came to fruition. There were so many incredible people in history, and there are so many remarkable stories that need to be told. I wish I could share some of the ideas, because a lot of them are still in the planning stages. However, I know that no matter what we work on, it will include diverse voices, and diverse actors. We want to change the industry, one story at a time, and we really hope we can afford to do that.

Also, Dominick could use our support. He's been stuck in bed and has raised enough money to get him out of bed. However, he needs to raise a few more funds for his wheelchair. If you feel like giving any amount at all, you can do so here. Let's get him back to making important films!

And if you're interested in some educational and interesting reads, check out his site! I eat up his posts like candy!

Questions for Readers!

  • How can we truly be in solidarity and acknowledge all of the intersections that exist like disabled trans folks, like disabled Black women, etc..?
  • How do you notice disabled persons being portrayed and whom they are being played by in film?
  • If you're a filmmaker, do you hire diversity on and off the camera?

Share your answers in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!

>If you enjoyed this post, I'd be grateful if you helped it spread by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!-In Solidarity, Cameron

Khylen Steward: Independent Filmmaker on Her big dreams, Women of Color in Film, & Confidence

Khylen Steward: Independent Filmmaker on Her big dreams, Women of Color in Film, & Confidence

Skye Leigh: Life On the Road

Skye Leigh: Life On the Road