Pink Boy: A Portrait of a Gender-Creative Child
As a gay man, born in a small town in Washington State in the 1960s, I identify with the feeling of growing up different from those around you, and of living in a society that doesn't always understand who you are or why you are that way. Forty years later, growing up gay may be easier in more places in our country, but children who present a gender identity outside of the norm still routinely encounter ignorance and hostility, which is what moved me to make this film.
I started working on Pink Boy four years ago when I began to hear how parents of gender non-conforming or transgender kids are starting to let them “come out” and be themselves at an early age. This inspired me to imagine what it would be like to “never be in the closet,” and to grow up never having to hide your true self from others. What would that generation of children look like? How would it affect other people’s acceptance? Later, a dear friend shared how he is struggling with his own child's gender identity and we have had many conversations about his fears for the child's safety and self-image.
Since then, I have come to know a number of these families around the country and am continually inspired by their bravery. But none more than that of BJ, her then-partner, Sherrie and their child Jessie, the family in my film, living proudly in an extremely conservative part of the country. At the time of filming, Jessie was Jeffrey, a boy who liked to wear dresses and dance in fabulous gowns. Now it’s just Jessie, a transgender girl full-time, and I’m happy to report that she is doing very well.
Filming Pink Boy in a small community south of Tallahassee, Florida, I was surprised and pleased by the level of acceptance that Jessie’s family had found there. I met Butch, one of the friends of the family and a self-proclaimed redneck, who had never met a lesbian couple before, let alone a transgender child, and who had dreams of getting Jessie to wear camo and go hunting with him (probably not going to happen!). I met BJ’s next door neighbor, who was an end-of-times survivalist with machine guns and years worth of canned food, who loved Jessie and thought BJ was a terrific neighbor. The stories went on. This isn’t to say that everyone in the area was accepting, but it seemed to be only the occasional stranger who would ever give them trouble. That was one of the joys of making this film: finding tolerance and understanding in places I wasn’t expecting.