Nearly everyone’s a geek for something, whether or not you’re spending each weekend at cosplay conventions or or giddily scrolling via artwork blogs. However for transgender individuals, geekdom can grow to be a very powerful place of refuge—that’s what director Kevin McCarthy discovered as he embarked upon making his function documentary “TransGeek.”
Undertaken as a collaboration between transgender and cisgender individuals (in addition to geeks of all stripes), the film explores why many geek cultures have turn into a haven for the gender variant—whilst, typically, the larger world’s transphobia still manages to sneak in the back door. And along the best way, “TransGeek” introduces us to most of the transgender pioneers who are pushing the geek worlds forward, from video game designers who are creating numerous avatars past the de facto cis-white-dute-with-a-five-o’clock-shadow-and-a-gun, to science fiction writers who are building new worlds where non-conforming individuals can thrive, to the groundbreaking ladies, males and non-binary people who started all of it. (Do you know that the primary aggressive video gaming champion in america was a trans lady?)
The Midwest premiere of “TransGeek” will kick off the QFest St. Louis movie pageant on April 28. We sat down with director Kevin McCarthy and producer Mallory Anna Wooden (proven in the featured photograph) to geek out about their undertaking.
Guided: St. Louis: Kevin, tell me a bit concerning the genesis of the undertaking and why you determined to strategy this matter as a straight, cisgender man.
Kevin McCarthy: Except for my work as a filmmaker, I work in IT for a small company that does virtual learning environments, and in the course of my job, I observed that there appeared—at the least, what appeared to me—to be a disproportionately giant variety of transgender individuals in the software improvement subject, and especially trans ladies. I assumed that was curious, nevertheless it was just kind of an statement I filed away in the back of my head.
And then I turned associates with Sayer [Johnson, a transgender man and co-producer on “TransGeek”]. He invited me to go camping with him and a few pals a couple of occasions. Ultimately, as we obtained to know one another, Sayer turned interested by what I did for a dwelling, and as I informed him about it, ultimately I discussed this statement I’d had about trans ladies in software program improvement. And Sayer strengthened that statement, saying that most of the transfolk that he knew have been massive players and issues like that, and that it was a subject that was value additional exploration.
It was by means of our friendship, and through talking at church and issues like that, that Sayer encouraged me to go ahead and discover this by means of the medium of a documentary film. At first I was reticent, considering that this was actually not the place of a straight cisgender man to be making a movie about this. However Sayer stated, nicely, granted, but no one else is doing it, and I’ll make some introductions. And I’ll additionally offer you a dope slap if you do one thing stupid.
Guided: Mallory, how did you become involved in the undertaking?
Mallory Anna Wooden: I’ve recognized Kevin kind of my entire life—he’s a family pal—and he and his household have been very supportive of me in my own transition, and just in common. Still, as a trans individual, once you see a cis individual making media in any respect about us, there’s a specific amount of suspicion. There’s a specific amount of, “Oh God, are they going to do it right?” And so regardless that Kevin had all the time been supportive of me, although we’d recognized each other for a very very long time, it began out with me sort of testing the waters. Seeing where the film was going. Seeing the place Kevin’s heart was in it. Seeing what his motivations have been. Slowly coming to belief that this was going to be a bit of media that was going to be respectful, that was going to discover multiple perspectives, that was not going to fall into a number of the widespread tropes and pitfalls and common screw-ups that the majority media about trans individuals, truthfully, does.
That stated, on the end of the day, this venture simply spoke to me. I imply, I’m transgender, and I am a geek; that’s my entry level. It made sense as a part of that tradition and holding that id. And I’ve made the identical statement that Kevin did—there area lot of trans geeks!
This was definitely my first movie, and early on, principally I used to be just type of making sure that Kevin wasn’t going to do anything silly, that the movie was going to go in a very good course and that I trusted the method. And as I really got here to belief it and develop into more interested by it, I invested myself extra heavily in the venture. I ended up doing fairly a little bit of manufacturing work, particularly going by way of interviews and choosing clips and quotes.
KM: Oh, she did an unlimited quantity of labor. Mal went via in all probability a hundred hours of interviews and made alternatives.
Guided: A number of the interview subjects in “TransGeek” speak concerning the importance of avatars each to their geekdom and their discovery of their very own gender id, whether or not that’s creating a character in a video game or writing one in a science fiction novel and even just choosing a handle on an internet message board. When did you understand this was such a standard experience, and why do you assume the avatar is so necessary to trans geeks?
KM: One of many early things that we did through the manufacturing of “TransGeek” was to deliver our production to GamerX, the primary worldwide LGBTQ gamer and comic conference, which was held in San Francisco. As we spoke with individuals there, this was one thing that came up repeatedly.
MW: I feel a thread that runs via much of geekdom—and never simply gaming geeks—is an exploration of alternate selves, alternate realities, alternate contexts, proper? In science fiction, in gaming, even in cosplay, there’s this exploration of id and of with the ability to craft id. To have the ability to categorical it in ways that aren’t out there to you in the world. I feel that’s one thing that resonates for lots of trans individuals, that’s the place the thought of the avatar comes in. Trans individuals are, categorically, to at least one extent or another, denied the power to precise our inside realities by these material methods of oppression. It’s solely natural that the power to discover realities of the self in an expansive means can be engaging to many members of the group.
Guided: How did you determine learn how to outline the bounds of the phrase “geek” in the film? Some of your interview subjects aren’t what everyone would associate with that phrase—in addition to players and techies and science fiction/fantasy fans, you interview experimental sound artists, video artists, even business pilots.
KM: At the very least from my standpoint, I needed to be pretty liberal in letting individuals determine the place or not they contemplate themselves geeks. As a result of particularly these days, we’ve seen some really poisonous gatekeeping around geek id; I really had no curiosity in challenging anyone on their geek cred. If they needed to determine as a geek, they’re a geek.
MW: Absolutely. And especially because most of these challenges to geek id are misogynist challenges; they’re racist challenges, they’re transphobic challenges; these will not be socially decontextualized. It’s not like, “Oh, you haven’t played X number of games, you can’t be a geek.” The gatekeeping may be couched in these terms, but if we’re actual about who’s doing the policing, it’s virtually all the time proper in line with these methods of oppressions.
Guided: Why do you assume that gatekeeping is so persistent, whilst increasingly more numerous individuals turn out to be involved in gatekeeping?
MW: Yeah, so there’s this concept, particularly among straight white cisgender men who’re geeks, that they’re the downtrodden ones, they’re the outsiders. My principle is that folks like this, who’re starting from a place of considerable privilege, when that privilege is challenged in any type—even when simply in the sense that their pursuits are devalued—there’s this violent reactionary backlash, proper? Like,”Properly, now I need to assert my power!” And the very fact is that sort of reassertion of social power is best and most convenient to enact on people who are coming from positions of relatively less privilege in quite a lot of categories.
For example, there’s a shot in the movie of the opening of a famous Dungeons and Dragons shop in England, and the image of it is all younger cisgender white men. As much as science fiction and programming and any of those categories of geekdom can present opportunity for marginalized individuals to seek out respite and group, they’re also really heavily populated and heavily policed by individuals in positions of relative privilege.
KM: I feel it’s arduous for teams that have loved that kind of privilege for therefore lengthy to know that the inclusion of everyone does not necessitate a diminution of their own expertise. You’ll be able to broaden the expertise for everybody, fairly than considering of geekdom as a limited enjoying area that you must divvy as much as increasingly more individuals of different experiences and make your personal plot smaller. To call that a failure of imagination doesn’t do it justice, as a result of it’s not just imagined—there’s a number of real oppression and violence related to [this gatekeeping]—nevertheless it really does come right down to, these are the privileged stories we’ve had, we don’t need to hand over our privilege and we’re going to battle to keep that privilege.
Guided: The movie regularly opens up to a more common discussion of the systemic oppressions that trans individuals face that aren’t exclusive to trans people who are a part of geekdom, whether that’s disparities in well being care, in the workplace or in phrases of the violence enacted towards trans individuals’s bodies. Why did you assume it was necessary to include this stuff in the movie?
KM: I needed to convey the movie into the office and into different spheres of the transgender experience just because … nicely, let’s take simply the workplace as a place to begin. A whole lot of the individuals who we talked to in the film were not only, say, players, but additionally they labored at recreation corporations. Positive, they geeked out about programming, but their day-to-day jobs have been additionally to work as programmers or engineers. Plenty of the individuals in the film, except for their avocation in numerous types of fandom, additionally labored in a STEM-based setting.
Most of the similar problems that we see in geek tradition round, as an example, myths of meritocracy apply as much, if no more, in the office. However the difference between feeling uncomfortable in a web-based recreation and feeling uncomfortable at your workplace could be stark. Yes, each are harassment, sure, both are misogyny, sure, both are a type of violence, but whenever you experience these issues in the office, it’s additionally like, you’re not going to eat due to those issues, too.
MW: I personally struggled with how and the place to incorporate the footage [about the disparities in workplace discrimination and other forms of not-necessarily-geek related oppression that trans people face.] However it felt necessary to deal with the fabric fallout of numerous the extra ideological oppression that we speak about in the film that manifests notably in geek communities. I mean, it was already addressed throughout the movie, however it’s notably stark whenever you take a look at how the so-called “meritocracy” you see in gaming group plays out in the workplace. It’s not just a matter of whether or not you get to play a recreation.
KM: Proper. I had individuals who I met and filmed at TransHack Chicago who contacted me and stated, “Hey, I saw the trailer for the film, it’s awesome, but the problem is, I’m looking for a job right now—could you take me out of the trailer? I’m still on board with the film, but I’m actively interviewing right now.”
Guided: What are your hopes for “TransGeek”? What would you like audiences to go away the theater with? What do you assume the movie might change about our world?
KM: I have hopes for the movie on quite a few levels. I’ve seen a lot of people from outdoors the trans group who’ve seen the movie and have really recognized with individuals in it and have engaged with these subjects in a approach that they haven’t been capable of or weren’t prepared to previously. My favourite a part of these screenings is the discussions afterwards, but going into it, I dreaded these. I dreaded ham-handed questions, ignorant questions, hostile questions … you identify it. However I’ve been pleasantly stunned by how robust the discussions after the screenings have been.
However perhaps extra importantly, there’s a approach in which people in the trans group are seeing themselves in the movie and considering in a different way about their roles in geek culture. They’re seeing tales past easy transition narratives.
MW: Right, yeah. I mean, I didn’t participate in this movie as an activist undertaking, regardless that I do activist work. But if I have a hope for this film, it’s just that trans individuals can see other trans individuals wrestling with the same issues as them, celebrating comparable things, geeking out in comparable methods and geeking out in alternative ways. There isn’t one singular trans group; there’s an enormous variety of trans individuals in the world.
Something that I converse to once I’m interviewed in the movie is the topic of visibility having its advantages and having its drawbacks. For trans individuals, visibility can invite violence. Visibility permits for the potential of being harm for who we’re.
Guided: Or being harm for who you aren’t, proper? So most of the most seen depictions transgender individuals in the media are really vile stereotypes.
M: Completely. Rising up, the depictions of trans people who I noticed in the media have been monsters, murderers, jokes. Completely nothing nuanced. Absolutely nothing complicated. Completely no celebrations of their interests or wishes. We’re used as inventory characters. So to participate in the creation of a bit of media that just exhibits trans individuals for who we are as full individuals—that may have been just sensible for me to see as a toddler. If I have any hope for the film’s influence, it’s that it will possibly do this for someone else.
Editor’s observe: This interview has been edited for readability and length.
The QFest St. Louis film pageant, an occasion from Cinema St. Louis, takes place April 28-Might 2. Ticket prices differ and could also be purchased online right here.
Pictures courtesy of “TransGeek.”