‘It’s a small step... but it’s a step’

Local filmmaker Caleb Seguin balanced roles of interviewee and director while making Youth in Transition, a doc illuminating experiences of trans adolescents

Seguin cites a hope to “put a face to the enigma that is the ‘trans youth’.”
Seguin cites a hope to “put a face to the enigma that is the ‘trans youth’.”
Credit: 
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Reelout’s Queer Video and Film Festival engages viewers each year through showcasing the best and brightest LGBTQ cinematic offerings from around the world. Honouring artists who champion queer film and video and striving to represent 45 to 50 per cent Canadian content, this year’s festival presented 39 regional films. Caleb Seguin’s locally-produced documentary short Youth in Transition explored what it really means to be a transgender youth in our society and took some time to talk to the Journal in light of the festival.

What inspired you to make Youth in Transition?

I think that what inspired me the most was the sheer lack of information available on the topic. I know that when I was finding myself a few years back and trying to figure out where I fit into the scheme of things, I had a lot of questions, and it wasn’t easy to find answers.

The transgender resources available to me were extremely limited, and I had a really hard time finding the representation necessary for me to feel I wasn’t alone. I wanted to do something to help remedy that situation, and being in a film program at school, creating a documentary about my experience seemed like a natural choice. It’s a small step, and I think the world could use a lot more like it, but it’s a step none-the-less.

What was the most rewarding aspect of making the film?

I really enjoyed working with Ben Bray, for example. I’d never worked with him before, and I’m so glad I got a chance to because he’s so incredibly motivated and full of great ideas.

I’m also really glad that I was able to share the incredibly heartbreaking stories of many trans youth who have had to face anger and rejection in their homes. I encountered these youth on an online transgender community, and I felt very strongly that their powerful words needed to be shared with a larger audience.

They were happy to tell their stories in the hopes that they might in some small way make a difference. I think that the most rewarding experience, however, has been screening the film for such a large audience. I never would have imagined that it could have made it this far.

At first, when Reelout asked me to submit my film, I was a little reluctant because I had never intended for the film to be screened outside of my school. I’m so glad that I decided to submit it, because it has been such a fantastic opportunity for me to share my story, and those of all the other trans youth who were kind enough to pass theirs along.

What was the most challenging aspect?

I think that the most challenging part was balancing my dual roles as a director and an interviewee. I tried my best to separate the two as much as I could. When I was being interviewed, I tried to focus on the questions, and answer them honestly, rather than answering them according to what director-me wanted to be said.

When I was in a director role, I tried to step outside of myself and look at things from an unbiased perspective. I tried to direct the film like an observer who was learning along with the audience so that I could cover all of the important education points, and I tried to treat my interview footage just like all of that of the others.

It was really tough to completely remove myself like that, while still putting a great deal of heart into the film. I think that, in the end, it worked out just the way I had intended, and so I must have done something right!

What do you hope viewers take from the film?

My main goal from the start has been to simply put a face to the enigma that is the “trans youth”. I think a lot of people know that such a thing exists, but it’s never been that real for them. I wanted to take that abstract concept and make it into a reality with a face and a name and a story.

I know that when I was looking for resources when I was first discovering myself, I found that the most valuable resource of all was representation. It made a world of difference just to know that there were others just like me. It lifts away that feeling of loneliness, and that feeling that there is somehow something wrong with you.

I hope that my film can get people thinking and talking about gender and bring these concepts out of the shadows and into the mainstream, where they are accessible to everyone.

What has been your favourite part of Reelout?

I can’t really say I have a favourite part so far … The festival is only half over. I’ve been volunteering at the festival for three years now, and I really love helping to make the festival a success. I’ve seen countless films, and I hope to see many more down the road.

Each year I’ve been getting more and more involved, and this year I was able to work as a programmer and help to select films to be played during the festival. It’s really tough to say what my favourite part is because to be perfectly honest, my two greatest passions are Queer issues and film. For me, Reelout is like a magical dream come true. There isn’t a single part of it that I don’t love.

What do you feel the festival brings to the community?

I think that the festival is a wonderful asset to the community. I love that we live in a city that embraces diversity so much, especially considering Kingston’s size. What’s great about the festival is that it’s so accessible. You don’t have to be a dedicated gay rights activist to go and watch a movie.

Reelout is different from many other Queer-related events because it reaches beyond the queer community and welcomes everyone to come and learn and have a great time doing it. Within the queer community itself, Reelout helps to create an incredible sense of support and belonging.

Most people are really starved of queer media, and that lack of representation really starts to wear you down. An event like this does wonders to remedy that.

Any future filmmaking plans?

At the moment I’m just writing scripts for a local independent film production company, but down the road, once I have the resources, I would like to make a follow-up to the first film.

I made Youth In Transition just after I had come out, and a lot has changed since then. Many of the things I said in interviews aren’t true anymore, and as time goes on, more and more things will change. I would really like to make a second film in the future to document how things were and how they have evolved.

Perhaps in the distant future, after I have completely transitioned, I might make a third so that viewers can see the entire journey from start to finish. I know that something like that would have been extremely helpful to me when I was doing research a few years back, and I would love to be able to create a great resource like this.

What are you most looking forward to in 2011?

2011 is a big year for me. I’ll be graduating this year, and going to university. I’m extremely excited to be moving out and starting a new life for myself, and I’ve been looking forward to university practically since the day I first learned what it was.

I know that I’m about to take my life in a brand new direction, and I’m waiting to see what direction that will be. In terms of my transition, it’s a big year too. If all goes as planned, I will be starting hormone replacement therapy this year, which is something I’ve been working towards for almost two years.

I’m excited and optimistic about my future, even though I have no clue what it might look like. I’ll just have to keep moving forward and find out.

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