A Straight Parent’s Guide to the Vancouver Queer Film Festival by Michelle Wilson

August 9, 2019

Tonight is opening night of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, which runs in Vancouver August 9 to 19, 2018! And as a parent (and an ally) there is so much to be seen.

Since our daughter, Tru, transitioned from male to female at the tender age of 9, my “hetero” world had opened up to include all the letters in the LGBTQ2+ spectrum, and I couldn’t be happier. But I’ll admit, there is so much to be learned about our daughter, her new life, her new friends, and what we need to do as parents to support her.

The most impactful learning both my husband and I have had has been through stories. Six years ago, while watching a documentary that talked about gender fluid children, our daughter finally found the words to explain how she was feeling and who she was. Film also helped us to put into words both the joy we had in Tru’s newfound identity and the fear we had for her future. It has inspired us to participate in documentaries ourselves and share our own story as a supportive family, in the hopes of encouraging other families to “just love your kids”. And it has shown us a world that our daughter is a part of that is full of life, and love, and endless opportunity for her and all her queer friends.

So, to all my straight friends who are parenting queer kids, here’s your guide to the 2018 Vancouver Queer Film Festival, where you might find your own learnings and insights:

Youth Focussed Films

To begin, I suggest any of the films featured in the RISE: Youth Spotlight collection, which includes films centred around the resilience of queer youth. Saturday Church tells the story of fourteen-year-old Ulysses, an introspective and creative teen who is driven out of his home, finding his way to the Christopher Street Piers where he meets a group of queer and trans youth who introduce him to the drop-in centre known as Saturday Church. Ulysses faces heartbreaking challenges but in this new world, with this new group of friends, he finds ways to stand gloriously in his self-determination.

Another film titled The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows high school senior Cameron Post who is caught in a small town scandal when she’s discovered having a secret relationship with her best friend. Deemed a sinner, Cameron is sent by her conservative aunt and guardian to a Christian conversion therapy camp called Promises. At Promises, Cameron and other queer youth are controlled in every aspect of their lives in an attempt to “correct” their “inappropriate gendered behaviour.” But independent-minded Cameron remains defiant to their efforts to re-educate her.

Shorter Stories (Including Our Family’s Story)

There are also a variety of shorts programs, such as The Coast is Genderqueer which is the first short film program that showcases local transgender, gender fluid, and non-binary stories. You can even see our own family’s story featured here in the documentary Beauty (directed by the amazing Christina Willings), and even meet our awesome daughter Tru at the screening this Friday.

For Troublemakers 3.0. the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Reel Youth, and Love Intersections has gathered a new team of aspiring young filmmakers and experienced “troublemakers” to work together through an eight-session filmmaking program that captured our local queer, trans, and two-spirit histories.

At Love Intersections: New & Retrospective you can join the amazing Jen Sungshine and David Ng of Love Intersections as they premiere their new 6×6 “Finding” short film series with TELUS Storyhive. Topics in this series include: Finding the Origin Story, Finding Queer History, Finding Queer Dance, Finding Queer Disability Language, Finding Queer Sports, and Finding Family & Hope.

Family Focussed

For more of a family focus, Extra Terrestres shares a young woman’s return to her home in Puerto Rico where she plans to come out to her family before her wedding to her chosen life partner. This impressive debut from filmmaker Carla Cavina is at once a lesbian love story, a family drama, and an ode to the magic of the vast and unknowable cosmos.

For More Mature Audiences

For films that are youth-centered but with more mature content, take a look at Debalina’s films, …and the unclaimed and If You Dare Desire, which explores the suicides of two lesbian girls in West Bengal in both documentary and narrative form.

Another film that is more on the serious side, but also tackles familial themes is Call Her Ganda, a documentary that follows a mother, a lawyer and a journalist who all seek justice for a Filipina trans woman who was murdered by a US marine (this was one of Out on Screen’s my favourite films that I have seen from the Festival this year).

So come and join us, come and meet us, and celebrate this beautiful, queer life your kids are a part of!

Special thanks to Ervin Wong from the Out on Screen team for helping to collect these wonderful recommendations.

About the Author

Michelle Wilson (pronouns she, her) is a Board Member for Out On Screen which is the driving force behind the Vancouver Queer Film Festival and the award-winning Out In Schools anti-bullying program.

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