Just in time for Father’s Day, a spotlight on a project exploring LGBT families through the lens of a filmmaker with a transgender dad.
Growing up in a small conservative Michigan town, Sharon Shattuck had a happy family, but it was different from the others: her father, originally named Michael, is transgender, and renamed herself Trisha. While this led to some anxiety for Shattuck – chiefly because of concerns over what the townsfolk might say – her expectations were upended. In response to this experience and to rhetoric against same-sex marriage rights that questions the validity of anything but heterosexual parents, Shattuck seeks to document the realities of LGBT families in America by offering not only a portrait of Trisha and their relationship, but of other families around the country.
Shattuck is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to support the continued production of the documentary. At the time of this writing, she’s reached a third of her $15,000 goal, and has just two weeks to make the rest, so consider backing the project if you’re interested. About two months ago, the project received prime exposure through a New York Times Op-Doc, NAME CHANGE, which provides additional information.
Based on the strength of the Op-Doc, and the participation of Wicked Delicate Films (whose KING CORN remains one of my favorite docs of recent years), I have high hopes for Shattuck’s project (though I would consider a title change – it sounds very much like a working title at this point). I’m drawn to the exploration of unapologetic, open LGBT lives in non-urban settings, challenging both expectations of where queer people “belong,” and stereotypes of close-minded small-town communities – this aspect of the project, from the interactions between Sharon and Trisha, seems most promising to me. I’m a little wary of the potential of a survey approach to lessen this impact, depending on how many other families are profiled, but it’s a smart filmmaker who is able to recognize how much of a story their subject can sustain; Trisha is engaging, but it’s probably the case that her relatively uneventful story was perfect for the Op-Doc length rather than that of a dedicated feature. Additional profiles should, of course, help to make Shattuck’s larger point that “healthy families” encompass more than one type – a thematic update to Meema Spadola’s 2000 doc OUR HOUSE – but I am curious how she will fold in these additional subjects relative to the story of her own dad.