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Somewhere in Between
Sheffield Shorts 2020
Documentary // Queer
Interview with director Kate Reid
Firstly, tell us about the film and what inspired you to make it?
What inspired me to make this film was that I was invited, along with a group of other graduate students, academics, and researchers, to participate in a digital story-telling workshop at Re*Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice at the University of Guelph, Canada. In this three-day workshop, the amazing facilitators at Re*Vision invited the participants to create our own stories that were personally meaningful, which we could then turn into short films. They taught us how to use film-making software to create our films and supported us through the entire process. I’m a professional musician and I had never made a film before but I really wanted to see what I could create! I was inspired to write and produce my short film, “Somewhere in Between” because I had just had gender-affirming top surgery 5 weeks prior to the workshop. The issue of gender identity and expression, and how I came to the decision to have this surgical procedure was still, at the start of the workshop, very much on my mind. I felt so grateful to live in a country where I could access gender-affirming surgery through our health care system. At the same time, I was still in the process of working out exactly how to think about and describe my gender identity to others. I know many others who struggle with this as well. So, it felt pertinent to focus my film on this issue—for myself and perhaps, for other people who might be having the similar questions, thoughts, and feelings about their own gender identities.
Your story is truly inspiring. Did you feel any nerves or apprehension about creating a film with yourself as the subject?
Oh yeah—I felt really nervous about creating this film! And, I feel doubly nervous about putting it on You Tube and talking about it on social media! I remember during the workshop, once I had finished writing the script, I had to begin thinking about what the film was going to look and sound like. I kept going through different options in my head—Would I include a bunch of photos from various moments throughout my life? Would I put any text on the screen? What kind of audio and music might I use? Then, it dawned on me. While narrating the story myself in a voice-over, I needed to walk along a public walkway on campus and slowly take off my winter coat, then my shirt, and then the medical binder (which I still had to wear at that point to keep the recent incisions across my chest well supported) until my chest was completely naked. I say “needed to” because even though I felt entirely anxious about taking off my shirt in public and exposing my body to strangers on campus, I felt this was the only way to visually narrate this story. Walking along a public walkway while telling the story of this surgery and my gender identity would be like taking the audience on the journey with me. But, as someone who has been taught my whole life that my upper body was something to keep covered in public for various reasons, I railed at the thought of revealing my chest in public. It was a completely scary prospect. But I told myself, “This is not about you; this is about the story, and the art.” That’s what helped me come to terms with doing it.
Do you feel that issues surrounding gender identity should be showcased more on screen?
I do believe that issues about gender identity should be showcased on screen more. People in my life kept urging me to tell this story because they felt it was a story that needed to be told. And, I slowly began to realize that maybe they were right. Telling our stories is important. It’s important for our selves, and for others too, in case there are people out there with similar experiences who might see themselves reflected in the stories we tell. And also, we just need more stories that add nuance to all of the incredible stories already floating around us. One of the reasons that it took me so long to get this surgery done—I had been thinking about it for years before I actually went through with it—was because all of the stories I had encountered about people who get top surgery were either about transgender men or people who were transitioning from female to male. Most of these people were also taking testosterone or wanting to take testosterone. But, those stories didn’t match with my story. I didn’t see myself as trans, nor did I use that label to describe myself. I also didn’t want to transition to male or take testosterone. Because of this, I didn’t actually realize I could even get the surgery—not just from a medical perspective but from an embodied perspective! I was the only person I knew who didn’t identify as trans but who wanted top surgery—it didn’t really make sense. Until one day, it did. I could just do it: I could just have the body and the freedom I want and identify how I want. The surgery hasn’t altered my gender identity, rather, it has brought my understanding of my gender into focus for me. I definitely consider myself a transgender person, but I use the word “genderqueer” to describe myself.
What are you working on next? Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
Right now, I hold a post-doctoral research position at York University in Toronto, Canada, where I am part of a study called Connecting Culture and Childhood: Using Musical Arts Programming to Promote Belonging for Young Newcomers in the Greater Toronto Area. This project investigates how participation in the Nai Children’s Choir—a choir for refugee/newcomer children—impacts the lives and well-being of the choir members. Along with being a researcher on that project, I am also starting a new federally-funded songwriting and recording project with some of the choir members where we will be collaborating on composing and recording songs about their lived experience as refugee/newcomer children in Canada. I am also part of a project at the University of Guelph, Canada called, Precarious Inclusion: Studying Ontarian LGBTQ+ Parents' Experiences Childrearing in a Post-Legal Parity Framework, which investigates the inclusion and exclusion experiences of queer parents in the province of Ontario, Canada. In the upcoming phase of this project, we will be helping participants create their own short films at Re*Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice, where I made my film.