Posts Tagged ‘gender non-conformity’

Historic Film, Choosing Children, Now Out On DVD!



By | blog, Choosing Children, LGBT

kimandChas1980sWe are fast approaching the 30th anniversary of Choosing Children, GroundSpark’s first film (from back when we used to be called Women’s Educational Media). To celebrate, we are releasing a newly mastered version of this historically significant documentary on DVD.

The DVD also features in-depth interviews with me, Kim Klausner—the co-producer/director of the film, and attorney Donna Hitchens. “The Back Story” explores what we went through in the early 1980s to be able to find the pioneering women who had found ways to become mothers as out lesbians and capture their stories on film.

We are delighted to be able to share this DVD with you, our GroundSpark friends and supporters, before it goes on sale to a wider audience.

cc-cover-watch-trailerIt’s been quite a journey to get to the point where I can actually hold this Choosing Children DVD in my hands. Many years ago we learned that the film storage facility where the original 16mm negative of the film had been housed had gone out of business–without tracking us down to return the master!

That set us off on a quest to preserve the film. First, we were selected by the Women’s Film Preservation Fund of New York Women in Film and Television for a small restoration grant. Then, the Outfest Film Festival Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation decided to fund the complete restoration. Working with the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Legacy Project used one of the last remaining relatively pristine film prints, housed at the Library of Congress, to construct a new 35 mm film print.

In 2010, GroundSpark produced a large benefit screening of Choosing Children in partnership with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, Our Family Coalition, The San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Community Center, Frameline, and the Bay Area chapters of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Dozens of community members made generous donations that enabled us to transfer the new film print into a digital format for DVD. In the last few months, we have worked with Zoetrope Aubry Productions to create a beautiful digital transfer and master the DVD.

Kim and I also sat down on the other side of the camera to be interviewed about our adventures making Choosing Children and the impact of that process on LGBT culture and on our own personal lives. Here’s a little taste of what we are calling the Choosing ChildrenBack Story”, the part where we remember our very first screening, in Boston in December, 1984.

Now, Here’s where you come in! Can you help make sure this important chapter in lesbian feminist history is shared widely? There are many ways to get involved:

  • Order a DVD or stream the film for yourself;
  • If you are affiliated with a college or university ask the media center to order a copy or purchase an educational streaming license;
  • Ask your public library to carry the DVD;
  • Make a gift to help us reach out widely with news about the DVD.

Finally, I want to mark this moment with huge thank yous to many people and organizations that have helped keep Choosing Children in distribution all these years:

  • Margaret Lazarus, who was the executive producer on the film and has distributed it via Cambridge Documentary Films until now;
  • Frameline Distribution, which has also been a distributor;
  • New Day Films, which now has taken over all educational distribution;
  • Sue Chen, who co-produced “The Back Story” with me;
  • All of the original families in Choosing Children, who bravely told their stories back in the day and helped us with the “where are they now” update on the DVD;
  • and Noah Klausner Chasnoff and Oscar Chasnoff Klausner, the two people who were only a dream when Kim and I made Choosing Children but who, today, are the best living proof I can think of that changing the culture so that LGBT people can proudly parent was really a good idea!

Jumping Into the Stream



By | It's Elementary

GroundSpark recently offered a complimentary screening of the educational training version of our film It’s Elementary.

In exchange, we asked that users provide us with a brief description of how they would be putting the film to use. Sifting through the numerous responses, it was invigorating to see the viewer diversity that arose from this opportunity.

Streamers ranged from professors teaching Education courses to the next generation of schoolteachers, to a group of therapists in Sanford, North Carolina learning to work with a student with Gender Identity Disorder, to an art teacher at a San Diego LGBT youth center who hoped to “incorporate art projects expressing the ideas presented in the materials.” We even had a current social studies student write-in to let us know that she was using the film of her own volition to “better prepare [her] for [her] future profession as a social worker.”

Much of the feedback stemmed from expected sources: K-12 teachers, guidance counselors, etc…but I was impressed at the number of educators who were truly going above and beyond for their students’ wellbeing. Teachers in Kent, OH, Washington, DC, Fayetteville, AR and Buffalo, NY planned to stream the film for school administrators, fellow teachers, and PTA meetings to boost understanding of LGBT issues among school staff and parents, while a parent of a gender variant child took the initiative to bring the film to school administrators herself in a proactive attempt to put some LGBT-inclusive curricula in place at her child’s elementary school.

Two individuals stood out who were working not only to educate their students about equality, but also to demonstrate to their students how to teach these concepts to others. In St. Paul Minnesota, Lea Favor, Executive Director of Eco Education planned to use the free stream to train youth leaders to explore “intersecting identities and how this impacts young peoples’ relationship with the environment and each other.” Meanwhile teacher Steven Howell hoped to utilize It’s Elementary to educate his class about sexual minorities, allowing the class to make a presentation on their findings to the school administration “in an attempt to include more anti-bullying lessons into the district’s curriculum.”

In light of this week’s election, some of the issues presented by It’s Elementary over fifteen years ago are suddenly thrust sharply back into the limelight. A Minnesota professor who utilized the free stream for a course he teaches entitled “Working with LGBTQA Families” recognized the immediate urgency surrounding the issue of LGBT rights. “It is a powerful video for students to understand the underlying concepts and dynamics of homophobia and discrimination. This understanding is especially critical at this point as Minnesota votes […] on the Constitutional amendment limiting the freedom to marry.

Among those who responded were professors who questioned whether It’s Elementary would be appropriate to stimulate discussion in a college classroom, or whether the age range of the students in the film would make the subject matter too “young” for students in their late teens and early twenties. We answered these queries, of course, with a resounding “YES, It’s Elementary is for all ages!” but I think this truth becomes still more evident after reading the responses from countless professors who continue to use GroundSpark’s films to great effect in college courses.

It was also enlightening to note the effect shifting technologies have had on the interest in streaming, especially on college campuses. More than one educator noted that they already owned It’s Elementary and had previously used the film in their classes, but that a free stream would be more appropriately tailored to their students’ needs, many of which have “difficulty getting to the library to watch videos.”

Given the scope and variety of the projects paired with the free stream, I was impressed that nearly every one of these responses came from individuals who understood that It’s Elementary isn’t a film one can simply sit back and watch.

“Why Should I Be the One To Leave?”



By | blog, Straightlaced

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is calling donors to say thank you for their gifts. I can’t call everyone, but when someone makes a significant gift that’s a big jump from their previous contributions, I try to be sure to pick up the phone. Last week I called Leslie and David Lagerstrom in Edina, MN. All I knew about them is that they had driven into Minneapolis a couple of years ago to attend the Twin Cities premiere of Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, our documentary about teenagers grappling with pressures to conform to gender norms.

I had to leave a voicemail for them and then received this from Leslie:

Dear Debra,

I tried to return your call but wasn’t able to reach you so I thought I’d drop you an email. You had called to thank my husband and me for our donation to your wonderful organization, which was our pleasure!

You also mentioned that you were curious about our interest in your organization, which I am happy to share. Our 15 year-old son Sam is transgender. Born female, he has told us ever since he could speak that he was really a boy, and when he was 12 years old he began to transition. As you know from your work, life for kids like this is incredibly hard – society seems to have such a hard time grasping this concept and therefore what they do not understand they must persecute.

Sam has experienced so much bullying and rejection over the years, yet he remains strong and true to himself. Quite honestly, I don’t know how he does it. He is an ‘A’ student in one of the best school districts in the nation (Edina, MN). We investigated switching schools when the bullying was at its worst, but when Sam posed the question to us, “…why should I have to be the one to leave?” we decided to allow him to stay put. He is a member of the high school debate team, recently winning the JV State of MN tournament and in the winter he volunteers to teach downhill skiing to developmentally disabled youth. He’s a good kid but it is hard for people to see past the fact that he is transgender. That is why we believe your work is SO important! The more we can educate society about LGBT issues, the more likely we are to reduce and hopefully remove the stigma surrounding these communities. At least this is our hope.

I started a blog last July that chronicles our experience raising Sam – you can find it at www.transparenthood.net.

Keep up the great work at Groundspark! It is appreciated more than you know!

Since we released Straightlaced, we’ve seen more and more parents become visible advocates for their transgender and gender non-conforming children. Sam’s story makes us more determined than ever to get Straightlaced screened in as many high schools as possible this year.

Respect For All News Roundup



By | Latest News

News from around the world that directly connects to the issues GroundSpark works on in our Respect for All Project!
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