“Trans individuals deserve what all our children do: a chance to be their most realised and  comfortable selves”


Describe your film in three words!  

Trans family hope.  

Could you tell me a little about your background as a filmmaker? What inspired you to get  into film?  

I’ve been an actor for years (including six years in a UK family series in the 90s called Mike And Angelo, and the BBC’s Chelworth) and still love being in front of the camera. But I became  aware of the inevitable: roles for women get fewer as you age and your value as a screen commodity, despite all the advances we’ve made, reduces. I wanted to be creating the stories I wanted to see: to reflect my life and my peers lives, and focus on stories set in surroundings that were significant to me,  in particular, rural Canadian stories, because that’s where I live.  

Could you tell me a little bit about your film?  

Dawn, Her Dad & The Tractor is the story of a young trans woman, who left home at 17. Five years later, she’s returning, after the death of her mom, because she’s promised to try and make peace with her estranged father, and her older sister who has been completely left out of Dawn’s journey. It isn’t a story about physical transition – but about the emotional journey of a family towards acceptance  and understanding, who as they move forward in support of Dawn, pull their community with them. Ultimately it is a joyful, positive film about the value and importance of family and community to trans  individuals. While not autobiographical, it reflects many elements of my family’s experience as my son  transitioned.  

What LGBTQI themes does it tackle?  

This is a film about the value and importance of family to trans individuals. As the mom of a trans man,  I’m interested in the safety, happiness and comfort of my son and his community. There have been  many films about the process of transition, about the position that trans people can be perceived to hold  in society, but few about what they need to succeed: the love and support of a family, and acceptance  and respect of their community. I was interested in reflecting our family’s journey, the complexity and  bumps, but ultimately the joy of recognition. And I wanted to do it in a way that would be accessible to a  wide audience, so families could watch together.  

What inspired you to make this film?  

The experiences of my family as my son transitioned. The necessity for education that became so  apparent and important as we followed my son on this journey. The often sad and occasionally  appalling ignorance and cruelty of people, in positions of power and cultural “relevance” who pronounce  on trans issues when in fact they know nothing at all about what a trans person undertakes and faces.  

What does a screening at BFI Flare mean to you?  

It means so much. This is a huge platform for us at a time when the UK is still very underwhelming in  its support of trans individuals. I believe – as all the letters from trans individuals we’ve received  support – that this film opens the lines of communication. It allows viewers of all ages to begin conversations about what families can do to make sure trans individuals are safe, supported, seen, heard and respected. Dawn is not a sexualised or violent film. There is some implied  violence which in terms of what trans folks actually deal with is very restrained, but this story reveals how opening one’s heart and learning to listen can help others to learn by example and how that  listening can create a safer place, and more joyful existence for trans people.  

In the US, state after state is succumbing to anti-trans legislation – much of which criminalises parents who choose to support their trans children, Around the world there are countries where my child’s life would be in danger. In Canada – a nation recognised for its open and accepting stance on the queer community, my child’s rights were not enshrined in our bill of rights until 2017 when bill C16 was  passed. The UK is struggling with trans legislation and acceptance. I’d like to see politicians viewing  the this story where the trans character lives in a family like theirs; where the protagonist is a victor, not  a victim; where being a trans individual isn’t misunderstood as a lifestyle or any kind of choice.  

The only choice trans individuals have, is to hide, or to step out and inhabit their authentic selves.  BFI Flare is a champion of these sorts of films, committed to changing hearts and minds.  

Who is your favourite LGBTQI on-screen figure, be it a director, an actor or a character?  

Andrew Haigh, British Director. His film 45 Years has been such an inspiration to me. I don’t write many  fan letters, but I wrote him one. I love love love his work.  

What is the importance of LGBTQI representation on-screen? What do you think the industry  could do to improve positive representation?  

The importance is huge. Reflecting the whole world – all skin shades, all genders and gender  preferences – why should we be leaving people out? The industry could work harder at casting queer  folks in queer roles, trans folks in trans roles, encouraging queer and trans writers and directors. We  need to amplify those voices, and build their stories into mainstream media as a matter of course.  

If you could have audiences take one message from your film, what would it be and why?  

That trans individuals deserve what all our children do: a chance to be their most realised and  comfortable selves. To be happy and productive. To be loved and supported. An accepting family  and respectful community can create the security for that to happen, and can be the difference –  literally – between life and death for young trans individuals.  

Finally: what do you think the future of film looks like?  

Oh gosh. Such a huge question with so many answers. I have to start from where loving film started for me: a story told a dark space shared with strangers, encouraging us all to experience cathartic  moments of shared recognition, which now, happens less and less. I feel a certain sadness about the  way filmmakers have to now mostly imagine their stories living on streaming platforms, rather than  those lovely, big, shared spaces, but I know it’s not likely to change back.  

Film reflects and imagines the world. Cinematic stories define our generations, our societies. At this peculiar moment in time, when we’ve all been isolated and afraid, when world peace is  threatened, when trans kids around the world are afraid and hiding, it’s hard to keep a sense of  perspective about the importance of film – where it’s going, and why it matters. But right now, we have  to hold on to hope, and our stories can make a difference. Films can, by encouraging conversation and  reflecting the good, help to create a brighter, kinder future.  For me, that’s the value and the responsibility of film going forward.

DIVA magazine celebrates 28 years in print in 2022. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.