Wren Warner started out to make Transpass in order to advance a very specific goal: to influence SEPTA to remove gender stickers from their transit passes. But just as Warner was finalizing the edit on the 16-minute short, the issue at the heart of this issue doc was resolved: in April, SEPTA announced their intention to do away with the stickers in 2013.
“At that point it became more of a piece to educate folks, not to educate SEPTA,” Warner says. “Now I’m trying to get it out to festivals to spread the word about trans issues.”
Regardless of the fact that it became the rare propaganda piece whose goal was achieved before it was ever screened, Transpass nevertheless raises important points around the public perception of transgender people. The interviewees, mostly from the ranks of Riders Against Gender Exclusion (RAGE), all share stories about their mistreatment and, in many cases, public humiliation at the hands of public-transit employees — ridicule that spreads from drivers to passengers and, at times, turns life-threatening.
Such incidents offer proof that, beyond the seemingly solved problem of forcing riders to identify by gender, sensitivity continues to be an issue. According to Joe Ippolito, chair of the Gender Reel Festival, films like Transpass and others that will screen this weekend can help to remedy that.
“It’s a local film about a local issue, but I think it speaks to an issue that’s broad enough for anyone who lives in any city to relate to,” Ippolito says. “It’s a good example of a grassroots film created by local people taking an issue that’s pertinent to the transgender community and doing something to create some change.”
This year marks the second iteration of the weekend-long multimedia festival, which presents film, visual art, workshops and performance art by and about gender non-conforming and transgender artists and issues. This edition will feature 20 films, including award-winning doc Trans; performance artists like Ignacio Rivera and Radium Angels; workshops and panel discussions on filmmaking, writing and painting; a free art exhibition co-sponsored by the William Way Community Center ’s LGBTQ Art Gallery; and the MixTape surgery fundraising party, co-sponsored by BLITZ.
Gender Reel was initially conceived, Ippolito explains, as a response to the lack of transgender representation in more mainstream festivals. That has changed somewhat, — in fact, Transpass premiered at this year’s QFest — but Ippolito insists the festival will continue to evolve to provide an important forum for such ideas.
“Gender non-conforming filmmakers and artists are definitely underrepresented in the media and in society in general,” Warner says, echoing the continued necessity for such an event. “So it’s important to have these types of festivals. I think it’s a great way to spread information about these types of issues and have different folks’ stories told.”
Fri.-Sun., Sept. 7-9, $10-$20, William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce St., genderreelfest.com.