New diversity film highlights LGBTQ issues with music

Gregory Garrett, Reporter

A showing of “Real Boy” was held at the Burchfield Penney Art Center Friday, Nov. 18 as part of the Beyond Boundaries: Dare to be Diverse Film Series. Members of the LGBTQ community, parents, and SUNY Buffalo State faculty and students came to show their support.

Dr. Ruth B. Goldman, assistant professor of communication at Buffalo State, put the event together. She spent over 16 years as a freelance film editor, production manager and a line producer, and knew this film was something that everyone needed to see.

“I covered the film,” Goldman said. “I watched it and knew right away that we had to show it. All colleges should watch. It is very honest and very raw. It shows the struggle of both sides and it is very progressive.”

“Real Boy” chronicles the life of 19-year-old Bennett Wallace and his struggle dealing with acceptance as a transgender male. His biggest struggle is trying to gain the support of his family, mainly his mother.

Wallace finds that support in Joe Stevens, another transgender man who has dealt with this adversity in years prior. Stevens is an accomplished musician out of California. His passion for music helps build a mentoring relationship with Wallace, who also aspires to be a musician.

Billy Joel once said that “music in itself is healing, and an expression of humanity. It is something we are all touched by no matter what culture we are from.”

This was evident for both Wallace and Stevens, who used music as an outlet. Their lyrics were spread throughout the documentary, helping to build a connection between peers and family members who failed to understand them.

Their bond grew closer when Stevens invited Wallace to stay in his home for a month to record music and to spend time with his family who was much more supportive than what Wallace was experiencing at home.

At the conclusion of the film, the audience was allowed to ask Goldman and the four panelists that accompanied her questions. Each member of the panel has some sort of involvement with the LGBQT community.

The audience was mainly interested in the opinions of the panelist regarding the film in relevance to their own personal experiences. One of the members is the mother of a transgender son and for his protection, wanted to be identified as Donna L.

Donna L. is the force behind the gay and lesbian youth services for parents of transgender children. When asked about what impact can “Real Boy” have in helping more transgender people tell their story, her response was hopefully they can get past being “stealth.”

“Because of the lack of support, it can be hard to come forward. Some are open and some are stealth. My son is stealth, and I wish for more openness, but it will take some time. It takes time on both sides. I’m just glad my son didn’t give up on me,” Donna L. said.

Muar Delaney, founder of Genesee Valley Gender Variants, said it is also a safety issue.

“People are harmed every day due to being trans. Sometimes that is the overwhelming factor in being stealth,” Delaney said.

“Education is the key,” said Jak Sigrist, senior history major at Buffalo State and secretary of the Buffalo State Pride Alliance. “Being gay or lesbian is more common in mainstream media, and people have very little knowledge of the struggles of a transgender person. We all need to just love and respect one another.”

In lieu of the recent election, questions were raised about new political leaders and their stance against the LGBQT community.

Leonard Mitchell, a transgender male who facilitates the trans wellness groups at the Pride Center of Western New York, said this is all the more reason to fight.

“We are fortunate enough to live in a blue state, and we are very fortunate for the things Governor Cuomo has done, but everyone doesn’t live in New York State. We must keep fighting for everyone on a federal level,” Mitchell said.

“Real Boy” was received well by the audience and panelist. It is the second film directed by Shaleece Haas, filmmaker and multimedia journalist. It has been screened at more than 50 festivals worldwide, receiving 15 awards.

“Real Boy” will be featured on PBS Independent Lens in June 2017.


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