Spotlighting Trans Voices

March 31st was International Trans Day of Visibility, and we sat down with graphic artist and UDFF committee member Teddy Brink to talk about their experience as a Trans Man in the arts, allyship, and the important role films play in Trans Rights.

My name is Teddy, I use he/they pronouns and I am Underdog’s graphic designer! 

I was drawn into working for this festival because I believe that everyone, regardless of where they live, their background, or their socio-economic status, deserves the opportunity to showcase their art. Creative industries often have a huge and expensive barrier to entry, and I think we miss out on a lot of talented people and their incredible stories due to that. Coming from a small-town myself, I know what it’s like to be creative and passionate, but not have opportunities to develop and platform those skills. I can relate to it and so I want to help create opportunities for other underdogs out there.

There’s so much info out there on being a good ally, but I think to be a good ally it’s important to not only take the time to listen to trans people, but to fully understand the issues trans people face, and actively speak out against the injustices that are happening. A lot of people think they’re good allies because they take the time to learn pronouns, and maybe know some trans folk, but in this current political climate, it is so important to actually be out there helping Trans people and using your privilege to protect us. Allyship requires being present, using your influence, educating yourself, and being supportive.

We’re seeing a huge rise in transphobia, throughout society and politicians and lawmakers worldwide, and it’s alarming to see so many cis people pay little mind to it. I, and my trans siblings across the globe, are watching our rights be stripped away daily. You cannot be a good ally if you are sitting to the sidelines quietly watching transphobia unfold: call out what you see, reach out to council-members, and support organisations that support the trans community- so many services that you might use and take for granted every day still are inaccessible or unsafe for us. To be a good ally, you must help us work towards a society where Trans people are accepted, supported, and can live safely regardless of their identity.  

Visibility is important for so many reasons: it helps to educate and raise awareness, it helps normalise the Trans experience, and it can help Queer and questioning people find community. I know for a fact younger me would have benefited from seeing Trans people, hearing their stories, and finding my community earlier. Lots of young Queer kids are isolated, which has such a negative impact on their mental health and self-image. Being able to see Trans folks experiencing gender euphoria, reaffirming that things do get better, and having that knowledge of how to find resources is so beneficial: we need more of that. 

It is also important to give visibility to Trans stories because it can help challenge transphobic narratives, and gives agency to Trans people to share the realities of our lives. It’s harder to hate someone you know, and I think that it is so important to have Trans people share their stories and be visible to the wider public, giving less room for harmful misconceptions to take hold. Trans people always have, and always will exist, and it is so important for people to understand that.

Films have always played a role in helping people become more empathetic to other people’s unique experiences: in a film, you’re transported to another time and place, separate from the world we live in. It’s a great way to explore ideas and be introduced to new concepts. I think that films are often one of the first introductions viewers may knowingly have to Trans people. By making Trans experiences visible, we can facilitate understanding, compassion, and challenge misconceptions. When we make Trans experiences visible in film we help to create a safer and more inclusive future for all Trans people.  

Honestly? I hope one day things will be safer, I hope families and friends unconditionally support us, that policymakers stop seeking to harm and delegitimise us, and I hope no Trans person has to feel fear and dread around coming out. I hope we are loved and I hope we are celebrated. I hope we all get to wholeheartedly feel Trans Joy. 

I’ve connected a lot with films that explore masculinity outside of that realm of ‘machoism’ and aggression- films where men are able to be strong but compassionate and kind and emotional. It’s hard becoming more visibly a man, to feel like you need to be perceived a certain way to pass and to distance yourself from femininity to appease the cis-majority. It’s isolating and damaging, because on one hand you know it’s bullshit and rooted in gender-norms, but on the other, if you don’t manage to distance yourself from your past, your identity can be completely invalidated by people. 

Interestingly, I’ve connected a lot more with the film Juno, especially re-watching it since Elliot Page transitioned. It’s always been a favourite of mine, and I’ve always felt connected to it, but re-watching it since we both have come out as trans men, it just hits me in a completely different way. The line where Juno says “I dont know what kind of girl I am” has always been a line to devastate me, even before I knew I was trans (foreshadowing I guess?), but seeing it again after both I and Elliot have started transitioning, and viewing it with that lens just makes me connect with it so much more. I feel a lot for the person I was before I came out, you know I have a lot of love and appreciation for them, and I think this line just manages to make me feel so profoundly. 

Thank you!

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