For those feeling trapped inside the physical body of the opposite sex, daily life can be wrought with anxiety and fear. But seeing trans stories with happy endings can offer a light at the end of the tunnel.
Narratives of that kind colour the screen in Krow’s TRANSformation, a documentary film by North Vancouver producer and director Gina Hole Lazarowich that had its theatrical premiere in Vancouver on Friday to a sold-out audience at Cineworks. This week, the film will screen for MPs and senators – with an invitation sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – in Ottawa on Thursday. There will be another free screening at Cineworks on Friday, March 31, on the International Trans Day of Visibility.
Krow’s TRANSformation documents the experience of Krow Kian, from his final shoot as a female model to walking the runway for Luis Vuitton at Paris Fashion Week as a trans man.
While the film is getting another push this year, its messages of empathy and hope have been spreading since its initial screening for a private event at Park and Tilford Cinemas in 2019. It opened Vancouver’s Raindance Film Festival, played at The Palm Springs LGBTQ+ Film Festival and won Best Feature Documentary at Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival in Spain. It’s also set to feature on Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment for Pride Month in June.
With trans rights under threat in the U.S. and U.K., the story is even more important today than it was four years ago, says director Lazarowich.
“We made this film as a learning tool,” she said. “What I have found – myself being a heterosexual cisgender woman – it’s speaking to my audience, as well as to the trans [youth]. It is speaking to the heterosexual community that does not understand about what the trans community is going through.
“It’s important to be allies to share this information. All I can do is try to share with my community and say, ‘Here are these brave stories’ … and hopefully they come away with even 10 per cent [more] empathy,” Lazarowich said.
Kas Baker, who grew up in North Vancouver and now lives on the Sunshine Coast, is spotlighted in the film as a friend and mentor figure to Kian. When they first started shooting, Baker had transitioned five years earlier.
Baker said the film being out has shown him the power in being vulnerable and telling a story.
“This documentary, being part of it, having it on OutTV, taking it to different film festivals around the world, the impact is that we’re – bit by bit, interaction by interaction – building a more compassionate, open-minded, society,” he said.
“I’m a pretty shy, reserved person, and I knew my struggle – I went through it quite alone,” Baker continued, adding that he celebrated 13 years since starting his transition on March 19. Being able to do events and see the impact the film has had on other youth and families is not something he would have been able to experience without this platform.
‘I never had anybody to relate to’
When Baker first transitioned, he just wanted to exist in the world as a man.
“I was scared to be who I was, and to own the trans part of me,” he said. “When I went to do this documentary, I said, ‘Yes,’ because I didn’t want anyone to feel the way I felt growing up and going through my transition.”
Being in the film was the first time he spoke through his experience. It was the first time his parents, who Baker said have been supportive throughout his transition, saw the darker aspects of his experience. “They were supporting me in every way they could, but they didn’t know any piece of that, because I was holding onto that.”
In making the choice for his struggle to be visible, it allowed him to become an example for others.
“I’ve lived with so much fear because I never had anybody to relate to, and I didn’t feel like I was safe to be visible in my transness. And through this documentary, I was able to be empowered to own that I’m a very proud trans man,” Baker said.
After screenings of the film, Lazarowich said she’s seen trans and trans-questioning youth with their parents all openly sobbing tears of joy because they’ve witnessed three trans men all with positive outcomes in their lives.
Another group that needs to watch her documentary is politicians, Lazarowich said. In Canada, she wants officials of all stripes to see the film to avoid the current legal push against the trans community that’s going on south of the border.
What’s happening in the U.S. can’t be allowed to happen here, Baker said.
“What’s happening is trans rights are being taken away and stripped, and people’s lives are in danger,” he said. “These are people who are just trying to find peace within themselves.
“Opening up creates the possibility for change, and for, at the very least, a little bit of hesitancy in their regular normal way of thinking, to consider maybe the fact that you shouldn’t revoke trans rights.”
Watch the Krow's TRANSformation trailer