Experiencing Interruptions?

Trans Youth

This feature length documentary trails a handful of young trans Austinites as they forge and fortify their adult identities. In an early scene, Elliot, a youth with choppy green hair, recounts how their father says trans people are ‘destroying the fabric of America.’ In the next scene, holding their phone in a shaking hand, they tell their mother, their father’s voice in the background, that they’re transgender.

While trans identity is more visible than ever — the subject of television shows, talked about in the media, and tied up in controversial legislation — films that take us directly into the lives of trans youth are rare. Trans Youth, by closely following seven different subjects as they navigate both the tumult and the ecstasy of growing up, lets us get to know them as individuals rather than stereotypes.

Filmed over three years, the documentary invites us to travel with our subjects as they grow up. We watch them face up to family judgment, find voice in DIY punk bands, navigate the unknowns of hormone therapy, move through the transitions of top surgery, and do this all with courage. Our subjects speak honestly and directly about their lives. They are articulate, self-aware and not afraid to voice provocative beliefs.

Ursula, a singer and a performer, nodding to the shotgun on her back porch, remembers hating duck hunting when she was a young teen, but liking it because the hunting cabin had cable, and access to the show Queer as Folk. All the youth, like Ursula, are from the South, where expressing themselves as transgender has particular challenges. Some come from small towns that don’t welcome the expression of trans identity. Some are up against the religious beliefs of their families who say they are sinning.

The films subjects have allowed us to film them throughout their journeys towards self expression. We see them vacillate between extremes: from pure bliss—having freedom to talk, dress and love as they are—to navigating a world that can be downright hostile. We are with them as they reveal their identity to mothers and grandmothers, forge new relationships with estranged family members, and embark on the path of college and professional life. By the end of the film, our subjects find their voices. Ursula, celebrated when she’s performing in her punk band, goes even beyond this, towards expression beyond a persona, in a moving poetic tribute to a friend.

Visually, the film incorporates hand-held footage and natural light. There’s an unabashed edginess to some of the subjects, which this film neither exploits nor hides. The primary goal is allowing the raw emotions of the subjects to come through. The music, by Jimmy Spice of Liquid Skulls, is deep and sweet and tinged with a primal longing.

Director Rebecca Adler has a deep interest in coming of age stories - the beauty and intensity and honesty of the transition to adulthood. As a social worker, she’s counseled many trans youth and in this documentary, felt called to further illuminate the piercing emotional intelligence they bring to their own coming out and coming of age.

As Adler documents her subjects without judgment, they are able to drop any pretense. They speak about their lives with an absence of formality or forced expression, which allows the audience to inhabit the distinct world and personalities of each subject. Traveling with these youths as they come into their own is a stirring tribute to the courage it takes to become one's true self.

  • Rebecca Adler
  • Tony Costello
    Little Lions, Song to Song, Loving and Lost Nights
  • John Harold
  • Eric Friend
    Sound Design
    King of the Hill, Hellion, South Park and Slash
  • Joe Malina
    The Happy Poet, Hellion, Chalk and DMT: The Spirit Molecule
  • Julia Halperin
    Consultant Editor
    Now, Forager and La Barracuda
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 24 minutes 5 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 25, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    70,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • aGLIFF
    Austin, Texas
    United States
    September 9, 2017
    World Premiere
    Audience Award for Best Documentary
  • Out on Film
    Atlanta, Georgia
    United States
    October 4, 2017
    Jury award for best Trans film/doc
  • Twist (Seattle queer fest)
    United States
    October 13, 2017
    Northwestern Premiere
  • Transnation
    Los Angeles, CA
    United States
    October 15, 2017
    West Coast Premiere
  • Wicked Queer
    Boston, MA
    United States
    April 19, 2018
  • Kansas City LGBT Film Fest
    Kansas City, Missouri
    United States
    June 27, 2018
    Jury award for best doc
  • Charlotte Reel Out
    Charlotte, NC
    United States
    May 19, 2018
  • San Diego Underground Film Festival
    San Diego, CA
    United States
    August 26, 2018
  • Hill Country Film Festival
    Frederiksburg, Texas
    United States
    April 25, 2019
  • Olympia Film Festival
  • Lone Star Film Festival
Director - Rebecca Adler