Experiencing Interruptions?

Proper Pronouns

Proper Pronouns tells the story of Dawn as she seeks validation in the pulpit and reconciliation in her marriage, problems she did not face when she was Duane. The film chronicles the emotional journey that four transgender ministers and their spouses are taking as they try to redefine their identities and prove to the Southern community that they belong in the pulpit.

  • Megan Daniels
  • Megan Daniels
  • Manie Robinson
  • Dawn Flynn
    Key Cast
  • Mykal Shannon
    Key Cast
  • Debra Hopkins
    Key Cast
  • Liam Hooper
    Key Cast
  • Megan Daniels
  • Manie Robinson
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 5 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    December 8, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    14,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • OUT at the Movies International LGBTQ Film Festival
    United States
    October 3, 2019
    Work-in-progress screening
    Official Selection
  • Indie Grits Film Festival
    United States
    March 29, 2020
    Official selection
  • New Orleans Documentary Film Festival
    New Orleans
    United States
    October 16, 2020
  • Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

    United States
    October 9, 2020
Distribution Information
  • Video Project
    Country: United States
Director Biography - Megan Daniels

As a documentary photographer and emerging filmmaker, Daniels has carried her passion and curiosity from Upstate New York to South Africa. She has produced several personal photography projects that challenge conventional perspectives on social roles, including the series “Perceptions of Self” that illustrates teenagers’ interpretations of identity. In May 2019, she graduated from Wake Forest University with an MFA in Documentary Filmmaking. Her thesis film, Proper Pronouns, was screened as a work-in-progress at the October 2019 OUT at the Movies International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, NC and was accepted into the 2019 Cucalorus Film Festival. The film is currently in the post-production phase and will be formerly released on January 19th, 2020.

Daniels won multiple National Press Photographer’s Association awards as a staff photographer for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle from 1997 to 2000. She earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Photographic Arts and Sciences from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1997 and a Master of Science degree in Adult and Community College Education from North Carolina State University in 2005.

Daniels was awarded the Nancy Pollack award in 2005 for scholarly research in her thesis project A Picture is Worth a Thousand Negotiated Meanings: Conversations with Women Regarding Credible, Still Photographs. She has taught photography at the Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Friday Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

To say that I learned a lot during the making of this film is an understatement. My first priority, from the very beginning, was to figure out a way to make a film about four courageous, resilient, human beings that did not exploit them; nor did I want it to be another cliche film that invited people in for a good cry and nothing more. But I also needed this film to be tangible proof that audiences and filmmakers can walk away with a new perspective. I experienced a transformation because as a, heterosexual, cisgender person with white skin, I had to turn on a camera and let them tell their stories. No one else, including the filmmaker, should tell them.

Throughout my journey, I listened as Mykal, Debra, Liam, and Dawn talked about marginalization, religious intolerance, sexism, classism, and transphobia in a world where America prides itself in white privilege. This country uses institutional power to enslave people like these four human beings. Although I already knew that their lives are in danger every time they leave their homes, I hadn’t considered that Mykal and Debra have two strikes against them: they are black and transgender living in the Bible Belt. Tolerated acts of violence towards people of color, especially black people, is, unfortunately, all too common. Not only are their lives in jeopardy as trans people in a state where many people proudly wave the Confederate flag, their skin color puts them at risk every time they walk out the door. I, being white, don’t have to worry about violence against my body because I am not black. My personhood and my life are not in jeopardy in the context of simply existing in this world.

I learned that society threatens their self-understanding. They merely want to blend but rather they are forced to live up to the expectations of what are considered “gender roles” and “gender norms” in order to conform to how they are living and perceived. When they transition, they are no longer held hostage by their bodies. Now they are being held hostage in a world where disenfranchisement, oppression, racism, and segregation prohibits them from fulfilling one profound but very deep longing: finding something that matters. In their case, their foundation is scripture and an abiding faith.

Frequently, I found myself in churches; spaces that oftentimes make me cringe. I had been raised Catholic and over time, my priorities changed. I could no longer practice Catholicism; it no longer made sense to me. How could the scripture say “love thy neighbor” but in actuality, we would leave a service and do the exact opposite to people that didn’t “conform” to an interpretation of scripture? If religious bias becomes so deeply rooted in what society deems normative and exclusion becomes the focal point of one’s interpretation of scripture based on that bias, then it ceases to be religion.

For the past three years, I realized that I had not been cringing because of scripture itself. The lessons the ministers focus on is how the Bible specifically talks about inclusion, not exclusion. So I, too, went on a journey.

During their sermons, presentations, and advocacy work, they quoted scripture but they did so in a way that encouraged me to embrace the idea that a lot of people need to believe that someone larger than themselves exists or existed. It helps them make sense of the world around them. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with someone's interpretation of scripture. I could, however, believe in the ministers’ heartfelt words of encouragement, love for humanity and inclusion, compassion for others, and explanation of what the phrase “all are one” actually means. Those concepts I can comprehend; I can accept them and hold them close to my heart. I have a new respect for scripture.

The ministers have proven to me that I no longer need to cringe when I walk into a welcoming space of worship. The interpretations of scripture I once knew as a child are not part of their teachings. I no longer have to dread sitting through a sermon. They loved me enough to share their life journey but also their religious journey. They are not only transgender human beings but also devout, ordained ministers searching for and defining their faith and the deep abiding desire for some sense of connection to something bigger than themselves.

This film is an example of what it means for a person, like myself, to experience transformation. It is also a self-reflexive film that exemplifies the learning process and THAT is exactly why I made it.