Friday, June 16, 2017

REVIEW: Fresno Screening of Raising Zoey

Written by Rocky Walker

June 12th was the Fresno screening of the documentary, "Raising Zoey", directed by Dante Alencastre. This documentary displays the harrowing tale of Zoey Luna , a transgender activist, and her families journey through the treacherous landscape of growing up as a transgender individual in a society that isn't as accepting as it should be.

When she was younger, as young as preschool age, her family knew that she didn't fit the mold of the traditional boy; unbeknownst to them at the time that behavior was because she never really was a boy. Sadly, Zoey's father passed away before she was able to unveil her gender to him. When Zoey finally revealed her true self to her family, her mother Ofelia, her older sister Leticia(Letty), and her older brother Javier, her mother and older sister met her with love and support whilst also fearing for her safety; while her brother was hesitant at first he came around and gave her the love and support she needs and deserves. Although her family was supportive not everybody was, at school she was bullied and isolated because she was "different"; she was treated unfairly not only by her peers but also by the faculty, this even went as far as a teacher calling her "disgusting". 

When Ofelia went to the school to talk about this incident they brought up her daughters behavior and, basically said that she can't be open about her gender or she'd be reprimanded in the form of an expulsion. Ofelia gained the assistance of the ACLU to help her combat the transphobia her daughter was met with. In the end they made the decision for Zoey to change schools, for they thought that it would be the best decision at the time. As Zoey grew older she gained friends along with the confidence she needed to be the energetic extrovert she is. Along her journey she's become a trans activist; with participating in L.A pride and other events for the LGBTQ+ community as well as being a part in the documentary "The T Word" alongside Laverne Cox. She truly has become a role model and inspiration for young transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.

In my opinion, the most important part of this movie is watching a family love and accept their daughter with no shame or apprehensions. The support Zoey gets from her mother is incredible and it's evident in her actions, from getting her daughter hormone treatments to going to groups for parents of transgendered individuals to even cutting people out of their lives for not accepting Zoey, I firmly believe that Ofelia would do anything for her daughter so she is happy with who she is. While coming out can be very hard and isolating it can also be a beautiful metamorphosis into ones true self with a support system like the one we've seen from Zoey's family.

After the screening of the film there was a Q&A with the director himself as well as Zoey Luna and her mother Ofelia:

Zoey has your life changed after making the film, and how are things now for you?

Zoey: My life has been pretty good, definitely changed because now I get to come out here, show my film and get to answer questions and I love doing that and it’s a big part of my career right now, so yeah its been a pretty big change.

My question is for Dante, as we know there are a lot of "Zoey's", so what pushed you to tell her story and work with her specifically?

Dante: Well yes we do have a lot of families that support their transgender and gender nonconforming kids now a days but when I saw Zoey and Ofelia in 2013 at the transgender day of remembrance in West Hollywood I was blown away, not just because of their courage but their was something very close to home, as I tell Ofelia, she reminds me of my mom she was very courageous and would do anything for her kid and I could tell Zoey was very grateful for that.

For Zoey, where do you see yourself in the future?

Zoey: Well I'm writing a film universe with different stories and plan on starting my youtube channel in two years when I'm 18.I definitely plan on getting behind the camera, writing and yeah just wait until I'm 18 and you'll see a whole new side of me.

When you got your first package of hormones what was the effect?

Zoey: I didn’t notice a change immediately except for my mood changed I felt like "yeah I'm a girl and you cant say otherwise".

You talked in the movie about other family members not accepting Zoey has any of that changed since the release of the documentary?

Ofelia: All of the family knew that Zoey was trans but just like most families its "be who you are just don’t show it". So when the transition happened some family members couldn’t deal with it so I got calls where they weren't ready, they could deal with it but not with her presenting herself as who she is . It has gotten better because I got to a point where I didn’t need to explain, be apologetic, or make them comfortable. I didn’t care anymore....this is what its going to be we see them once in a while, and we love all of each other but its on our own terms now.

How did issues of race interplay into your coming out process?

Zoey: Definitely in the Hispanic community I've faced backlash because you're rather macho or feminine and there are a lot of gender roles that are deep-rooted into the culture.

Ofelia: Yeah being Hispanic I was raised a certain way and have a lot of different cultural beliefs so you're taught that theirs either black or white but there isn't ...there's so much more. It was definitely hard to abide against some of my beliefs and my families beliefs so it does play a big role in how you come out with your child because you do have to come out with your child.

Did you feel pressure to be very feminine?

Zoey: In a way, In the beginning I had ,in my own head, the belief that I had to be feminine or people wouldn’t see me as the girl I am...but I've always been very feminine anyways so it hasn't been too much of a problem.

Ofelia: I really don’t think that she had any pressure to be very feminine, that this has been her all along and this is who she's always wanted to be. She used to draw a lot and this beautiful person she's become is who she used to draw when she was younger.

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