What's it like to grow up trans in the South? BOY MEETS GIRL, a new film from Wolfe Video, attempts to answer that question. The film tells the story of Ricky, a transwoman living and looking for love in a small Kentucky town. Ricky is played by newcomer trans actress Michelle Hendley, with co-star Michael Welch of Twilight fame.
Written and directed by independent filmmaker Eric Schaeffer (If Lucy Fell, Never Again), BOY MEETS GIRL won several awards on the film festival circuit, including Best Feature at the Teaneck International Film Festival and a handful jury awards at FilmOut San Diego, including Best Feature and Best Screenplay.
Without giving too much of the plot away, BOY MEETS GIRL explores the intersecting stories of three twenty-somethings exploring the boundaries of friendship, love, and the connections which can be forged when you step outside your comfort zone.
Schaeffer said, “In making this film, I wanted everyone--regardless of gender (cis or trans) or sexual orientation to have a chance to identify with the film's themes of wanting to be unconditionally loved and accepted for who we are. The message in this film is the same as in all my work: labeling leaves no room for who we really are, or how we really experience life. I think our only chance is to bury those labels forever in favor of a singular new one: human. Hate is easy. The real courage is in love.”
Schaeffer continued, “I’m passionate about breaking the mold of sexual and emotional convention in the pursuit of creating more unity in our increasingly fractured world. Being a ‘straight man,’ albeit one who admits to many things most straight men don’t, and living my life with a colorful spectrum of sexual and emotional tastes, desires and behaviors that don’t always seem to be accepted, I feel a duty to portray characters in my films who, like myself, admit to and accept without condition the parts of themselves and others that can be best described and must start being labeled as one thing and one thing only: human. That is why I make film. That is why was inspired to make this one.”
Schaeffer said BOY MEETS GIRL was a chance to tell a story with a different look and feel than many of his previous films, while still exploring themes important to his life and work. Schaeffer said exploring the experiences of a transwoman in the South is “a very unique lens to look at the issues of people who want to live life really authentically and be accepted and loved for who they are.”
Growing up in New York City, Schaeffer has no personal historical connection to the South. Yet, the time Schaeffer spent in rural Vermont as a youth was eye-opening in its own way. “I got my fair share of being bullied and being snubbed and being disrespected,” Schaeffer explained. “The roots of abuse run deep in all of us – not being accepted and loved for who we are is very hurtful.”
While preparing for filming, Schaeffer traveled the South and researched the experiences of numerous transwomen living there – including Hendley, who he would ultimately approach to star in the film. Schaeffer spoke to several women who reported they had normal upbringings, normal families, and normal communities growing up. Schaeffer said of the South, “It's fair to say there is less acceptance and more bigotry than other parts of America.” He continued, however, “It's completely untrue that it's pervasive. There are small towns completely accepting and loving towards their community.”
Schaeffer said that with BOY MEETS GIRL, “I wanted to unearth and topple as many stereotypes and myths as I could – the geographic myth being one of them.” Schaeffer said that if the story was set in NYC, San Francisco, or LA, there would be a preconception on the part of the audience that the main character is not going to have as challenging a life as growing up in KY, which may or may not be true.
While BOY MEETS GIRL covers the gamut of reactions a newly out (and pre-op) trans person might expect to experience from others, Schaeffer said he didn't set out intending the film to be educational. “I want to help people feel unified as human beings, make us all feel like we have advocates and kindred spirits. Regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, age, or geographic location, that we just feel like one big community. That's what I hope to accomplish.” Schaeffer continued, “Hopefully, the stuff that's educational regarding the transwoman experience comes out organically. It's impossible, unrealistic, or inorganic to tell this particular story without having the conversations [the characters] have around sexuality. It would be conspicuous.”
Schaeffer said he hopes audiences understand this is a film all audiences can identify with, likening it to a modern day fable. “You don't have to be member of the LGBTQ community to identify with this story,” he explained. “It cuts across racial and age lines. It's a timeless love story – that's the point of calling it 'boy meets girl,' the most cliché, familiar term which denotes a heterosexual romance.” Schaeffer said he hopes the film “opens up people's eyes to see that a 'normal' love story can include many different types of people. That's what I hope people take away.”
BOY MEETS GIRL is currently available via VOD and will be available on DVD April 28.
This review was originally published by The Horn on 04/23/2015.