While the trans* community is getting a plethora of much-needed exposure, this isn’t to say that advocates haven’t been long at work in developing exposure. This includes the country’s only coast-to-coast festival dedicated to trans* film and performance, Gender Reel Film Festival, which has a home right here in Long Beach—thanks to the auspices of husband and husband team Leeroy Joyce and Darby Darling.
For Jeff Slayton, dancing was an escape. As he moved about the stage, he could forget how his father had touched him the night before. He could forget the feeling of his mother's cold hand slapping him across the face. He could forget about his homosexuality not being accepted and the girlfriend he used as a cover-up. He could forget about everything. Slayton, a Long Beach resident and retired Cal State Long Beach dance professor, documents his life struggles in his powerful autobiography, Dancing Toward Sanity, which was released earlier this year.
The Long Beach premiere of Blackbird at next weekend’s QFilms brings what is arguably the film with the most star power on the roster in the festival, with Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington headlining the film. But far more important than the stars is the film’s tackling of two contentious subjects—sexuality and Baptist Christianity—and its tale of identity and family. Throw in child abduction, teen sex, underage pregnancy, parental splits, and Southern woes'n'laughs and you’ll have a glimpse of the complexity of the story director Patrik-Ian Polk is trying to tell.