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Film and panel discussion highlight transgender experience in Colorado

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DENVER — As dozens of states pass anti-transgender legislation and local school boards in Colorado pass policies harmful to transgender youth, local Black, queer filmmaker Ebonie Boneé Coleman released a film highlighting transgender voices around Colorado. The film screening was followed by a discussion moderated by Rocky Mountain PBS with Coleman and two of the film’s subjects: Al Melton and Stoney Roberts.

Melton, who is a transgender man, is the director at the Trinidad History Museum in Trinidad, Colo. Roberts is non-binary and works as the southern Colorado field organizer with One Colorado, a statewide LGBTQ agency.

Coleman’s film explored what it means to be “visible,” ahead of International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31.

“It’s so inspiring and it inspires me to move throughout my own daily trials and tribulations,” Coleman said. “What it means to hold space for all of us and to have that understanding and to have that patience.”

In the panel discussion, audience members asked about how to be supportive parents to transgender kids, what true “allyship” looks like and how transgender community members find joy in a gruesome world.

One of the most important factions of the transgender experience, panelists said, is finding community. For many, especially those who live in smaller, more rural areas, communities can be online forums, social media groups or traveling to places with more resources.

“The most incredible thing for me is being able to meet and be around other trans folks,” Melton said. “When I started this journey, I felt completely alone, and being able to talk to someone has been great.”

Though it may seem surprising, Melton said he has found a community on Reddit, with many parents of transgender kids seeking advice in the online channel.

“I’m lucky to live in a place where trans folks existing isn’t anything new,” Melton said. “But working with youth, there are definitely more kids who are testing out pronouns and identity and getting excited about seeing non-binary characters in their favorite TV show. To me, that’s an incredible thing.”

As more movies and television shows display transgender characters, Roberts said they wish they had such representation when they were a child, but are hopeful for the next generation of LGBTQ children who will grow up seeing characters like them on screen.

“Sometimes, when I hear about trans representation, it’s always a warm feeling. More representation is a good thing and I’m happy about it,” Roberts said. “My inner child is like ‘that’s amazing.’”

In discussions on how parents can best support their transgender children, panelists agreed: more love, less judgment.

“Affirming your child with whatever that looks like,” Roberts said. “Take whatever steps are necessary and right for your family and your child. Nobody is able to tell you how to do that.”

Though panelists agreed decisions should be led by parents and children, seeking professional help and advice from other transgender people can be beneficial.

“More often than not, community is where you’re going to find your resources and your answers,” Roberts said. 

In approaching transgender people for advice, Melton emphasized the need to be genuine and not make the transgender person feel used, especially in discussing potentially heavy topics.

“If you’re coming to a trans person for feedback or if you want them to help with something, really ask yourself why and how you’re going to use that,” Melton said. “Be genuine and be authentic with us. I have to know that this isn’t performative, that there isn’t an ulterior motive and that you’re going to have to listen and learn from it.”


Alison Berg is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS and can be reached at alisonberg@rmpbs.org.

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