Kimberly Reed: Golden Boy Makes Good

Once a star high school quarterback, transgender lesbian filmmaker Kimberly Reed wants to march in your pride parade and wield her newfound power like Oprah.

BY Brandon Voss

February 26 2010 1:00 PM ET


You speak in the film about how the majority of trans people don’t acknowledge their pre-transition lives, even going so far as to burn childhood photos in some cases. So it’s safe to say that there are very few trans people who would not only attend their high school reunion but also make a documentary about reconciling with that past. Pardon the word choice, but that was pretty ballsy of you, right?
[Laughs] Yeah. And I think part of the audacity to do that involves erasing the issue of me being trans and speaking to human issues that we all have. We all have a history, and we all grow, change, and then have to figure out how to fit back into our families, which causes an enormous amount of tension. On one hand, our film is very specific and unique with a lot of crazy stuff going on — my story and my brother’s story is not typical — but we’ve been taking the film to festivals all over the world, and it’s really cool to see audiences of different cultures and religions connect with a message that isn’t lost on those specifics. There’s a much bigger, more universal story about family.

But because that sort of self-reflection isn’t typical trans behavior, have you gotten any negative feedback from the trans community?
I can honestly say — and I’m knocking on wood here — there has been a flood of e-mail and Facebook messages, and I haven’t gotten a single negative comment. I forward the messages to my mom because they’ve all been so great. A lot of people tell me about how they couldn’t talk to their parents about being trans, but then they watched the film together and now they can talk about it. Somebody even said to me, “You just made life easier to live.” I mean, how can you beat that?

Calpernia Addams, a trans entertainer, has a popular YouTube video called “Bad Questions to Ask a Transsexual,” which details the many taboo topics to avoid when speaking to a trans person. Are there things that one should just never ask you, or do you welcome natural curiosity about your situation?
Both. Curiosity is good, but there are certain things you wouldn’t ask any other stranger you bumped into on the street, so I do draw lines. In general, people put too much emphasis on the surgery — and there are probably multiple surgeries, and it’s not all about the genitals. That’s private. It is odd to have a complete stranger come up and initiate a conversation about your genitals. That’s an awkward position to be in.

You could have used your film as an opportunity to answer a lot of questions people have on the actual transition process, but you skipped over those details.
It was a conscious decision to not get bogged down in that. There are films that do that very well, but there aren’t a lot of films that talk about the post-transition experience, especially a decade later. But that sense of renewal, change, and reinvention is something anyone can relate to on some level. You don’t have to change your sex to reinvent yourself. Some people do it with a haircut or a new pair of socks.

Tags: Film