Joe Stevens is a proud trans man, a musician and a subject of “Real Boy.” He is easy to speak with and lots of fun. You should check out the film and concert info below. Stevens talks about the film, transitioning, trans role models and traveling with the show. Check out our interview below.
Info from the “Real Boy” site:
“Real Boy” is an intimate story of a family in transition. As 19-year-old Bennett Wallace navigates early sobriety, late adolescence, and the evolution of his gender identity, his mother makes her own transformation from resistance to acceptance of her trans son. Along the way, both mother and son find support in their communities, reminding us that families are not only given, but chosen.
“Real Boy” is screening this Saturday, May 13th as part of Translations 12th Annual Seattle Transgender Film Festival. Get tickets here. Joe Stevens Live In Concert with special guest Ben Wallace (also from “Real Boy”) will happen right after the screening. You don’t want to miss either event. Concert tickets here.
Translations Film Festival has expanded this year and offers so much more than before. Check out the full schedule of events here. This film festival and many other events year-round are brought to you by Three Dollar Bill Cinema. Check out their site here. If you are a film lover you may even want to look into their volunteer opportunities.
Earle Dutton: How did you end up in the film “Real Boy”?
Joe Stevens: I was down in LA at a conference. There was another guy there which was super rare. I waved at him. It was Ben. He was nineteen and just trying to get his transition started. He wasn’t on hormones yet and struggling with his parents. I just offered to let him come up to Sacramento and stay in my attic with me. He said he played music and his words really spoke to me. I was hoping to help him diffuse the situation at home a bit. We were just doing a house concert at my place and Shaleece Haas happened to be there. She was filming the other guy in the show. She met Ben and I and asked if she could film us a little bit. We really didn’t have any idea where it was gonna go. We started from there, filmed for about four years, and edited for another year. Here we are. It has been quite a ride.
ED: What is your favorite part of “Real Boy”?
JS: I like the fun road trip scenes. I never really get to see that since my whole life is pretty much a road trip. The movie is kind of a time capsule of part of our lives. It was neat to see kind of a synopsis of a period in our lives. It is nice to see Ben’s story and how he evolves. I like how you can see how he starts to really come into his own. You get to watch his mom kind of come around as well.
ED: Do you travel with the show very often?
JS: I have been quite a bit since the beginning of the year. We have been all over. I get to talk to a lot of families, youth, mental health providers and teachers. It is always nice to give a little extra encouragement to young people.
ED: Do you have a favorite memory from the tour so far this year?
JS: Hmmmm, March was just a blur. We did so many events. I think we did twenty events in twenty eight days. Sometimes things just start to blur together. I think talking to the families and young people is really special. I didn’t see any kind of representation of trans folks in the media when I was growing up. I didn’t see any kind of representation of who I was or what I was going through anywhere. I transitioned in my twenties. I think there were some low budget documentaries going around but nothing for youth or anything like that. There was nothing showing a family coming around and accepting or learning. Hearing young people and parents telling their stories in an empowered and compassioned way is really special for me.
ED: Could you tell me a little about the concert you are bringing to the festival?
JS: The show will be really fun. Ben and I will both be there together. He wrote the words but we composed and arranged the music together. We have some great harmonies. It will probably start off with a couple of my tunes then we will play a lot of the music from the film.
ED: How does it feel putting yourself out there on the big screen?
JS: I am kind of used to it with Coyote Grace my last band. There just aren’t that many trans performers so people would just ask us to come speak to groups and universities. I just kind of ended up doing and it getting kind of used to it. This is a film which is a little different. It isn’t just a live show. It seems to bring up good conversations for people. People often thank us for talking about self-harm or addiction. It is not always the pretty stuff that gets talked about.
ED: When was the first time you actually saw a trans person in the media that was impactful for you?
ED: (Laughter) It was on “Jerry Springer.” That was the only representation that I saw of trans people. They barely knew what was going on. I remember one episode very clearly, “This girl fooled her entire school and told them she was a boy and even had a girlfriend.” He was highly likely to be trans. His best friend was on there all mad at him. His girlfriend was on TV crying. I just remember thinking, “what a brave dude.” I decided that was the biggest sh*t show ever and I should never tell anyone about myself ever (Laughter).
I actually lived in Seattle for six years and went to Cornish. I figured out I was trans right after I graduated in 2004. There was a book, “Body Alchemy” by Loren Cameron. It was a photo project of a bunch of different trans guys with before and after pictures. I was just in the right place in my life to even pick it up and look at it. I suppose that was my first positive media exposure to the trans community. I knew instantly what it was. I have a little breakdown. Then, I got started trying to figure how to begin my transition. Back then, there was barely any social media. Somehow, I figured out there was a Yahoo group. I joined it. Someone dropped the name of the one doctor in the city of Seattle who saw all the trans people. I made an appointment without a referral. I just showed up and asked her what I needed to do. It was down in Pike Place Market at the little sliding scale clinic. It was full of homeless people and trans people. You had to pay for everything out of pocket including hormones. Surgery just wasn’t even in our minds that it would ever be covered in any way. This was a long time before Obamacare. That was just the landscape back then.
ED: Who were your first trans role models?
JS: Caitlyn Jenner and Chaz Bono hadn’t come out. I don’t think there was really anyone in my generation that was out at that time. We didn’t really know anyone. The earlier generations, like people that transitioned in the 80s and 90s had Loren Cameron or Max Wolf Valerio. They are all in maybe their fifties now. They went out and wrote books about it. I think they had to go out and get hormones on the street if they couldn’t find a doctor. They used to tell you to move out of town and change your name. You weren’t supposed to come out or even talk to your old friends ever again.