When I met filmmaker Shaleece Haas, I had recently started my transition and had just moved into an attic in Sacramento, California for the summer. The house I was living in was hosting a show, and I was opening for some of my gender-journeying musical heroes, Eli Conley, Storm Miguel, and Joe Stevens.
Prior to coming out, I had only played my songs in front of an audience a few times- and I mostly panicked and forgot my own words or just felt pretty damn anxious the entire time. When I started transitioning, I still had really bad performance anxiety- which wasn’t made much easier by the oncoming voice-cracks and pimples all over my face. Plus, in the beginning, I was really preoccupied with how I was being perceived by everyone.
But Joe would get on stage with me and talk to the audience so I didn’t have to. He would introduce me on the microphone and tell everyone how great I was and then I would play a song while he would tickle the banjo and sing some harmonies and smile me through the whole thing. He has a way with holding space that is so empowering. Little by little, we began chipping away at my self-doubt. His audiences are really amazing too, and would laugh with me when my voice cracked in the middle of a song or when I couldn’t find the note that I was looking for as my voice was rapidly changing. It was experiences like this that helped me remember that it’s okay to make mistakes and that nobody was expecting perfection from me.
So here we were, at a house show, sharing stories and songs on one fine evening in Sacramento and this woman with a camera approaches Joe and I, and ever so charmingly asks if we would like to be a part of her movie project. I didn’t realize at the time that I was going to become the focus of this film. I had just begun to embrace my identity and was feeling inspired by the support of my community- sharing my transition felt like the right thing to do. Plus, as an artist, I am always looking for more meaningful ways to speak my mind and share my truth.
when I met Shaleece, I hadn’t even chosen my name. I didn’t even feel like a real person.
Sometimes I get nervous when I think back at all the time we have spent together in interviews- because I barely remember anything that I said. But I had this feeling from the beginning that this was all meant to be. My entire life made sense after coming out, everything that had previously felt so heavy and nonsensical now felt meaningful and beautiful. My journey with identity gave me a purpose, and I've been looking for ways to share the understanding that I had cultivated for myself ever since.
So now, Real Boy the Movie is in its final stages of postproduction. I still haven’t seen any of it.
I have no idea what this film is going to look like.
I’m excited for its release because I really believe that it is going to change the way that I see myself
I have put so much of my energy since pursuing transition into learning
how to forget all the bullshit that has made me feel so unloveable
I think that is one of the beautiful things I’ve learned in transition:
I'm delightfully human, and
still growing and learning
And as I keep moving forward, my past continues to make more sense.
My hope is that my introspective nature will inspire other people to look inward, too.
Because when we do, we realize how truly similar we really are.
And when we recognize ourselves in each other,
judgment becomes obsolete.
So, if you haven’t seen the trailer for the film, watch it here.
And when you do, you will see that this has been my path since before I realized that I was on one.