'Real Boy': ASU's Project Humanities to screen film on gender identity

A discussion of transgender and gender-nonconforming issues will follow a screening of the PBS documentary at Changing Hands Bookstore

98,146. That was the reported population of all undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at ASU for the fall 2016 semester and with great population comes great diversity. ASU’s Project Humanities is designed to help address this diversity not only at ASU, but in its surrounding communities and their latest film screening will do just that.

Project Humanities will be screening a new PBS documentary, “Real Boy,” at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix on Tuesday, along with a discussion of the film as well as transgender and gender-nonconforming issues.

Project Humanities was started five years ago at the request of ASU President Michael Crow to create more interest in humanities for students during a time when they were fleeing from humanities.

“Our mission is to bring people together to talk, listen and connect,” Neal Lester, director of Project Humanities, said. “We do that in a variety of ways with lectures, keynotes, workshops, symposia, film screenings… Whatever we can do to bring individuals, communities, generations, professions [and] disciplines together who ordinarily wouldn’t come together to have these difficult conversations.”

The upcoming screening of “Real Boy,” a documentary film about a family in transition as 19-year-old Bennett Wallace goes through early sobriety, late adolescence and coming into his gender identity, will be the last screening of the spring season Lester said.

Lester said this screening is one of several that PBS sends them to preview to gain feedback before they are on TV.

“This is our second year participating as a PBS partner,” he said. “This is one topic in a range of topics that are offered through the [Independent Lens] series, and then we bring people together, we identify individuals who can speak with more expertise than the typical lay person, we see the film then have a conversation about it and then we offer feedback that we send back to PBS.”

Because the screening is at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix, books from the store will be pulled that offer more information on these topics, Lester said.

Screenings also feature speakers who are able to speak more to the topic of the screening and offer resources to people who may want to learn more after the screening. One of those speakers who will be in attendance at the screening is a Professor of Justice and Social Inquiry at the School of Social Transformation, Madelaine Adelman.

In an email interview with Adelman, she said that this will be the first Project Humanities screening she’s attended. She said she anticipates that this film will allow people to experience the life of someone else who is seeking to become their whole self.

“This is something we all do in one way or another,” Adelman said. “This particular story focuses on confirming your gender identity. So the story will offer a universal narrative about authenticity and self-acceptance, but it also will illustrate how gender is unique for each person.”

Along with being a professor of Justice and Social Inquiry, her research focuses on law and society, gender violence, schooling, social movements and institutional change. She is also a founder of the local chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) who seek to create safe and respectful K-12 schools for all.

“The screening will include a post-film discussion during which I will share information about local resources, the latest GLSEN National School Climate Survey findings, and recommended interventions,” Adelman said. “People may have questions about how what it means to be trans or gender non-conforming or how to be a supportive friend or family member to a person who is trans or gender non-conforming.”

Adelman said that this is a great opportunity to discuss what she knows and address community member’s questions about the topic. She also said that she likes the format of an event such as this.

“I love going to the movies, and bookstores are my favorite place to visit, so I am grateful that we have stores like Changing Hands, and programs like Project Humanities at ASU, that bring film and books together,” she said.

Brandon Stout, director of marketing for Changing Hands Bookstores, said they used to have their own movie screenings that covered a wide range of topics mostly relating to social justice issues. He said that being a part of these conversations is one of Changing Hands' responsibilities as a community leader.

"As a 40-year leader in the community, one of the leaders in the community I should say, we long ago decided that when you need to speak you need to speak," Stout said. "Does it help? I can't say. Do we have to do it? Absolutely."

Lester said that although this screening is unique, Project Humanities has done screenings like this before as well and that they are very proud to do these engagements.

“We’re very honored because we’re one of 75 selected across the country to do these kinds of community conversations,” he said. “We hope that we’ll re-amp for a third season.”

"Real Boy" premieres on Independent Lens June 19 at 10/9 central time.

The screening of “Real Boy” will take place at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix on Tuesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Click here for more information on the event.


Reach the reporter at balnero13@gmail.com or follow @BaldnerOwen on Twitter.

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