Yesterday, I had the interesting experiece of pre-recording a full-length 30 minute tv special for Rogers Out of the Fog, a local community news show here in St. John's. TV producer Anna Delaney had became aquainted with my work last year during the recording of the Pride Week LGBT Health Care Panel Discussion, which I directed and hosted. Anna and I kept in touch and eventually found ourselves working together on LGBT issues. I recruited two local youths to interview for her to discuss gay bullying, earlier this year on her show; and found myself gently twisting her arm into lobbying Rogers management to create some programming that looked at trans issues.
About 6 weeks ago, while Anna and I were in the process of planning the development of a trans 101 type of program, the Jenna Talackova beauty pageant story went viral, and Anna asked me to collaborate with her on what I feel turned out to be an awesome televised discussion about not just Jenna, but the overall issues of trans human rights.
Building upon the success of the Talackova interview, Anna was keen to get the two of us back in front of a camera to discuss trans issues in a broader sense, and to specifically, do a biographical piece about me. Anyway, we had a date set and intended to trade e-mails back and forth about putting together the content. Mostly due to me being very busy, there was only a little communication. In the end, I essentially showed up to the meeting yesterday quite content to talk about whatever Anna wanted to ask me, and she came totally and awesomely prepared!
The goal was to not only tell the story about the challenges I have faced and been public about, but dig deep into my brain and give the viewers a chance to really get to know what it was like to be in my shoes as I negociated the challenging process of being trans, without even knowing it; then, discussing details of my transition, in terms of physical, psychological, and social.
Anyway we had planned to shoot the video in my home, so that we could also get some footage of me literally living at home in my apartment - me in the kitchen, me with my cats, etc. But turned out, my living room was too small to allow for a suitable arrangement of cameras, lights, tripods, etc. So we ended up having to film elsewhere. We ended up in a lovely living room set, that was actually part of a display at Leons furnature store!
Anyway, while the tech was setting up, Anna and I had well over an hour to sit and chat. Most of the conversation was about me and my various stories. While Anna already had a blueprint for what she wanted to talk about, this extra prep time allowed her a chance to dig deeper and gain knowledge of the background behind the surface.
Anyway, when we finally got rolling, I was totally relaxed and in my zone. What made this unique; however, is that instead of having my business face on, I had a personal face. This was really the first time I had ever done television where there was no particular issue. I am used to analyzing an issue and giving recommendations, but in this case, it was strictly an exercise of facts about me and my life, and assessment of my various feelings and perceptions of my intimate person experiences.
While I like to think of myself as a very open person, the casual discussions I have on a regular basis with strangers, do not usually dig very deep. This chat with Anna was very deep. The on camera stuff was extremely deep, and the off camera stuff was even deeper. After we had finished filming, Anna and I chatted even further while the tech did her tear down of equipment. By the end of the night, well, I think I told Anna more of my intimate personal thoughts and secrets than I ever could have imagined that I would tell her!
Overall, Anna seemed very pleased with what we captured on film. While I questioned whether it focused too much on personal and not enough on my various work, she suggested that the balance was excellent and that it would make for great TV. Given that this is a show about me, and not necessarily about an issue, this definitely makes sense. Usually, this 30 minute feature is reserved for folks that I would consider to be much more famous than I am - such as rock stars, actors, and senior politicians. I am totally flattered that Anna and the rest of the Rogers team felt that I deserved a spot among this company.
Anyway, there's more to the story.... the story behind the story, I suppose. While I have often done personal stories with TV reporters, I found myself very quickly eating out of Anna's hands. Right from the get go, I could tell that not only was she interested in this as a news story, she was genuinely interested in me as a person and interested in learning more about me and the issues I have faced.
Sitting and chatting both on and off camera with Anna felt like I had been chatting with a life-long best friend. She was so easy to open up to. She has an amazing personality and demeanor. This didn't feel like a TV interview at all. It felt sort of like a first date, only I was doing almost all of the talking. Telling my story to anyone can be very emotional for me. In this case, I found myself revisiting and telling stories about some very tough times - some of the most challenging and confusing situations in my life. I was literally revealing some of my greatest experiences of weakness and vulnurabuility.
I could sense that Anna was also feeling the emotions too. I could also tell that she was totally accepting me as a human being and that she had gained incredible respect for the way I have battled so many adverse situations. Likewise, I had gained extreme respect and admiration for her due to her passionate and personal interest in not only doing this story for benefit of societal education, but because she knew it would help me with my public image-building goals.
Once we had finished and were ready to say good bye, I reached out, with a few tears in my eyes, and gave her a big hug, which she graciously accepted and hugged me back. As I walked down the street on my way home, the flood gates opened and I was literally balling my eyes out! I continued to cry uncontrolably for over an hour. That was one of the most emotional experiences I think I have ever had in my entire life. I guess I was overcome with emotion over the fact that I after so many years as a shy, confused person, with low self-esteem, I felt totally comfortable opening myself up and exposing my biggest vulnurabilties, not only to someone I barely knew, but in some cases, to a TV camera that will reach thousands! I have reached the ultimate height of self-confidence and self-comfort.
I think I was also emotional because it had been such a long time since I had a face to face, one on one, intimately-personal discussion with someone I admired and felt totally comfortable with. I think another thing that really hit me, is that I realized I had developed a rather intense crush on Anna - which I suppose is not hard to understand why, (look up the term 'propinquity' folks).
I guess it also hit me that like so many other crushes, this is someone who is not available, and someone who might not have any interest in dating me nevertheless. Heck, finding a match will be very tough. First of all, getting people to take a romantic interest in me is challenging enough, as I am either too masculine or too feminine, depending on where people fall in the sexual orientation department. I am literally going to need someone who sees me as a person, rather than for sex, gender, or past sex or gender presentations. If that's not bad enough, I will also need someone who is comfortable being publicly linked to me, a public figure. While I have had many people express romantic interest in me since I became Jennifer, none have been willing to make a public commitment. Seems everyone who likes me, wants to stay in the closet about it, as they are too afraid or worried about what others will think of them, if it were public knowledge that they were either attracted to me, or were dating me.
Anyway, my new little crush is a nagging reminder that after 4 years of not being mentally in the zone to even consider wanting a relationships, the past year and a half have been frustrating and lonely. While I'd rather be single than date someone who is not a good match for me, I am really feeling that this is a major gap in my life, that needs to be filled. Oh well, as they say, not much I can do other than continue to be myself, try to be in a positive mood whenever I am around other people, and try to put myself into positions to meeting new people with common interests. I also need to continue to make myself a better person in terms of both mental and physical health - and this is exactly what I plan on doing.
Closing out the report, I tried to Vlog after my crying had toned down, but was still too emotions to produce anything that warraned a youtube upload. I finally calmed down enough to fall asleep around 2.30 am. Today, I was in this emotional state of depressive shock. I literally started crying at my desk at work about 5 times in the first hour, and many times throughout the day. I'm finally feeling better now, that I have gotten this blog down on paper, as well as blogged about a few other things that I have been meaning to write about.
Anyway, the Out of the Fog TV special is slated to air next month. It will be very interesting to see what the final editted product will look like, and how it will be received by the viewing audience. If all goes well, I am seriously considering creating and producing my own independant film that is basically going to be a 3-4 hour memoirs-styled interview. If this does get off the ground, I know exactly who my first business recruitment call will be to!