The importance of Ian Thompson’s latest documentary and what it highlights

Becoming Colleen by filmmaker Ian Thomson (pictured left with  ACON CEO, Nicolas Parkhill) follows the experience of 82-year-old woman Colleen Young as she affirms her gender dealing with the reality and challenges of transitioning into a Christian-run nursing home in a conservative coastal community.

Premiering during Queer Screen Film Festival, not only does Becoming Colleen put the spotlight on the often stigmatised trans and gender diverse community, but it brings to light a generation of the LGBT community that social science researchers have referred to as the ‘Silent Generation’.

This is a segment of our community that were born around the Great Depression, grew up in a time where there was no vocabulary let alone acronyms for their sexual identities, and lived through a lifetime of social discourse where being themselves was a criminal offense and psychiatric disorder.  The openness and freedoms many of us in the metropolitan areas have today was at the cost of safety, security and survival once upon a time.   Living through one of the most hostile environments in LGBT history, it’s important to understand that undertone to fully appreciate the gravity of this film and what it stands for.

Development funding like that awarded by ACON in helping produce this film enables  “stories from marginalised Australians on the fringe of our culture and in regional areas” to be told,  says Ian Thomson.  As a result, we’re opened to that part of the LGBT world that’s often less of a focus in mainstream media, many of whom fought independently and silently, before the era of Stonewall and our social awakening that lead to collective actions and advocacy that built on the work of our ‘diggers’ in moving our cause forward.

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“This is a deeply moving and personal story that tells of Colleen’s journey, her love for her wife Heather, and how a small community comes together to support an elderly trans woman achieve her greatest dream,” Ian Thomson said.   It’s a story of inspiration and resilience that will resonate with anyone who feels like their personal aspirations are out of reach or an impossible dream.

Nicholas Parkhill, CEO of ACON points out that the film also raises awareness to key issues for “those living in regional areas and in aged care facilities.”   Much peer review research has deduced many of our maturer LGBT counterparts as a result of this generational invisibility can result in compromised diagnoses and medical care.

For Australians, at a mainstream level same-sex relationships and social issues are still very new, so how would one know what a mature LGBT’s motivations and relationships look like when it’s been hidden from many of us actually in the community?   It’s no one’s fault, the academic and clinical training just doesn’t exist and it’s films like this one, that finally opens up the conversations that have been dormant for many in our community for an entire lifetime.

Becoming Colleen won The Audience Award at its world premiere screening at the Screenwave International Film Festival and is currently screening at festivals around the country.   

It’s Ian Thomson’s second documentary exploring LGBTI stories, following on from his 2014 exposé of homosexuality in surf culture Out in the Lineup.

Becoming Colleen will have its Sydney premiere at Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival on Sunday 24 February at 3.30pm at Event Cinemas George Street.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion ‘Diversity in Aged Care’ featuring advocate Sandra Pankhurst and panellists from ACON and Nursewatch.

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