'We hope that people that are transgender can show this to their family': How the 'TransMilitary' documentary is now a civil rights issue

The filmmakers of Logo’s newest documentary, ‘TransMilitary’, spoke to MEAWW about how they made the film through the ever-evolving political climate in the United States

                            'We hope that people that are transgender can show this to their family': How the 'TransMilitary' documentary is now a civil rights issue

Logo’s newest documentary ‘TransMilitary’ tells the story of four troops who are not just defending their country, but also their own rights at the same time. The subjects of the film, Senior Airman Logan Ireland, Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace, and First Lieutenant El Cook put their careers and livelihoods on the line by coming out as transgender to top officials at the Pentagon in hopes of obtaining the right to serve openly. 

However, with the administration’s recent decision to define Trans out of existence, filmmakers Fiona Dawson and Gabe Silverman found it of utmost importance to educate viewers and to tell the stories of these brave individuals.

Many consider the topic of transgender individuals in the military a political issue. However, Silverman explained that after diving deeper into the topic it is an issue of Civil Rights and not politics.

“The more that we learned about the subject and the service members, we quickly realized the injustice of it all and that it was a Civil Rights issue. We really had the opportunity to see how a Civil Rights fight unfolds and how to personalize that fight in how those polices actually affected people,” Silverman said.

This wasn’t an easy subject for a documentary for many reasons, including the most obvious one, that these people already fear being ripped from the military by being trans. Shooting a documentary would only draw more attention to them. Therefore, Dawson and Silverman had to be very careful in how they gathered their information, not making these people’s lives any harder than they already were.

“We had to be really smart in how we gathered material. We couldn’t just follow these people who technically were not supposed to be in the military (at certain times) because they were transgender. So, we really had to lean on relatively new technology like recording Skype calls and FaceTime to get those emotional reactions in the moment.”

Dawson and Silverman wanted to make the film as apolitical as possible because at the end of the day, this is an issue about human beings all being treated equally. However, after the current administration fought vigorously to ban transgender individuals from the military and did so in a somewhat irresponsible way, the film had to reflect that, which Silverman told us more about.

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WE WON!!! #OpenTransService READ THE EXCLUSIVE STORY HERE: http://ow.ly/vc8S301O6Oy @nbcout #TransMilitary

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“When we started off making the film, we wanted to make it about the service members and not politics at all. That’s why for the first 85 minutes of the film it is totally apolitical. The only time it becomes political is when Trump injects himself into the conversation. We do not rely on opinions but on actual news clips of what he said, what he tweeted, etc. There was no editorializing whatsoever in that space. This all ended up being a self-inflicted wound that did not need to happen,” he added.

With the holidays quickly approaching, Dawson wanted, more than anything, for the film to be released at this time so that families could watch it together and openly discuss the matter at hand.

Both Dawson and Silverman wanted this to be a film that both sides could understand by showing these individuals are just human beings trying to protect their country and live their lives. Being a member of the LGBTQ community herself, Dawson expanded on this and spoke on their desire to have people watch the film that may have never given it a second thought.

“From the beginning we really wanted this to be a film for people that would not normally watch something about transgender individuals. We realized that seventy eight percent of Americans think that being a military officer is a prestigious job. So, through that lens we hope that we can reach middle America to show what it really feels like to be transgender.  It has been one of our big hopes that this film will be available over Thanksgiving. The holidays can be some of these people's toughest times of the year. So, we hope that during the holidays, people that are transgender can show this to family members that do not support who they are.”

‘TransMilitary’ is currently available on Logo on demand and on the Logo website.