Trans Rights Are Human Rights and that is reason #1 in why this film critic is not attending or covering this year’s SXSW Film Festival.
Transgender rights. Voting rights. Women’s rights. Education. You name it and it’s under attack by the right-wing fascist Republicans in Texas. It’s because of this that I want nothing to do with supporting the Texas state economy. I love SXSW and the city of Austin but no, I cannot in good conscience step foot in Texas. Nor do I feel comfortable covering the festival virtually. I first covered SXSW in 2018 and returned in 2019. I was set for my most profitable SXSW in 2020 before the pandemic forced SXSW organizers to cancel. It is traditionally the festival where I make the most money from doing interviews. In not attending, I stand to lose a lot of money by leaving it on the table.
Where do things stand now? Republicans are forcing women to give birth. If the child ends up being transgender, it’s “child abuse” when parents are affirming enough to let them transition. Republicans are not pro-life. If they were truly pro-life, they would not attack an already marginalized transgender community. You know, the community with the highest suicide rates because of the constant rejection. We are so close to turning Texas blue but it is discriminating laws like this that end up forcing voters to move out of Texas.
I feel for the filmmakers. Believe me, I do. In any other circumstance, the new Jeff Baena film, Spin Me Round, would be at the top of my list of films to see on the ground. I am happy to cover these films when they play at future film festivals or for their theatrical release. What I will not do under any circumstance is cover them during SXSW. But because of rights being under attack, I’m not covering the festival at all. The irony is that the same politicians saying all lives matter are basically saying all lives don’t matter. It’s bullshit and they know it. You cannot fucking tell me that all lives matter while trying to legislate the transgender community out of existence.
It isn’t just Texas. Look at the shit that’s taking place in Florida. You know who I was was louder about this? The Walt Disney Company. How can Disney say what they did after the whole Giana Carano fiasco and then be silent while LGBTQ lives are being attacked? In a perfect world, I would step foot at Walt Disney World for the current 50th anniversary. However, this is not going to happen. Not as long as transgender discrimination is legalized under the law. Full disclaimer: I say this as someone who currently owns a single share of Disney–it would have been more but I had to continually sell shares after coming out just so I could pay bills. I do not recommend losing your job upon coming out as transgender.
Even though I’m not attending SXSW, I am still getting a barrage of SXSW emails, from publicists and those with the fest. It is depressing every time I respond to a publicist and tell them why I’m not attending or covering any films. We’re heading into year three of the pandemic and it’s already been trying enough for my mental health. Up until Netflix, Focus, and MGM events in Los Angeles and New York, I didn’t even leave the city of Chicago. I barely even left my neighborhood until after getting vaccinated. When I did make a few shopping runs to a kosher grocery store in Evanston, it was not via public transit. My current social life are what few press screenings are still happening, shul, and the few interview opportunities I am able to get.
If the current state on transgender rights aren’t bad enough, there’s an uptick in antisemitism across the globe. The current levels are only continuing to rise in the United States. I do not recommend being a double target because it only brings on more stress and anxiety to an already terrible depression. I will not even tweet that I am at a movie theater until after the fact and this is for my own safety.
Trans rights are human rights. Stop telling me that all lives matter when you’re discriminating against mine. Does my life not matter? I’ll wait.
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