In her documentary, From This Day Forward, filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one.
Shattuck narrates: “I believe it was in middle school when my dad told me ‘Sharon, whenever you get married, I hope that you let me wear a dress when I walk you down the aisle.' ”
When that time came, Sharon Shattuck felt it important to weave her own wedding announcement and ceremony into the family's tale. She says part of the journey of making the film was putting herself, now an adult and a married woman, in her parents' shoes - Trisha, as her father is now called, and her mother Marsha.
Despite her husband's gender transition to Trisha years ago, Marsha decided to stay in the marriage. She said she couldn't be apart from her spouse.
But Sharon Shattuck says it has not been easy.
"[My mother] is aware that when she walks down the street holding hands with Trisha, they look like a lesbian couple."
Marsha is not attracted to women. She says she and Trisha have argued a lot through the years. "There is still some tension," admits the filmmaker about her parents. But there is also love, and Trisha is understanding. She relates Marsha's reaction to her decision to transition. “Marsha is going, ‘No! I didn’t marry a woman. I married a man.' ”
Sharon Shattuck says her dad's transition was tough also on her and her younger sister, who was in elementary school when she discovered pictures of their father dressed as a woman. When the sister brought it up with her parents, her dad went to the other room, changed clothes and reappeared in women's clothes.
Shattuck says people openly criticized their father to them. She relates a time when her sister's math teacher took her aside and told her, "I know what your dad is doing and I do not approve."
Sharon confesses it took her years to come to terms with her father's gender transition. She says that now, as an adult and a filmmaker she can ask all the difficult questions she couldn't as a child.
When she asked her dad why he revealed his gender identity when she and her sister were still just kids, Trisha said she could not go on hiding her gender identity any longer. Trisha says “being transgender is like walking around silently crying unless you have an opportunity to express yourself.”
Sharon Shattuck says transgender people feel that they were born in the wrong body, but are not necessarily homosexual. She says “there is a difference between your gender presentation and the gender that you are attracted to."
Sexual reassignment surgery
Though Trisha has gone through some cosmetic surgery, she will not go through sexual reassignment surgery, as some transgender people do. Shattuck says that would break her parents' marriage.
Most marriages don’t survive gender transition. One example is the recent divorce of the matriarch of the Kardashian clan, Kris Jenner, and her spouse Bruce Jenner - the 1976 Olympic decathlon gold medalist - who recently transitioned to Caitlyn. The sensational media coverage revealed little about how the family is coping.
Shattuck's documentary about her family's journey explores areas no one has done before. It reveals the heartbreak but also the love that can hold a marriage and a family together. Ultimately, the documentary From This Day Forward is about understanding and acceptance. In one of their discussions Sharon asks her father, “Do you just prefer me to go all the way and say ‘Trish’ and ‘She’ and not dad?”
Sharon Shattuck says most people don’t know that there are transgender people living among them. She says in her parents' small community, some are accepting but others cross the street when they see her parents coming. She says “a lot of the country is light years behind when it comes to transgender acceptance, even just LGBT acceptance.”
She hopes her documentary will help society understand and empathize with transgender people and become more accepting. She also hopes that trailblazers like Trisha and Caitlyn will encourage closeted others to follow.