Kai and her mother Kimberly Shappley recently moved to outside Austin, Texas, because of the discrimination Kai faced in another Texas town. Kai is like any other girl at her school except that she had to move to a different district so that she could use the girls bathroom because she is transgender. Kai is the subject of a short verité documentary that offers an intimate view into how she and her mother are fighting for her right to be who she is.
The other films in this series feature Eisha Love from Chicago and Jennifer Chavez in rural Georgia. Both women have faced discrimination — Love in the criminal justice system and Chavez in employment — because they are transgender.
The three films are produced by the American Civil Liberties Union and Little by Little Films, and released in partnership with Condé Nast’s them. Each film is directed by an LGBTQ+ filmmaker, produced by an inclusive and majority-LGBTQ+ production team, and informed by a panel of transgender advisers.
“Trans and nonbinary people are dying because people refuse to see our humanity,” said Chase Strangio, an ACLU attorney and series producer. “We want these films to cut through the dehumanizing rhetoric too often heard by lawmakers and spark conversations about ending the day-to-day indignities and discrimination faced by trans people.”
The ACLU has increased its efforts to advance transgender equality with the recent hiring of LaLa Zannell as the Trans Justice Campaign Manager.
“I believe that to advance trans justice we have to have a political education component to the legal and policy work,” said Zannell who joined the ACLU in March. “We need to make sure people understand the harm caused by the discrimination and systems of oppression we see in these films. My goal is to sharpen and inform the amazing work the ACLU does to support transgender and nonbinary people, including transgender women of color like myself.”
ACLU affiliate offices in more than a dozen states have started education campaigns related to transgender and nonbinary people. These have included community forums, meeting with state lawmakers, and efforts to go door-to-door to introduce people to their transgender neighbors.
Transgender people in America often have to become advocates for themselves and others just to survive. Love was joined by other transgender advocates for a screening of her film and a discussion on discrimination against transgender people in the criminal justice system. Chavez, the subject of the third film, went to court after she was fired because she is transgender. While Chavez’s legal battle ended, the issues her case raised — whether or not transgender people are protected by laws prohibiting sex discrimination — is the subject of a case currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
You can watch the short films below and learn more about the ACLU’s Trans Justice Campaign here: