When fifth-term Film Production student Casey Gearin sat down to write the thesis film that would become her directorial debut, she knew she wanted to tell a different kind of trans story.
Something more nuanced than many of the films about trans characters she’d seen before. Something that would reveal some of the more subtle, daily intolerances faced by many in the trans community for the hurtful acts they really are. Something more personal. A story based, in part, on her own, sometimes painful, experiences.
“Something I’ve noticed with a lot of trans stories is they are often directly targeting very obvious transphobia. My script was designed with the purpose of revealing a different kind of intolerance – things that people might not always recognize as intolerant,” Gearin explained.
The result of those efforts is Sasha – a short film that follows a 21-year-old trans woman as she comes out to her boyfriend, and the tumultuous year that follows. As her partner Jake struggles to overcome biases he didn’t know he held in the wake of Sasha’s revelation, Sasha herself must come to the painful acknowledgement that Jake’s treatment of her is wrong and that she must stand up for herself.
“Breaking it down to its very roots, the film is fundamentally about two people both trying to learn and grow together and figure things out,” Gearin said of Sasha, which she hopes audiences from all walks of life will be able to relate to and learn from.
“I know I’ve talked about this story being a trans story, but there are lessons in it that can apply to any relationship, both romantic and otherwise.”
Based on many of Gearin’s own personal experiences, in Sasha, the veil is lifted on some of the more subtle, yet no less painful, microaggressions faced by people in the trans community. For example, in a scene where Sasha wears gender-affirming clothes for the first time in front of her partner, Jake, all her joy and excitement at finally being able to present as her true and authentic self is sucked away by his disdainful reaction to her appearance.
“That scene was designed with a very specific goal in mind – to inform younger trans people who maybe haven’t seen some of those situations as problems, to show that, ‘Hey, this is not how you should be treated,’” said Gearin, who was born in B.C. and raised in Kingston, Ontario.
“From an audience perspective, I think it will be very apparent when you watch the film that what is happening is wrong – but when you’re actually on the receiving end of some of those words, or even being the one who says it, sometimes you don’t realize quite what you’re saying or doing affects people – and I really wanted to show that with this film.”
Currently in post-production, Sasha was filmed with a cast and crew of TFS students in November, over the course of the weekend leading up to Transgender Day of Remembrance – an important day of reflection for Gearin.
“Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day where we celebrate and remember everyone who has lost their lives due to anti-trans violence over the past year, but also a day to look forward to the days when days like these won’t need to exist anymore,” she said.
“It’s always been a very bittersweet day for me, because on one hand it’s a memorial for all those people we lost, but on the other, it’s a great beacon of hope for the future. That’s always the strongest takeaway for me – the hope that things will get better.”
That, too, is the message Gearin hopes audiences will ultimately take away from watching Sasha, which she plans on submitting around the film festival circuit once it’s completed.
“I definitely want to get it through to queer festivals, so it can be seen in that community, but I also absolutely want to get it into more mainstream festivals, so that more people can see it and see the kind of daily struggle trans people go through,” she said.
“I really just want people take away from it how to be a better ally toward trans people – or, if they are trans themselves, to help them help themselves.”