<<Austin Unbound>>, Screening & DIscussion
Approximately 150 people attended the screening of the new documentary, Austin Unbound (Greensoda Productions, 2011) and the panel discussion that followed, on Monday, Nov. 19, in the U.S. Bank Theatre at the Ohio Union. Austin Unbound follows Austin, a young, Deaf trans man, for six months as he undergoes top surgery so that he can continue his journey of transitioning into his desired gender. The film is directed and produced by Eliza Greenwood, founder of Greensoda an independent, Portland-based company that produces film and theatre about Deaf people and Deaf culture.
After the film, a panel discussion was held, featuring Brenda Brueggemann, Professor of English and a member of the Disability Studies Program; Jian Chen, Professor of English, specializing in Queer/Trans Studies, and Associated Faculty in Sexuality Studies and Film Studies; and Jay Schnell, a facilitator of support groups for TransOhio.
Professor Chen led off the discussion by situating the film within the genre of documentary and, more specifically, the genre of documentaries about trans lives, especially when those films deal directly with the intersections of gender with race, class, disability, and other forms of social difference. Professor Brueggemann followed with remarks about some of the formal qualities of the film—e.g., the effects of the director’s decisions about sound, captioning, and ASL signing—as well as observations about the interplay in the film between medical approaches which view disability as “impairment” and social constructionist approaches which focus more on disability identity and culture. Finally, Jay Schnell talked about the ways in which the film spoke to him as a Deaf FTM trans man who has shared some of the experiences featured in the film.
The ensuing discussion between the audience and panelists covered a range of topics, from personal connections that audience members made to themes of the film or issues the panelists raised to questions about the linguistic differences between transitioning as a hearing person vs. as a Deaf person. Amy Delorenzo, interpreting instructor at Columbus State Community College, moderated the discussion. It was an inspiring and informative program that brought together students, staff, and faculty not only from OSU but also from other local universities as well as community members.
Besides DISCO, Disability Studies, and Sexuality Studies, other sponsors of this event included the Multicultural Center, the American Sign Language program, the Columbus State Community College Pride group (also on facebook), and the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.