â€śWe donâ€™t often see [trans] people with triumphant stories about being themselves and really making itâ€¦I thought it was time for a celebration of our differences, our sameness and our lives.â€ť So says first-time filmmaker Martin Rawlings-Fein of the impetus behind his Clocked: An Oral History, a documenary portray the trans community through personal insights, stories and reflections of six trans individuals.
The Native American, Jewish, German and Irish (â€ś letâ€™s just say Iâ€™m mixed because the Heinz 57 list goes onâ€ť) activist Rawlings-Fein identifies as â€śjust a Jewish man who happens to be a bisexual transsexual.â€ťÂ He has served on the Native American Task Force of the Human Rights Commission, and co-chaired San Francisco Transgender Empowerment, Advocacy and Mentorship, furthering the latter groupâ€™s efforts to bring economic empowerment, mentorship and jobs to San Franciscoâ€™s transgender population.
He also co-chaired FTM International, the support group founded in San Francisco 20 years ago for FTMs and their families.Â Â Rawlings-Fein dedicated so much personal time to 2006â€™s Men of FTMI calendar that it nearly cost him his marriage.Â â€śWhen my daughter was born I spentâ€¦every minute of what I thought was my spare time putting the calendar together.Â My wife thinks that FTMI and the calendar took me away from my family in those weeks, [and] sheâ€™s right.Â Which is why I scaled back my involvement with FTMI and didnâ€™t run for another term of the board of directors.â€ťÂ
When not busy with childcare, activism, filming or running his web design company, Fein Designs, Rawlings-Fein is completing his media studies degree, which he sees as â€śa great place to start a revolution.â€ť
â€śYou can change someoneâ€™s mind with a well-written articleâ€¦Media can change lives and allow for doors to open. I believe that as transgender people get cameras and make their personal stories publicâ€¦hearts and minds will change regarding transgender issues.â€ť
The potential Clocked carries to do just that is found in its illustration of multiplicity in the trans community.Â â€śI wanted to make a statement that not all transgendered people have the same narrative; and that not all history is objective.Â Iâ€™ve learned that the community is far more diverse thanâ€¦mainstream society portrays.â€ť
Hopeful that the film will illuminate some of that diversity Rawlings-Fein says heâ€™s been thrilled with the responses so far.Â â€śMy mother-in-law watched it, unbeknownst to me, and wrote me a letter about how much the film changed her life and how proud she is to have a son-in-law like me. That is powerful storytellingâ€”when it can change lives and viewpoints.â€ť
Rawlings-Fein continues to archive trans histories, but his next film explores conversion to Judaism and will follow one convert from â€śoriginal thought to the mikvah.â€ť A lay leader at Congregation Shaâ€™ar Zahav, San Franciscoâ€™s LGBT affiliated synagoge, Rawlings-Fein says his own path to Judaism was covoluted. Raised Southern Baptist by his divorced mother, no one told him his father was Jewish by birth. When he finally learned of his Jewish heritage, the filmmaker says, â€śIt was such an a-ha moment that I ran home and told my mother about it, hoping that she would let me go to a synagogue the next Saturday.â€ťÂ Instead, his mother barred him from exploring Judaism, and his maternal grandmother reacted by calling him â€śa dirty Jew.â€ťÂ
Before he discovered Shaâ€™ar Zahav, Rawlings-Fein says heâ€™d tried to convert a couple of times. The snag always seemed to be his trans-identity. â€śThe transsexual aspect was always where I would hit a ceiling. One Rabbi even asked me if I wouldnâ€™t mind transitioning back to being a woman for conversion.â€ť
Rawlings-Fein describes the Shaâ€™ar Zahav congregation as â€śa rare, true community, that pushes me to grow and change even my preconceived notions of what it means to be Jewish.â€ť
â€śI feel like the Jewish community at the congregation is one of the most dynamic Iâ€™ve ever come across,â€ť he enthuses, â€śMaybe thatâ€™s because itâ€™s the most ethnically diverse places that Iâ€™ve ever prayed. I just feel like Iâ€™m home.â€ť
Blind Curves, the first Blind Eye mystery co-authored by trans writer Jacob Anderson-Minshall, is available now through www.bellabooks.com. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.