Changing House

2009 | 18 mins | Color | 4:3 | Documentary

Changing House is a short documentary and my M.F.A. thesis film about Rusty and Chelsea, a transgender lesbian couple who devoted fifteen years to making their Brooklyn home a communal living space for transgender women in need. Their house served a vital and unique community role with its doors always open to newcomers. A crossroads for transgender civil rights organizers, it became home to Stonewall legend Sylvia Rivera in the last years of her life. The couple’s dream of a commune quickly met a complicated reality as it became unmanageable. Social workers referred more young transgender women to Rusty and Chelsea than they could accomodate, and eventually, the self-made family lost their “Ma” Sylvia. In this intimate film, Rusty, Chelsea, and long-time resident Cellia commemorate the house’s rich activist history, reflect on the joys and challenges of communal living and discuss the continuing struggle of the transgender community with discrimination and homelessness.

Founded in 1977, Frameline is the nation’s only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to the funding, exhibition, distribution and promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media arts. Frameline Voices is a new digital initiative that showcases diverse LGBT stories and expands access to films by and about people of color, transgender people, youth, and elders.

• January 23, 2014

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