November is Transgender Awareness Month. We were very lucky to have Byrd Bannick visit us last Friday to speak with middle school students in our GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) group.
Byrd grew up in the South Bay, attended private schools, and then later graduated from Stanford University. Byrd spoke about growing up as a girl, explaining how he was teased for wanting to wear boy clothes in middle school. In his twenties, after many years of hiding his identity, Byrd cut his hair and began the process of transitioning from female to male.
Byrd spoke candidly about the psychological and physical struggles that he went (and continues to) go through. He spoke about the importance of self-love and having the courage to be who you really are. He answered student questions about being misgendered, his family relationships, and forging new friendships.
The afternoon provided a powerful and profound window into one person’s journey into self-discovery and finding true happiness.
On Monday middle school students, faculty members, and parents explored gender identity with filmmaker, Jonathan Skurnik.
Jonathan Skurnik is a documentary producer, director and cinematographer. Five of his films have broadcast on PBS and European Television, as well as on domestic Satellite and Cable stations. His films have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center and in art galleries in New York City and at over two hundred film festivals throughout the world. He has won numerous awards, including Best Documentary at the American Indian film festival, the Change Maker Award at the Media That Matters Film Festival, the Audience Award for Outstanding Achievement at Outfest, the Harry Chapin Media Award for films about poverty and Best Documentary Award at the UrbanTV film Festival.
Filmmaker and educator Jonathan Skurnik was a gender expansive child who loved to play with both dollhouses and Hot Wheels, wear pants and dresses. Like any child, he wanted it all! Then he started to get teased and bullied and gave up “girly” things. In the early 2000s Jonathan read about children who were gender creative and transgender and were living in communities that supported them. These children and their families were doing what he hadn’t been able to do as a child. So Jonathan created the Youth and Gender Media Project, a series of short films about these modern day heroes, which are screened in schools throughout the country to make the world safe for all flavors of gender identity and expression.
Some highlights from Mr. Skurnik’s three-session visit: