The Sundance Channel Presents TransGeneration 

When a Michigan State University student named T.J. applied and interviewed over the phone for a summer internship at Boise State's Women's Center, former director Melissa Wintrow just assumed that T.J. was female. T.J. was not sure what to expect when he later revealed that he was transitioning from a female to a male, that he wanted to be addressed as "he," and that he hoped to learn how to operate as a feminist from a male perspective. When Wintrow responded that he would be treated with care and honor, T.J. came to Boise for the summer.

After T.J. arrived, Wintrow learned that T.J.'s life story-a childhood as an Armenian girl in Cyprus, suppressed lifelong feelings of being more like a boy than a girl, and a liberating collegiate life in the United States-was soon to be aired across the country. T.J. had been profiled in a Sundance Channel documentary series, TransGeneration, about four transgender college students. The film version of the series premiered in June at San Francisco's Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and received a standing ovation. Currently, the film is being screened on over 200 college campuses prior to the eight-part series television premiere in September. Thanks to T.J., Boise State is one of those campuses.

T.J. was initially hesitant about being a part of the project, but as he learned more about TransGeneration and the people behind it, his skepticism faded. The filmmakers (World of Wonder Productions) were actively seeking a diverse cast and there was no aim to neatly sum up the transgender experience.

Last summer, project director Jeremy Simmons flew to Michigan State University-where T.J. is getting a master's degree-to do a casting tape. "The two of us just clicked right away," T.J. said. And so his life was captured on film from different angles-as an international student, an activist, a Drag King troupe member, and an aspiring student affairs director.

As T.J.'s trust in Simmons deepened, Simmons convinced him to allow the crew to travel to his home in Cyprus-a country that straddles tradition and modernity as well as European and Middle Eastern ideals. In Cyprus, T.J. becomes Tamar, and though his appearance does not change, his perceived gender does. T.J. knew that if the filmmakers really wanted to know all of him, they needed to go to Cyprus.

T.J. dreams of working on a college campus around GLBTQ and other progressive issues. He would even happily return to Boise State for a job one day. "I fell in love with Boise and I learned so much here about sexual assault and domestic violence," he said.

Wintrow learned a lot from T.J., too. "T.J. helped me understand how fluid and elusive gender identity is, which is such a powerful lesson. Gender is made-we are not born with it. Why is it so important to lock people into a set of behaviors based on genitalia?"

Even without a job offer, T.J. can't stay away from Boise. He will return for two free public screenings of TransGeneration this Friday at 2:40 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Special Events Center at Boise State. Following the screening, T.J. and members of Boise's GLBTQ community will host a reception to discuss the film.

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