Bennett Wallace debuts the "Real Boy"

Bennett Wallace debuts the "Real Boy"

Ky Watnick


The documentary film Real Boy was featured Tuesday, Nov. 13 in Hoover 100. Students gathered in the large amphitheatre seating to watch the story of Bennett Wallace’s transition. The film covers Wallace’s first steps toward transition at age 18. It shows not just what it means to be transgender, but what it means to be a real person going through transition and finding ways to make it through the hard times. “I think life is really hard, and we all need as many tools as we can get to help us along our path,” said Wallace. “For me, music has been the most cathartic way to process my emotions in regards to my experience of transitioning.”

Through all of his struggles, Wallace remains confident in his musical expression. His albums and other musical facts and figures can be found on The young singer-songwriter found friendship through music, and even started the documentary that way. “The director of the film approached me at a house show that I was playing with Joe Stevens, and she asked if she could film us. We both agreed, not really knowing that we were signing up to be part of a feature-length documentary film that was going to be released on PBS.

Even though he did not know at first that the film would be as long or as in-depth as it now stands, Wallace was ready and willing through it all. “The best part about being a part of the film was connecting with people that are doing the work all over the world,” said Wallace. “This film has been screened in over 26 different countries, it has been translated into several different languages, it has gone places I have never been, and I think that is really cool.”

The documentary serves as a beacon of hope to those of the trans community. It is more than just a story. It is the real-life experience of a man who has endured the various struggles that came with transitioning. The film was shown in honor of Trans Awareness Week, which Wallace was grateful for. “It gives me so much hope for future generations of trans people that we are learning about this on college campuses these days.” So much that is done during different awareness weeks focuses on the negative, but Real Boy is a good way to increase trans visibility in a positive, encouraging way, since the film is so focused on growth and acceptance. “I think, ultimately, [Real Boy shows] that I have always been more resilient than I gave myself credit for,” said Wallace. “Having to own your own power all the time is exhausting.”

Wallace hopes the film will also inspire others to see their own resiliency. “I think there is something really powerful about taking pain and turning it into something beautiful that other people can relate to and listen to and draw courage and strength from,” said Wallace. “Wanting to see yourself more clearly and then getting to watch that ripple of being honest and authentic with other people . . . I think we all need to be seen in our pain as much as we are seen in our joy.”

The film focuses specifically on the struggle that Wallace faces with his family and how many of those bonds were warped by his coming out and his transition. “My sister and I still struggle to have really fun, meaningful interactions with each other. I think that we kind of tiptoe around years of not really seeing each other very clearly,” said Wallace. This is a fairly common fear in the trans community and is often cited as one of the biggest hurdles of coming out. “Initially, coming out was the hardest,” said Wallace. “I was absolutely humiliated by the people who were supposed to unconditionally love me. They thought it was funny.”

However, the wear on the relationships between trans people and their families does not have to break their bonds. Though the film obviously highlights his struggles with his mother, Wallace believes that they are in a much healthier place in their relationship since his transitioning. “My mom is one of my best friends. I am so grateful to her for opening up her experience to the camera because I think that it is so important for families of trans people to see: it is a process, but you have to start,” Wallace said. “It is not about showing up and being perfect, it is about showing up.”

While it may serve a personal purpose, the documentary is a powerful way to increase trans visibility and to help educate people on the process as both the one transitioning and as the loved ones helping them through it. “I hope that this film serves trans people looking for representation of themselves,” said Wallace, “and I also hope that it helps the families of trans people that are struggling to accept their loved ones to show up and do better and be better for the people that they love.”

For Trans Awareness Week, see page 9.