"I think my approach with Transmormon was directly influenced by my personal faith crisis. In trying to healthily integrate the mixed experiences of my past, I’ve wanted to move forward without anger, but also without tidy censorship."
Torben was recently interviewed by Huffington Post writer Randall Frederick regarding our short documentary "Transmormon." They discuss filmmaking, producing Transmormon, life, empathy, and spirituality. Please find a few excerpts below. You can read the full interview on the Sexuality & the City website. Also, check out the final article on The Huffington Post.
The film did an excellent job at respecting the faith of the Hayward family and I’ve found that filmmakers can sometimes go for the “cheap” shots which blame religion. What is the nature of your own spiritual life?
My own spiritual life has grown increasingly complicated. I tend to be more interested in questions than answers and that has posed some difficulty when it comes to my involvement with a particular faith. I’ve never said any of this publicly (and, in fact, I’ve been purposely ambiguous), but I struggled to hold onto my faith from the time I came home as a missionary for the Mormon church in Thailand. I remained going to church for years and made many efforts to hold on, but in the end, I’ve led a life relatively distant from any religious organization for about five years now. It’s very difficult. My family, on both sides, extend back to the Mormon pioneers and it was hard on everyone around me when I decided that it was no longer a good fit. It’s a very odd thing to feel alienated from something that so directly and dramatically changed my life. I still see myself as a naturally spiritual person, but I’m sure laying my beliefs on a table would reveal a semi-coherent mess.
I think my approach with Transmormon was directly influenced by my personal faith crisis. In trying to healthily integrate the mixed experiences of my past, I’ve wanted to move forward without anger, but also without tidy censorship. I think I employed some of the same lessons that have shaped my ongoing religious experience into the artistic approach of the documentary. I never felt like cheap shots had to be made while making this film, because the tensions were real and the juxtapositions stark enough to speak for themselves.
The second part of that last question brings me to the fact that there are changes taking place in Christianity right now to “allow” gays in the Church but trans people remain a rather divisive topic. The intersection of faith and sexuality can be problematic. How were you intentional, as a storyteller, about making sure both sides – faith and sexuality – were represented fairly?
Part of representing faith and sexuality fairly in Transmormon was first recognizing that they both played significant roles in the story and there needed to be space in the documentary to discuss both. I never saw the two dualistically, but instead part of a layered internal experience that took Eri years to fully unpack and understand. Her sexuality was real and the tension she felt regarding her religious devotion was as well.
The challenge for me was attempting to let both of these realities exist independently while illustrating that they meet in the body. The last interview I conducted with Eri, which is actually the last scene with her in the movie, was spent discussing this very intersection. I was so impressed and inspired by her final realization that she was giving her spirit what it needed.