Whether we want to admit it or not, we all want to be accepted for who we are. We learn acceptance at a young age. It’s also the time we learn about rejection. Acceptance is easy it’s fantastic and full of promise… but what if you’re rejected? Depending on your age, rejection can happen for many reasons. You don’t live in the right neighbourhood, you don’t play on the right team, you go to the wrong school, you don’t have a popular haircut, you’re ugly, you’re too pretty. The list is longer than my arm. How many tears have been shed because you were picked on for being different? Did it change you or did you find a way to cope? Life can be tough based on who we are, but it shouldn’t. Everyone deserves acceptance and it should not be a choice. Our differences are what makes us so interesting. If we were all alike I believe it would be a very boring world.
Haircuts, choice in clothing and pimples are one thing but when you feel like you are trapped in the wrong body and want to change your gender, that can raise the bar in terms of anxiety, acceptance and a future. Gender reassignment has got to be one of life’s most agonizing, difficult and misunderstood choices to make. It’s especially difficult when there is no text book or set guideline to follow. How do you begin a conversation about it and who do you share that information with? If you are Krow then you seek out support and understanding from somebody going through the same struggle or you tell your mom.
The film, Krow’s TRANSformation follows a very successful fashion model for three years as he starts his hormone treatments and begins his new life and career as a man. The film is incredibly personal and insightful. It is inspiring and compassionate and it will lift the curtain on some of the confusion/stigma surrounding transgendered individuals. After watching the film, I had unbridled empathy for those that have found themselves at a crossroads in their life. First time filmmaker, Gina Hole Lazarowich is no stranger to the fashion world, having worked in it since ’79 but as producer and director, the film had posed some challenges. So why did she take on such a difficult subject as her first film, the answer may surprise you and give you great admiration for one very incredible humanitarian.
After the screening of the film, I was honoured to have the opportunity to interview both Krow and Gina about the film. They had a big night ahead of them and an after party to get to but they still took time to talk to us and answer a few questions. I have transcribed my interview with the amazing talented man, Krow about his new role as a male model and his personal journey. The second interview with Gina Hole Lazarowich follows.
“How has this transformation affected your life?”
“It’s about how you view yourself and how your friends view you. It’s definitely been a big change and it can be taken negatively or positively. I’m so lucky to be able to have so many positive people around me.”
“After watching the documentary I realized that your mom did not support your decision after you told her. What did it mean to you once she did begin to support you?”
“That was probably one of the hardest parts to go through. If she didn’t support me it would’ve been like losing a parent. She had her reasons because she had experiences with trans people. She had had seen them transition into it and see their unhappiness. She wanted me to be happy and it took her awhile to realize that this is what I needed to do to be happy.”
“Do you feel that your relationship with your mom is much closer having gone through this?”
“Oh absolutely! I was basically acting for my mom before and wasn’t genuine so I didn’t have the same attachments. By being my true self around her and not being judged has really brought us closer.”
“Considering you were a model as a female previous to modeling as a man, how has that dynamic changed?”
“I have a couple small restrictions, such as dressing like a model, have your hair styled like a model. Aside from that, I definitely feel like myself and don’t have to hide, its really great.”
“What would you like to tell others that are considering gender transformation?”
“That to remember that you’re doing this for yourself and it’s not about ‘who people want you to be’, it’s about who you want to be. Even if you don’t have the support, you’ll never be happy living a lie and speaking it. There are people well into their 40’s and 50’s that are seeing society being more accepting of transgender, so they’re coming out. They’re getting rejected by their friends and family but the younger generation has definitely moved toward more love and understanding.”
“Many people move through life searching for their identity and purpose. You’ve managed to do that in your youth. What’s next for you?”
“I will continue with modeling and see where it takes me. It’s been an amazing experience and I love doing it. I’m hoping it will help me move into my music career.”
“That’s very exciting. Where did the inspiration for music come from?”
“I’ve always wanted to be a singer but before my transition, I didn’t like the sound of my voice. During my transition I trained my voice to go lower and lower as well as strengthening it. I finally arrived at a place where I liked the sound of my voice and I was really happy with the music I was creating. It’s really helped me to be myself and provide a bigger opportunity to accomplish my dream.”
“You’re performing for the first time tonight. Will they be songs you’ve written?”
“I’ve transitioned from playing piano to ukulele. Everyone is expecting happy fun music; oh no no, they’re in for a sob story.”
I can only begin to guess how difficult early life must have been for Krow. The man he has grown into and the man that gave me his time after the screening is proud, classy and has swagger. I was impressed and inspired by his strength and his happiness.
Gina Hole Lazarowich
“This was your first film. Was it a huge step for you?”
“It was as a director. I had worked as a make-up artist in film for 24 years. My first feature film was in 1987. I had worked in fashion before children and after having children I went back to the fashion world. The producing was the easy part. When they approached me we needed to start immediately and I didn’t have funding, so I couldn’t hire people right away, although I tried. I had to pick up the camera and do it myself until I could hire a pro/someone. It was a little hard, I hadn’t considered myself a director and I was terrified to say the word.”
“Once you had agreed to make the film, were you then fully committed?”
“I said, ‘we’re doing it!’ I then began approaching people for help and of course everyone needs money, so I was telling people that I’m applying to Storyhive, I’m applying to Rogers, I’m applying to Hot Docs and the rest of them and when that money comes in, I’ll give you a flat amount of money. None of that money ever came in but OUT TV came to the rescue. I was able to pay people out of our own pocket. He was getting his testosterone shots, so I had to grab the camera. I screwed a few shots up in the first year but the second and third year were much smoother sailing.”
“What was the gunpowder that kept moving the film forward despite the hardships?”
“It’s always been the thought to help kids. We have to do this/to share this story. Even if I never get any money back that I’ve put into it that will be okay. As long as it gets out to as many people as possible, so kids can see it and see Krow living as a male and the positive outcome. Anyone that’s heterosexual doesn’t really get it. They’ll say they know about them but they don’t get it and don’t want to say anything because they don’t want to offend them. Hopefully I’ve opened the doors to how they’re feeling, how they’re thinking and what’s appropriate. I believe it will help build empathy and they’ll get it. There really isn’t anything else around so to make this documentary as a ‘how to’ and cover every single step along the way. Out of it has come a lot of heart and a lot of love. Introducing Kas Baker (trans) from Winter Youth, who has so much love and heart and talked to us about such personal stories that he’d never even told his parents. It was an incredible experience.”
“What size of crew did you use to capture all the footage?”
“There was me and my production manager Kelsey Sheppard. When I had bigger shoots I’d hire DP Jon Thomas but he didn’t come on board until year two and three. When we went to Paris there was me, Jon and Anton. We were there for a week. I ran the B camera with Anton on sound, Jon on A camera and the rest.”
“With your background, you’re quite comfortable around the fashion world. Was that a big advantage?”
“I’ve been in the fashion industry since ‘79. I started as a makeup artist and also worked as an agent and fashion show coordinator. That was in the ‘80’s when there really wasn’t schools for all that. I was a young 15-16 yr. old kid that looked up to my mentors who were gay, queer and drag queens. I learned how to apply makeup from the drag queens in the bathroom of the Gandy Dancer night club. They were all people I looked up to. I learned to be a perfectionist from Fernando, who was the first man to pass away from AIDS. Back in ’85 there was no cure and we didn’t know what was happening. Peter Benson from Morning Star on Cordova Street gave me my first fashion show I ever coordinated. He loved, trusted and believed in me. When I stepped out of that community and I knew that a black gay male like André Leon Talley(one of the heads of Vogue Magazine) could get killed or beat up walking down Davie Street. I looked up to him like an icon but back in the ‘80’s gays were being killed in Stanley Park. I couldn’t get my head around it because we lived in a fashion bubble. This is me stepping out of my fashion bubble for all the people that I love; my mentors, my friends. This is my way of standing up to all those bullies.”
“Because this was your first film/documentary, did you film everything possible and then trim it down to the story?”
“I don’t think I overshot but there were some lengthy parts because we had lots to talk about. I knew I could direct in year three because I started thinking about my shots and edits going into it. That’s when I realized in year 3 I knew I could direct because I had been thinking of my shots and editing them in my head all along. My brilliant editor Robert Postma was really amazing, he then took the 3 years of footage and assembled it and created the foundation of what I had been shooting all along, we were completely on the same page.
“Have you considered making another documentary?”
“I love being a producer. The directing almost killed me but I think I like telling stories. I’m going to take it one day at a time but OUT TV has offered me another project. I’m just deciding and know that I can’t do it without money. I’ve taken one for the team on this one but the next one will have to come with money (laughter).”
Gina is an incredible filmmaker that has shown the world that passion and an important message to society is enough to commit oneself to making a film. Her tenacity is a game changer and her integrity shines golden. It was an incredible night and my pleasure being able to share the experience.