"Honest, intelligent and absolutely clear-eyed, "She's a Boy I Knew" proves there's still more to be squeezed out of transsexual documentaries."
- Jay Weissberg, Variety
- Documentary, Canada, 2007
- HDCAM / COLOUR / 70 minutes / 1.78 / Stereo
Using archival family footage, interviews, phone messages, and animation, Haworth's documentary She's a Boy I Knew begins in 2000 with Steven Haworth's decision to come out to his family about his life-long female gender identity.
The resulting auto-ethnography is not only an exploration into the filmmaker's process of transition from biological male to female, from Steven to Gwen, but also an emotionally charged account of the individual experiences, struggles, and stakes that her two sisters, mother, father, best friend and wife brought to Gwen's transition.
Under Haworth's sensitive eye, each stepping stone in the process of transitioning becomes an opportunity to explore her community's and our own underlying assumptions about gender and sexuality.
When Steven starts to wear his wife Malgosia's clothing, she struggles with whether Steve "wants to be with me or to be me;" when Steven changes her name to Gwen, her father comments, that's "when I realized I lost my son;" Haworth's gender reassignment surgery forces her sister Kim to grapple with her own experiences in the medical establishment and raises questions about the implications of the medicalization of gender.
In these tender and difficult moments, She's a Boy I Knew forces us to question our own assumptions about the role that names, clothing, and anatomy play in our constructions of gender identity.
As her transition progresses, Gwen is forced to reckon with the end of her marriage and the loss of her status as son and brother. But in doing so, she also discovers that while the nature of personal relationships may change, the love and support present within those relationships can remain just as powerful and sometimes even more so.
At turns painful, funny, and awkward, She's A Boy I Knew explores the frustrations, fears, questions, and hopes experienced by Gwen and her family as they struggle to understand and embrace her newly revealed identity.
Synopsis as written by Montreal's image+nation Film Festival
Gwen Haworth, a filmmaker who makes her home in Vancouver, turns her camera at herself for this simple, down-to-earth documentary that follows her transition from male to female over the course of several years. This thoughtful film is less a detailing of surgeries and more a meditation on family ties - a mapping of the transitions that take place within Gwen's blood relationships, friendships and love over a time of great personal transformation. Through one-on-one interviews as well as photographs, letters and phone messages, she gives plenty of space for her mother, father, sisters, wife and best friend to tell their stories and share their reactions to the ongoing process of her transition. Their words are at times painful to hear, but the sheer honesty of Gwen's family in recounting their fear, anger, understanding and support provides an exceptional snapshot of one family's journey in coping with change and learning to love Gwen as she is - much as she learns to do the same. - AZ
Synopsis as written by the Palm Springs International Film Festival
Parents lost a son, sisters lost a brother, and perhaps most sadly of all, a wife lost her husband after Steven Haworth answered the nagging inner voice of his true gender identity and undertook the long process that saw him become Gwen, the director of this film. In this brave retelling of her own story, Haworth displays real film-making talent, employing archive footage and even animation to embellish what is ultimately a transgender success story - but the trump card she plays is in eliciting some of the most fully considered and deeply self-examining interviews ever filmed on the subject, which range in nature from the suppressed heartbreak of her former football-playing police-officer father, to the unwavering support of life-long friend Roari, and radical younger sister Nicole. Necessarily more complex is the relationship with wife Malgosia, who loves the person who is Gwen but physically misses the man she married - while Gwen's feelings for Malgosia have not changed along with her external transformation. Refreshingly in its candor, She's a Boy I Knew goes way beyond the mere recounting of the stages of the transformation to become a deeply moving story of loss and unconditional love.