New Doc “Just Be Gemma” Follows A Local Activist As They Transition

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Director Peter Walsh’s new documentary “Just Be Gemma” follows local trans-activist Gemma Hickey through a year and a half of their transition. The film will premiere on CBC Television on September 23rd at 9:00pm. After its premiere, it will be available on www.CBC.ca/docs.

St. John’s-based activist Gemma Hickey is known for playing a significant role in the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada. They are also the founder of Pathways, an agency that offers support to survivors of religious institutional abuse.

Hickey is currently engaged in a highly publicized legal battle, for fighting for Canadians’ right to identify as non-binary on government-issued documents, including passports. On November 22nd, Hickey will be bringing the issue to Newfoundland and Labrador’s Supreme Court.

“I’ve never been comfortable being gendered as a female, but I don’t want to change my name, I love my name. I’ve had top surgery but I don’t want bottom surgery. So non-binary is how I identify, it just feels right, I’m just Gemma,” Hickey said.

Hickey felt the need to document their transition to monitor how they were changing, and to create an artefact that might be useful to other trans folks. They had already collaborated with Walsh on other projects, and when the idea of a documentary came up in conversation, it felt like the right way to share Hickey’s story.

“Under Peter’s direction, I was making video dairies and he was documenting trips to doctor’s office and following me around with the camera,” Hickey explained. “Peter and his crew have been following me for about a year and a half, from my first shot of testosterone to present day. It’s been an intense year and a half.”

As a director, Walsh was interested in exploring Hickey’s experience of transitioning on a very intimate level, as opposed to focusing on how Canadian laws and policies impact trans people in general. Although he acknowledged those narratives are intertwined and impact each other.

“I knew early in the process this film was going to be about a personal journey and not a vast exploration of the issue across North America. I knew Gemma’s personal relationships would be important and I knew physical changes would be important,” Walsh said. “It was also a process of checking in with Gemma and talking about what they felt should be included.”

The film follows Hickey through their top surgery, as well as a break up and the death of their grandmother. Through all of these events Hickey was committed to documenting what they were going through as openly and honestly as possible.

“I’m hoping that my vulnerability, which I believe is my greatest strength, will help other people and especially children who are struggling and feel like they don’t have a place to fit in. I’m trying to carve out that space for them and for me,” Hickey said.

About Author

Eva Crocker

Eva Crocker is a writer from St. John's, her short story collection, Barrelling Forward, was published by House of Anansi Press in Spring of 2017.

32 Comments

  1. I am 100% in support of LGBT rights, BUT, and I hate to say BUT after that statement, this third option on documents is a bad idea. the only reason there is 2 is because there used to be different laws for men and women, now there are not. sex, gender, whatever you want to call it, should not be on birth certificates at all. I’m in favor of small government, so anything that could add to government administration is a bad idea in my eyes, an unnecessary expense!

    • This non-binary stuff is great for two reasons:
      1/ It will abolish sexism – Since what it means to be a male or female is subjective, perceived discrimination based on “sex” cannot be easily assessed.
      2/ More choice – People can choose if they want to go to a ” female” prison or “male” prison, sports teams etc.

      It seems like what we know as “females” will be the ones really negatively affected by this. Can women still march “Take back the night”? or talk about their rights being infringed upon? it seems like it’s meaningless now.

      If we can choose our sex, we will soon get to choose our race? i don’t see why not

  2. Anonymous is not I, Trish. I have no problem putting my name out there even when it comes to discussing or even debating those who are confused about their Gender! You and along with KP and his minions can go hump each other. But if you and your kind threaten me ever again, I will come after all of you!

  3. Trans transition gender confused mentally unstable morons have become a growth industry. Milk the taxpayers to pay for more of their own vanity, force the taxpayers to pay for stupid court challenges to the benefit of nobody but their greedy, self centered, bruised psyches. Bunch of losers with nothing better to do. Nobody in their right mind would want people like that working for them. Fewer than 1% of the population soaking up far more than they’re worth. Jennifer McCreath is worse than Gemma but they’re both unbearable excuses for people.

  4. Nobody cares about reality anymore. on

    OK, so I identify as a moose. Does that make me a moose? I identify as a 70 year old man. Does that make me eligible for old age pension?
    This insanity has gone completely off the deep end. Not only do we have to accept that someone calls themselves “they”, WE have to start respecting it and using that pronoun as well?? No. Not happening. If she wants to live in La-la land and call herself something she’s not, then there’s nothing us normal citizens can do to stop her. But DO NOT tell me that I have to somehow play along in the land of make believe with her, and call this WOMAN a “they”. Is this kind of pseudointellectual nonsense going to be taught in schools as valid?
    Gemma is a deeply hurt individual, and deserves love and compassion. But that DOES NOT mean encouraging her to believe in something that’s just plain insane because she simply “feels” as though she’s a plural entity.

    • Whenever this comes up people go right off the deep end with nonsense comparisons. This is not a person saying they are a moose or geriatric. It is possible for one condition to be legitimate and another not. Why would you rather cause Gemma and others anguish than use a different, still quite “normal,” pronoun? This is dead simple politeness. You are as self-centered as the caricature you complain about.

      • NO ONE CARES ABOUT REALITY ANYMORE on

        So what’s the “legitimate condition” you’re alluding to? Who says it’s “legitimate”? That Gemma is multiple people to multiple persons warrants a “they” pronoun be used by the rest of sane society?
        You know what, WE’RE ALL different things to different people. The YOU that your Mom perceives is different entirely from that person at work that you’ve only spoken to on occasion. NOBODY perceives YOU exactly the same way. But you know what? You’re still JUST YOU, Just like Gemma is “Just Gemma” and not multiple people at once.

        Inevitably you’ll ask “why do you care?” Or “your theyophobia indicates you’re a closet they” or something. Here’s why I care: I have a 2 year old son that deserves better than to appease this nonsense once he enters society as an adult. TRUTH and REALITY are still things, whether SJW activists like it or not. Gemma is NOT a “they”, she is JUST GEMMA.

  5. What part of this is necessary? Ever tried talking to a therapist instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of someone else’s money to turn her into him, or in this case neither? Total waste.

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