“We Exist”: A New Film about Living Outside the Gender Binary

By Kim Hoffman, PQ Monthly

With just a few months until its release, this trailblazing documentary is launching an interactive campaign and wants you to get involved. Photo by Megan Newton

Every day, the spectrum of gender expression is often rejected, mistaken, hidden, and shadowed as a result of being conditioned to the binary world we live in. For transgender or gender-queer youth who don’t yet know their place in the LGBTQ community, this moment in social change is enormous—the topics have hit the mainstream with aim—like Laverne Cox in the hit breakout series “Orange Is the New Black.” There’s also that running community acronym to contend: the Q in LGBTQ is to say that not everyone identifies under the same unbending labels—to be queer is to be yourself, however you conceive that. Just like the heavy breath a marathon runner takes seconds before a race begins, the destination miles away, the outcome totally unpredictable, Chicago-native Lauren Lubin is breathing life into a new film and its subsequent activism.

For the past two years, Lubin has been producing “We Exist,” a film documentary that follows individuals who exist outside of the gender binary. At the center of the story is Lubin’s journey through many layers of emotional and physical transformation as we, the viewers, intimately travel along. This film has stirred up major buzz all over the LGBTQ stratosphere, featured in OUT, Curve, Autostraddle, and the Denver Post. Lubin was invited to speak at Chicago Ideas Week in October 2012 where the video of Lubin’s “Breaking Free of the Gender Binary” speech became the most viewed video on the CIW website.

“I began this project to create a film and share a message that I so desperately needed to see and hear when I was a child. Growing up, I never saw someone like myself anywhere — be it in the media, film, literature, academia, or even legislative reforms. This lack of representation and visibility led me to believe there was no space for someone like myself to flourish in society; therefore I could not exist as my true self. All along this journey, I have carried a mental image of my young self to ensure I never stray from creating a product that this person can connect with, needs and ultimately benefits from,” says Lubin.

As the film reaches its post-production phase, Lubin felt something crucial was missing. The “We Want You” campaign is that last puzzle piece—a recruitment of sorts—to let “We Exist” act as a deeper, more interactive platform for anyone who wants to share their voices and be a part of the film. The film team is currently accepting video submissions through the film’s website from now through March. “We wish to make what was once invisible visible, and what was once silenced heard. The benefits for getting involved in this campaign are threefold: Not only will you be featured in a one-of-a-kind film, but also your contribution will enable others who feel scared, alone, or unsafe to realize they are not alone—as well as show that we do, indeed, exist all over and all around,” says Lubin. You may even see a campaign flier in your community—including here in Portland at the Q Center and other queer-centric places around town.

Once the campaign wraps and video submissions are added into the film’s final cut, “We Exist” will unveil one of the most provocative movie posters out there, along with the official trailer (I’ve seen the rough cut and it completely dismantled me), leading to the release of the film in spring/summer 2014. A promotional tour is underway thereafter where Lubin will travel to schools and film festivals, debuting “We Exist” while simultaneously providing Q&As, educational lectures, rallies, and a few more surprises.

If you ask Lubin what the culmination of this film will be—the answer remains full of robust lightness. It’s not about the finish line, or how fast we run to get to it. “We Exist” may be one of the most important films we see in 2014. It will completely change the way we view gender. Where is our trans visibility? How can we move forward in a binary world where everything is hot or cold, black or white, gay or straight, man or woman? It’s time to breakdown the binary boundaries we’ve remained so stagnant in, once and for all. At the recent New York City marathon, Lubin shed a tear while watching the runners round the corner—so many people functioning toward the same goal, paced as they go.

To get involved with “We Exist,” visit: weexist.co/Enlist/.