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Film Group to Screen ‘Happy Birthday, Marsha!’ in Houston

Gender Reel Houston’s short-film event includes a new flick about trans activist Marsha P. Johnson’s life.


Transgender representation in the media should not be limited to actors playing trans characters on screen, according to LGBTQI advocate Koomah.

Koomah is the lead organizer of Gender Reel Houston, a group that showcases artists, performers, and filmmakers whose works are reflective of trans, intersex, and genderqueer experiences.

“The best trans representation is seen in projects that involve trans individuals in every aspect of the work,” says Koomah, an intersex Houston artist who identifies as genderqueer. “Trans people in film should be behind the camera as well as in front of it.”

On Sunday, Jan. 20, Gender Reel Houston presents Happy Birthday, Marsha! at Rice Cinema. Written and directed by queer filmmakers Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel, and starring trans actress Mya Taylor, the short film tells the story of trans activist Marsha P. Johnson and her life in the hours before she ignited the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City.

The screening of Happy Birthday, Marsha!, which starts at 6:30 p.m., is set to run an hour, and will feature several other birthday-specific shorts that star and were created by trans and intersex people.

“We certainly ran with the birthday theme,” Koomah says. “We’ll even have birthday cake for guests.”

Gender Reel Houston, led by Koomah, Stephanie Saint Sanchez, and Jay Mays, launched in November 2015 as an annual film festival to promote trans visibility. The organization has since rebranded to become more accessible to viewers by hosting several events in the city throughout the year.

All of Gender Reel Houston’s screenings and art shows are pay-what-you-can, and donations collected go to the folks whose works are being displayed.

“Gender Reel strives to support the trans community by paying artists for their work,” Kommah says. “Not only do we want these folks to make a living, but we want them to continue to be able to make art.”

Following Gender Reel Houston’s Jan. 20 presentation of Happy Birthday, Marsha!, the organization will continue showing its Trans Film Series at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art on Feb. 7.

Koomah, an artist, performer, and filmmaker who has been professionally active in the arts since 2003, will headline Burning 100 Demons, a queer Lunar New Year ritual at Lawndale Art Center, on Feb. 1.

For more information about Gender Reel Houston, go here. For more information about Koomah, go here.


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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is the managing editor of OutSmart magazine.

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