Now Streaming in Austin: "Texas Strong"
Webby-winning documentary lets a trans kid speak for herself
Kai Shappley is a typical 7-year-old kid in Pearland, Texas, born to a very typical Pearland Christian conservative family. She is also the star of "Texas Strong," the short documentary that just took the awards for Best Video Documentary: Longform and People's Voice at the 23rd annual Webby Awards, the Oscars of online content. Still only in grade school, this young transgender girl is the face of the struggle for acceptance, while her mother Kimberly becomes an unexpected advocate for trans rights.
The 20-minute documentary is part of the Trans in America series. Presented by the ACLU and Little by Little Films, the three shorts – "Texas Strong," "Atlanta Drive," and "Chicago Love" – each presents a different aspect of the experiences of trans people in modern America. Shot by Austin cinematographer Amy Bench (Loves Her Gun) and produced by another Austinite, Lindsey Dryden (Lost and Sound, Unrest), "Texas Strong" lets young Kai explain why the infamous bathroom ban that Texas tried to pass in 2017 was just mean and didn't help anyone.
"Texas Strong" is a preview of director Daresha Kyi's feature documentary Mama Bears, which is currently in production and due out in 2020. It's a study of the thousands of Christian conservative families who break the conventional understanding – often on both sides of the fight over trans rights – that it's impossible to support the current Republican Party and still support their transgender children. Kyi said, "To risk losing your family, friends, and even your belief system because you love your child is no easy journey, but it's one that Kimberly and over 6,000 like-minded Christian mothers have willingly taken."