Tropic’s 4 Nights 4 Justice:
“From This Day Forward”
Offers Intimate View of
A Transgender Family
Interviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
What do you do when you discover your dad prefers to wear dresses? Eight-year-old Sharon Shattuck and her younger sister Laura took it in stride until he started picking them up at school dressed like a woman. “Classmates started asking us a lot of questions,” Sharon recalls with a roll of her eyes.
The two girls had discovered their father’s secret after finding photographs in the trash, pictures of their father wearing a dress and makeup. “Why’s dad dressed like grandma?” her sister asked.
To answer his daughter’s questions, Michael Shattuck stepped into the bedroom and emerged a few minutes later dressed as a woman.
“Being kids, we rolled with it,” shrugs Sharon Shattuck. “We didn’t know it was such a big deal.”
Well, until people started talking. By then, they were living in a small town in northern Michigan. “A Norman Rockwellian town,” she says. “They weren’t ready for Trisha” -- her dad’s new name.
“My mom, Marcia, knew before they got married,” Sharon continues. “And later when he decided to transition, they agreed to stay together. I didn’t understand it then, but this was a true love story.”
Sharon started off to be a botanist, but would end up making short science films. Her Emmy-nominated New York Times series “Animated Life” tells stories of scientific discovery using stringent journalism and paper puppets.
This new documentary about the innerworkings of her transgender family -- “From This Day Forward” – initially was supposed to be about other people’s families. “But then I’d come home and film a little bit of my own family. I ended up changing the focus to my parents, it was a gradual thing.”
“From This Day Forward” is the fourth entry in this year’s 4 Nights 4 Justice, a film series funded by the Mike Dively Foundation for Social Justice. And next Tuesday night Sharon Shattuck will be on stage at Tropic Cinema to introduce her film and answer questions.
“Making this documentary helped me better understand my mother and father,” she says. “I was about to get married and needed to come to terms with my parents’ unusual relationship. How did their love survive against all odds?”
She doubts anyone else could have made this film. Her parents would have never given an outsider the same access. “The filming just happened, a little at a time,” she says. “Finally I realized the story was going to be about them.”
What did she learn in the process? “I learned that a relationship between two people is really a personal thing,” says Sharon Shattuck. “And that my parents are still in love.”