Teen Asks for Tolerance around Gender Identity

Tory PosterBostonian Tory Muschetta was a little girl who innately felt uneasy about wearing frilly dresses and fussed-about hair. As she grew into her teens, she struggled with everyday decisions that are automatic for many, such as, which public restroom to enter; the women’s or the men’s.  In high school, she listened as her female friends talked about cute boys. Tory felt uninterested and disconnected. Feeling pressured by society to define her gender, Tory summoned the courage to articulate what she had discovered, and uttered the words, “I do not know yet.”

Since then, Tory produced a very personal film on gender identity called, “I Don’t Know Yet” which screened at the 2014 Hampshire County Trans Awareness Month Film Series. Tory also received a standing ovation after presenting her film at the Boston Public Schools Committee meeting last fall, and will be delivering the keynote address at an upcoming event. Undoubtedly, Tory has compellingly addressed the social misconception that there are finite identities that one must choose from. Thank you Tory, for reminding us that we’re limitless when we are fearless, and when we are fearless we stand up, speak up and enlighten!

“Self identity is talked about in society as if we are already supposed to know who we are. The point of my piece is to emphasize that not everyone knows or fits into the basic norms society has designed.”

Q:  What motivated you to share your personal story via your film?

A:  What motivated me to share my personal story in my film mostly came from not knowing what else to do. Everyone else seemed to have a clear concept of what they were doing, what they were going to use as props, film locations but for me it took a while to figure out what would be a great video and I thought that maybe something personal would be just that; great.

Q:  What’s your vision? What is the impact you want to make?

A:  For me it’s hard to think of a vision. Everyone usually says something like I want the whole world to be a better place or for a particular systematic oppression to end but it’s hard to picture any of that so quick on a big scale. But for me, my vision is progress. I want the impact that I have to generate global progression. I want to be the start of things getting better and inspire people along the way who also want to make progress, to strive to make an impact with whatever they do.

Q:  When do you first remember you wanted to share your story? How did you feel when you did so at the School Committee meeting last fall?

A:  The first time I wanted to share my story is when I was a Facilitator for The Curly Project in 2013. We had to talk to students from the Young Achievers School between sixth and eighth grade about stories that defined us, how they shaped us into the people we are today and what can they take away from the stories told. And when I shared my story, not only did I feel like it was easier to share, but I saw that even people younger than me went through similar things and also felt on a border between saying I am a boy or I am a girl. During the school committee meeting, hearing all the praise for something that I struggled through, a project that I wasn’t sure would reach anyone or anything made me feel on top of the world and still does.

Q:  Tell us about your journey since then. How did you get to where you are today?

A:  I got where I am today with a lot of love, acceptance and junk food. It took me a while to accept and love myself.

Q:  What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

A:  I’ve faced the questions that I never had answers to and a lot of my past when actually doing the project. It was something that I have somewhat suppressed for so long and actually sitting down trying to build a concept around something so deeply attached to me… it was really difficult. But I had the help of my teacher Thato Mwosa and also some support from my girlfriend Victoria during the process.

Q:  What are your future goals?

A: My future goal is to continue to create videos such as “I Don’t Know Yet” to motivate others and attend college to pursue media communications and also help others with making their impact through film.

Q:  What help do you need to achieve them?

A: To achieve my goals I just need to continue being inspired and keep finding reasons everyday to do the things that I do. I had a lot of help from a community organization called The City School that helped me come to terms with some of the language of being gender neutral and the different spectrums that break society’s binaries.

Q:  How will the world be different because of what you’re doing?

A: I hope that people will start actually changing their perspectives to something more open and actually welcoming people such as myself who spent a long time dealing with oppressive outlooks and hiding who they truly are because of the pain they already went through.

Q:  What advice would you give to someone who is afraid to pursue their ideas for addressing an important social issue? What do they need to be successful?

A:  Go for it. If you think it won’t work, if you think someone won’t approve, go for it. Because someone somewhere will hear what you have to say and it will change their life and you will become an inspiration. There aren’t enough people touching upon social issues affecting us on an everyday bases so if you’re afraid of doing so, you have to take that risk because your voice will be worth something. If you have a voice your already successful. You just need to share it as proof.

“Through my film, I want people to understand that not everything falls between two options; there are many things in between.”

Patricia Cogley is manager, Adobe Youth Voices.