By Mariya Alfa Staugaard
Julie Bezerra Madsen’s documentary ‘It’s Always Been Me’ premiered 17 March at the film festival cphdox. The film follows two young people, Max and Bastian, from childhood and into the chaotic teenage years, where body and mind go in different directions.
We got the chance to sit down with Max, his mother Tanja, and sister Nina for a chat about the experience of being filmed for a documentary and what life has been like since filming ended.
What was it like to finally see the film?
Max: It was a bit strange to see myself as a 12 year old, but it was alright.
Tanja: One of my colleagues saw the clip where you say that you weren’t Max before the summer holidays, but afterwards you were.
Max: I wasn’t Max on the outside, but I was Max on the inside.
Tanja: The funniest thing has been to see and hear the difference and how he’s developed these two years.
What was it like being filmed?
Max: It’s not something you really notice. You obviously know when they’re around, but it wasn’t like she was here all the time. Sometimes we’d have a break for several months where we weren’t filming. And it was only Julie who was around.
Tanja: So it was manageable. And Julie’s just amazing. Always happy and smiling, it wasn’t long until she became part of the family.
Max: We shot the last scene, the one at the swimming pool, on 9 April last year, on my birthday.
How much do you follow the public debate about transgender kids and teens?
Max: I don’t really pay it any attention.
Tanja: It’s taken up so much space and given us so many ups and downs that we’re trying to stay away from it.
What gives you hope for the future?
Nina: Young people. Our generation and the generation before us give me hope.
Max: Some of them…
Nina: At one point, we’re going to be running the world. I just hope that the people who are currently in charge won’t fuck it up too much.
Max: It’s not all old people, though. My friend’s grandmother is 101 years old, and she’s pretty cool and fully supports him.
What should people take away from ‘It’s Always Been Me’?
Max: That being transgender is not a choice. Who would choose to be at risk of hate crime every day?
Nina: But they are amazing and brave enough to be themselves.
What do you think about the fact that more attention is being paid to the topic?
Max: I’m fine with that.
Tanja: As a parent, there wasn’t anywhere for us to go. It becomes a bit public when you’re on TV and giving interviews, but there has to be someone who steps forward. We didn’t have anyone to relate to and that’s a hard position for a parent to be in.
Nina: The only time where I’ve felt sorry for Max is when reading the nasty comments on Facebook. It really hurts to see, and they don’t know what it’s really all about. As Max’s sister I can see how much happier he is now that he gets to be himself.
Tanja: I don’t read the comments. People sit there behind a screen and have no idea what they’re talking about because it’s not something they’ve dealt with in their own lives.
Max: I do sometimes read the comments, but that’s because I find them hilarious. I always laugh at them.
Where do you find support and community?
Max: My friends and family.
Tanja: I have a whole bunch of extra kids at this point. They’re always welcome here – sometimes you just need to get away, and they all know that they’re welcome here. I’ve told my kids that I don’t care what they are, as long as they’re happy.
Do you have a favorite scene from the film?
Max: When I burned the Barbie dolls!
Tanja: I think the best thing we filmed was at the pool. Seeing Max in the water again and jumping off the diving board – it was amazing. Max used to take diving lessons, so I guess he’s practiced… diving into the unknown *laughs*.
Max: Seriously, Mom!
‘It’s Always Been Me’ can be seen during cphdox until 25 March. Find screenings and tickets here.