Every spring since 1989, the annual Esprit conference brings together transgender women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s from all over the country. For this one week in Port Angeles, WA, attendees share their stories with one another and build a community through workshops, social activities, and self-discovery.
So it's no surprise that director and cinematographer Jessica Dimmock was drawn to this conference and made it the subject of her short documentary The Convention, a film created as part of Refinery29's Shatterbox Anthology.
The Convention is an intimate portrayal of Esprit and its participants, many of whom hide their true identities from their families for a variety of reasons. With each interview, it becomes clearer and clearer that, in order to be themselves, many of these women have to lie to the people they love. And unfortunately, these isolating, sometimes tragic experiences are all too common: According to the 2014 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41% of transgender respondents report attempting suicide, compared to 4.6% of the overall U.S. population. Plus, 2016 has been the most deadly year for trans people, with 26 trans people (mostly women of color) being killed, according to GLAAD.
Despite these awful statistics, ultimately, each moment at Esprit featured in The Convention is a celebration of being utterly and unapologetically true to yourself. And while these issues may be complicated, Dimmock is more than equipped to handle them.
Since 2007, Dimmock has been racking up major accolades for her work. In 2104, she won the Infinity Award for Photojournalist of the Year from the International Center of Photography; in 2010, she won Kodak's Best Cinematography Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival for co-producing the film Without (directed by Mark Jackson). Her photo book The Ninth Floor, which documents a group of people struggling with addiction and living in a former millionaire's Manhattan apartment, was a finalist for the 2007 International Photography Awards for Best Picture Book.
Clearly, Dimmock's work, as well as the women featured in The Convention, should not be missed. Watch the trailer above or on Comcast Watchable.