DOWNEY – A courageous, young transgender activist and her family will be speaking at the free public screening of “Raising Zoey,” a documentary about the successful struggle of a student to attend school with the expectation of a safe environment and that her rights will be protected by her local school district.
“Raising Zoey” is part of this year’s Glennfest Film Festival and will show on Friday, October 6, 6:30 PM, at the Downey Civic Theatre on Firestone Blvd.
Dante Alencastre, director and producer, says he is getting more requests this year to show the film in many cities across the country. “It’s just taken off, internationally, too,” he adds.
What is unique about the Downey screening is that the subject of the film, Zoey Luna, is currently a junior at Warren High School.
“I’m super excited that my film is playing in Downey,” says Zoey, whose focus in high school is musical theater and drama. “I never would have thought that my film would be playing in Downey, in my home city.”
Ofelia Barba echoes her daughter’s observation. “This comes full circle to our city where everything started. I am surprised, but happy too.”
Zoey’s story has been featured in national articles about transgender students and the increasing number of parents who feel it is healthier to allow their children to self-identify when they are ready, even if this is at a young age.
“All we really wanted,” says Barba, “was to make changes and help other kids.” Zoey herself has not shied away from the spotlight and leadership in LGBTQ issues. As a 13-year-old, she was the Grand Marshall of the LA Pride Parade in 2015 – the youngest up until then according to Barba.
“She is a community leader, an activist,” says Barba, “not because she wanted it, but because she was thrown into circumstances.”
“The kids at my school are definitely more accepting than in other places that are more conservative,” says Zoey, “but it would be great for them to gain awareness of what is going on in a transgender’s life.”
“Zoey has been pretty out, very visible,” says her mother. “She has lots of friends.”
In 2011, Zoey and her family, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a report with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) detailing incidents of bullying and harassment from peers at school, and the failure of teachers and administrators to protect her from abuse.
In 2014 Downey Unified School District (DUSD), where Zoey attends school, entered into an agreement with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) outlining steps to eliminate gender identity discrimination.
Dr. John Garcia, DUSD Superintendent, was quoted in a Downey Patriot article at the time as saying that the agreement with the OCR “was a resolution, not a settlement.” The resolution indicated that the school district is not admitting any violation of federal law. The agreement included district-wide staff and faculty training on issues related to gender nonconformance, and regular “climate assessments.”
Alencastre says that “Raising Zoey” was sponsored by the California Endowment’s 10-year strategic plan “Building Healthy Communities.”
“The film has crossover appeal,” says Alencastre, “because of beautiful parents.” The film has been shown in cities throughout California, and screenings are planned for other cities throughout the country, including Washington, D.C, and Atlanta.
The Dolores Huerta Foundation collaborated with the screening in Bakersfield, and Alencastre says Dolores Huerta herself attended and participated in the Q & A.
For a full list of films during Glennfest, go to http://glennfest.com/schedule/