BFI Flare mis-gendered/mis-named Director, Sam Feder, and has yet to fix this mistake.

David Getsy wrote this open letter on behalf on Sam

An open letter to the BFI on behalf of Sam Feder28 February 2014Dear Tricia Tuttle, Deputy Head of Festivals:It has come to my attention (and indeed, it’s already gone viral) that a serious situation has arisen with the publicity materials for the BFI Flare Film Festival and the listing of Sam Feder’s credits for the film  Kate Bornstein Is a Queer and Pleasant Danger. While I acknowledge the apology that has been made to Feder, I felt it incumbent on me to add my voice to those who call for a decisive correction to the problem in the printed materials.I am a historian, and I think of things in relation to the histories they can and will create. Quite frankly, this is a disastrous mistake that will, if uncorrected, be taken up in historical narratives. There has been a decades long struggle by transgender activists and communities to combat their uncritical assimilation and erasure by otherwise well-meaning movements and organizations based around sexuality. While there has been a productive and dynamic relationship between transfolk and gays and lesbians, their concerns differ in significant ways. A vocal and widespread transgender politics and transgender scholarship both emerged out of the realization that the issues transfolk faced were being disregarded or caricatured by their allies in gay, lesbian, and queer social movements. A trans politics, history, and community was called forth from these debates about visibility and survival. In addition to widespread prejudice in mainstream culture, that is, transfolk also had to fight misconceptions and condescension from their allies in queer politics and scholarship. Your current situation not only invokes this history, it is participating in it.

Kate Bornstein is one of the most impactful of the leaders of the movement for trans rights and politics, and it is against the backdrop of this history that the BFI’s actions take on amplified importance. It seems remarkable to me that the BFI has not recognized that — especially with this biographical film about Bornstein — to make such a significant error as incorrectly printing the name and gender of its director is disastrous. Such a mistake about any individual is a major problem, but to do so in relation to the history-making event of this film is egregious.

Let me be frank: as a historian, I can say without a doubt that this mistake will become part of the narrative of trans history and the story of the prejudice against trans lives. Regardless of whether the mistake was honest or clerical, the decision to slight the demand to rectify the improper naming because of the cost of printing your materials will be seen as a concrete instance of prejudice and grudging tolerance of trans films in your festival and, more broadly, in the BFI. (And, let’s not forget, it is printed materials rather than online posts and websites that enter the archives and last the longest.)

In short, if not fully addressed, this will come back to haunt the festival and the BFI. While it may seem minor to some of your interlocutors and able to be overlooked, it is this “detail” which will take on mythic proportions. I understand you must be under many pressures internal and external, ethical and financial, but I urge you to address the situation.

Sincerely yours,
David J. Getsy, Ph.D.
Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History and
Chair, Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago