I have been working for 25 years in the film industry and am proud to now have two titles in the New Day collection. My newest work is A Chance To Dress, a documentary that explores the complexity of gender expression through the story of MIT Professor Emeritus and open cross-dresser Dr. John “Tephra” Southard. The film follows the difficulties in coming out to his friends, neighbors and colleagues, but also his sense of liberation after a lifetime of secrecy.
My curiosity motivated me to make this film: I had so many questions about the nature of cross-dressing. When I discovered that many others had the same questions, I set out to find some answers. Few people understand that cross-dressing is not the same as being transgender, so my goal was to explore the phenomenon of cross dressing and bring it into conversation. Cross-dressing is very much a part of the fabric of our society and it should be understood as yet another way of expressing one’s gender identity.
The community of cross-dressers is still hidden – trying to locate cross-dressers isn’t as easy as, for example, finding the gay and lesbian community, or even now the transgender community. They tend to want to remain “stealth” as much as possible. So the fact that we were able to film inside the Tiffany Club (a private club for cross-dressers and transgender people) was a big deal, and I think we were able to do so on the strength of my previous film, Thy Will Be Done: a transsexual woman’s journey through family and faith. It was the first time the Club allowed filming inside – ever – so that was a great opportunity that really enriched the film.
The film has made an impact by validating the desire of men who occasionally enjoy dressing in women’s clothing. But to my great delight, it has also had an unexpected impact on the wives of cross-dressers. The film profiles John Southard’s wife Jean, an “A+ wife,” who is caring, understanding, and a “willing accomplice.” She is a role model and inspiration to those who may be having a hard time embracing the lifestyles of their partners or aren’t sure how best to support them.
Learn more about Alice’s work here.