Gloria Allen, a 73-year-old black transgender woman, is the heart, soul and central character of the film. I am a black woman filmmaker raising a biracial transgender daughter, who is now 15. We are a team of mostly women, half identify as LGBTQ and four are black.
“The only time I entered a closet was to get me an outfit and a pair of pumps.” MAMA GLORIA opens with Gloria Allen opening the doors to her closet and inviting us into her life. Born George in 1945, Gloria came of age amid the legendary drag balls on Chicago’s South Side and transitioned after high school with the support of the women in her family, including her mother Alma, a former showgirl and Jet centerfold. In her 60s, she started a charm school for transgender youth, paying forward the love and life lessons she received. Intimate and character-driven, the feature documentary explores what it means to grow old as part of the first generation of out LGBTQ elders. Living alone, unmarried and childless, having lost many of her friends to drugs, disease and murder, and surviving on a small, fixed income, Gloria lives each day with joy, humor and gratitude, displaying a resilience and optimism that can serve as a model of aging for us all.
My friend Patrick Johnson (MAKING SWEET TEA) connected me to Gloria, who was looking for a writer to assist her with her memoir. After meeting Gloria, I knew she belonged on the screen. And I felt a personal connection to her story: I am the mother of a transgender daughter. As a black woman filmmaker who is raising a biracial transgender daughter, I see Gloria’s story through a unique lens and with personal urgency. Ultimately, it is the story of a mother’s love — the love Gloria’s mother had for her, the love she has for her chosen children, and the love I have for my daughter, Gia. My concern for Gia’s future drives me to bring Gloria’s story to the screen.
At a time when black transgender women in America have an average life expectancy of under 40 and face escalating attacks and violence, Gloria’s life and story is not only inspiring but seldom seen. Gloria is a living testament to the fact that transgender people existed even before the word “transgender” and that they are not going anywhere, despite the current administration’s attempts to erase them out of existence.
In fact, SAGE, an advocacy group for LGBTQ seniors, estimates that by 2030 there will be 7 million LGBTQ adults, age 65 or older. This story is both timely and urgent. As someone who tells stories for a living, I know the inherent power of stories to change hearts, minds and lives. I’ve seen it happen within our own family and small town when we shared our story.
I have run two previously successful crowdfunding campaigns for short films I directed: the award-winning DEATH IN THE FAMILY with Victoria Rowell, and the wildly popular DANGER WORD, starring Frankie Faison. For my most recent film, I partnered with my old friend and colleague Civia Tamarkin to connect the dots between the hundreds of laws aimed at women’s health careBIRTHRIGHT: A WAR STORY, which screened in more than 70 theaters nationwide, qualified for Oscar consideration and is currently streaming on Hulu. MAMA GLORIA comes at no less a critical time — when this administration is doing everything it can to erase transgender people and the majority of transgender people murdered every year are black transgender women.
Because you care about the most marginalized, vulnerable and embattled people in America. Because you want to change the narrative about transgender people and transform stereotypes and beliefs. Because you love great characters — and, believe me, there is only one Mama Gloria! Because you want to know the secret to aging with joy, grace and resilience. Because you want to spread a message of love, hope and optimism. Together — with your help — we can tell this story!
MAMA GLORIA uses a cinema-verite approach that brings viewers into Gloria’s life now, allowing them to experience her warmth, humor and sadness through her interactions with friends, neighbors, former charm school students, family and classmates. The film features rarely seen archival photographs of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood nightlife and drag balls.
Our plan is to complete post-production in time to launch the film on the fall festival circuit. We believe the film will be especially popular on the LGBTQ festival circuit and has the potential to travel the world (hopefully with Gloria along for the ride)! That will be followed by a national broadcast, preferably PBS; digital distribution; and an extended shelf life through campuses and libraries. I am working with partners such as Stonewall Village NYC to use the film to highlight important issues that older LGBTQ adults in particular face, including higher rates of homelessness, income instability and discrimination in health care and senior housing.
The film is in the can! Thanks to an incredible team who have donated their time, equipment and resources, production is complete. Now, to finish the film, we are working with Seed & Spark to raise $15,000. The money will be used to pay our editor ($6K), license archive material ($3K), license music and an orignial film score ($3K), and pay for color correction ($2K) and sound mix ($1K).
Here are ways you can join us in finishing the film:
Click on the follow button on the top right of the page. Followers help us build the audience for the film and unlock some pretty special freebies to complete the film, like a free sound mix!
Share, share, share! Please share our campaign on your social media. And if you know people who aren’t on social media, go old school and talk to them about MAMA GLORIA!
Contribute financially. Every amount counts! And when you contribute you to the campaign, you get some pretty awesome prizes. Here is your chance to be a part of bringing this story to the screen!
We cannot thank you enough for your support and interest in this story. Together, we can tell a different story about transgender people, one that is inspiring and hopeful!