A Sacramento Summer Solstice afternoon sited the premiere of the short documentary “Never Too Late?”, the chronicle of Steve Haskins’s journey to become Stephanie Haskins. The production crew of seven spent a year following Haskins’s expedition through surgeries, therapy, riots, and empathy as she transitions to become the person she is meant to be. And now, the impressive B Street Sofia theater welcomed hundreds to the free inaugural viewing of Stephanie’s story.
“Never Too Late?” documents the gender transition of 76-year-old Stephanie Haskins, formerly a Sacramento television news producer, assignment editor, executive producer, assistant news director and news director. He was then known as Steve Haskins and worked in the TV news business for 30+ years, including two decades at NBC Affiliate KCRA Channel 3.
Employees had not forgotten working for Haskins and showed up in droves for the screening. The premiere of the half-hour documentary played at the sold-out theater in Midtown Sacramento. Among attendees were Silver Circle Members Steve Swatt, Adrian Woodfork, and Jim Stimson. In all, about 300 people were in attendance.
“The program was enlightening and demonstrated what Stephanie had to go through during her transition,” said Swatt who was a political correspondent for years at Channel 3 and worked with Haskins. “The transition looked difficult, traumatic, expensive and should not be treated lightly.”
Chapter Board Member Joyce Mitchell spent a good part of her professional life working with Haskins as his 11 O’Clock producer for 13 years. Haskins was then assistant news director of KCRA Channel 3. Mitchell knew him as Steve during their years together at KCRA.
About three years ago, Mitchell teamed with Director Ted Ross, Chapter Awards Chair Wayne Freedman, Chapter Education Chair Toby Momtaz, and cameraman Ken Day to tell Haskins’s unique story. At 76 years-old, she may be the oldest known American to undergo gender reassignment surgery. “When I came out four years ago, I knew I had no choice,” Haskins said. “I wanted to be perceived as the person I was inside.”
Freedman, who is recovering from knee surgery and had to attend by cellphone explains: “Stephanie is a fascinating inkblot of a subject. She tells a brutally honest, relevant story….one that few commercial television stations would dare touch in this level of detail,” said Freedman: “I learned a lot from her. Stephanie pulled back the curtain and made it very clear how this is something that people go through. Most of the time they go through it in the shadows. Our point here was to make it more accessible to the many, many, many millions of Americans who don’t understand it.”
As an out gay man, the “Never Too Late?” Director Ted Ross has socialized with trans people for over four decades: ” I thought I was pretty in-tune with the transgender experience. But, after working on this project, even I gained a whole new level of empathy for the struggles and sacrifices trans people experience. This documentary has the power to educate and inform.”
The documentary was produced by members of the local Television Academy. Mitchell produced and co-wrote the program with Freedman with Momtaz acting as a coordinating producer. Ken Day served as the director of photography. Chapter Treasurer and Past President Steve Shlisky was brought in during postproduction to edit the program. Mitchell, Shlisky, Day and Freedman are all members of the Silver Circle.
“It was an honor and privilege to work on this documentary, telling the story of my former boss Steve Haskins, now Stephanie,” said Mitchell. “I truly realized that her transition was not a choice, that it was a life-saving endeavor and that today, she’s happier than ever. The process has been emotional and powerful.”
“Stephanie is a hero,” said Mitchell: “inviting us in to cover the most intimate moments of her new life. All – to help others better understand the journey and appreciate that decision.”
Momtaz was delighted by the crowd at the screening: “It’s truly remarkable to see so many people showing up and embracing the significance of this story.” Momtaz, who arranged and setup most of the interviews was noticeably moved by the event: “Capturing Stephanie’s transformation and sharing it with the community has been a heartfelt endeavor for our entire production team, fueled by our genuine passion for this project.”
Former Assemblyman Dennis Mangers opened the screening with powerful remarks, remarks he composed after privately watching the documentary at his desk 3+ times. He said that the program puts the “T” in LGBT, that the transgender community has for the most part been somewhat ignored. “ “Never Too Late?” shines a much-needed light,” said Mangers.
Dignitaries mingled with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence coming out to support the documentary. Former Sacramento City Council Member Steve Hansen was there to support the project. Hansen is currently running for Mayor of Sacramento. Following the viewing of the half-hour documentary, a panel discussion focused on issues not included in the program such as the current political climate this program is facing in looking for distribution.
Panel members included Woodfork, Haskins, Dr. Debra Johnson, and former Sacramento CBS 13 Main Anchor now Therapist Jennifer Whitney. Both Woodfork and Whitney worked with Haskins in the news business. Woodfork spoke of his experience working in television during the racial tension of the 60s and 70s. Johnson and Whitney spoke about the joys and challenges working with transgender patients.
A fifth Chapter Board Member, Susan A. Bradley, also helped with the production and photographed the preview (including all of the photographs on this page): “It always amazes me how right things feel when people come together in support of each other. A remarkable evening for a remarkable human being.”
The screening was sponsored by Mitchell’s Capitol City AIDS Fund, a non-profit organization, founded in 1995 to support HIV/AIDS services in the Sacramento area. This event was designed to coincide with June’s LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. It attracted many people who embrace the spirit of Pride Month.
The crew working on this production are all veterans of Bay Area broadcast television stations, but there has been a snag in bringing it to a wider audience. Mitchell and Ross negotiated with Sacramento’s PBS affiliate KVIE for a year and a half to air the program. In early June that deal fell apart. Ross says: “We’ve already received push back from broadcast outlets, suggesting we sanitize the documentary for a general viewing audience. But, our team is dedicated to telling the complete story. And based on a sold-out premiere crowd who responded with three standing ovations, audiences love this authentic and touching story of transformation. Despite numerous connections across the Chapter, this screening remains the only planned public outlet for the feature.”