Becoming transgender is a highly controversial social issue.
Four in ten Americans know a transgender person, but it continues to be an uncomfortable, misunderstood, and sometimes taboo subject. Half of Americans do not approve for reasons ranging from religion to education to politics.
Never Too Late? tells the story of 76-year-old Stephanie Haskins, the oldest-known American to undergo gender affirmation surgery. She began making that change at age 72.
The people behind this documentary are all well-known to NATAS in Northern California. Emmy® Award producer Joyce Mitchell produced it. Retired ABC7 reporter and 54-time recipient Wayne Freedman co-wrote the work, conducted interviews, and did the narration. Former Emmy® Chapter president Steve Shlisky edited. Emmy® Award-winning photographer Ken Day did the shooting. NATAS governor Toby Momtaz also helped produce the production.
One of every 100 Americans is transgender. Their desire is as old as humanity itself. Yet, many transgender people remain in the closet for fear of violence, stigma, and discrimination.
Before becoming Stephanie, Steve Haskins had been a successful Sacramento television executive, husband, and father. From the early teens, he knew he was different, but denied it for seven decades. That led to depression, a late-life suicide attempt, and then intense
psychotherapy. Finally, Steve had an epiphany. He realized he was really a woman born into the wrong body.
Steve Haskins felt obliged to become his more authentic self.
For three years, Steve-now-Stephanie has undergone numerous drug treatments and surgeries including breast augmentation, facial feminization, the removal of her Adam’s apple, penis and testicles. She has more procedures planned. While medical insurance covers some of the work, Stephanie is paying for most of the surgeries, herself.
Her adjustments have been difficult, physically and emotionally.
While Stephanie is committed to being a radical feminist woman, she lives in a world that remains mostly reluctant to accept her. That includes her ex-wife and daughter, who feel betrayed. Their reaction is not unusual. Forty-percent of relatives reject relationships with transitioning family members.
In this documentary, Stephanie tells her story of metamorphosis, the prices she has paid, and the rewards she has reaped. If anyone wonders why a person becomes transgender and what transitioning is like, Stephanie describes it here. She is on a mission to demystify people like herself.
“If you know who I am, just on the surface that I am a transgender woman, then you know or at least have a pretty good sense of how much I had to give up for that, how much I suffered. And, by God, you damn well better respect me enough to call me by my name,” she says.
Stephanie Haskins is a compelling and polarizing character-a human inkblot. Many viewers will see her as being courageous. Other viewers will conclude that she is selfish or delusional. And some will simply gain a new understanding and empathy for transgender people. The recurring theme of this documentary asks, “What does it take to make a woman?”
Ultimately, the viewer decides.