Filmmaker Jason Barker’s debut film is A Deal With the Universe.
Autobiographical and made entirely from personal archive and home video diaries, the film follows Jason’s story of how he came to give birth to his child, charting over 15 years of a roller-coaster journey that he shared with his partner Tracey.
I caught up with Jason Barker for a behind-the-scenes look at the film.
Resilience is a theme that seems to come through strongly in this film. The resilience of you both as individuals, the resilience of your relationship, and the resilience of your dream for a family that included a child. Where were you drawing that strength from, the strength to keep going?
I think some of that resilience comes from realising life is short. Tracey’s breast cancer and then the death of a friend both had the effect of focusing us on what we actually wanted in life.
In the film, you talk about not feeling connected to other trans men because they were all getting penises. How did trans men generally respond when you talked about your pregnancy journey?
I underestimated other trans men at that point in the film. I think many of us tend to compare ourselves to others and think we’re not man enough, not trans enough, not whatever enough. I think my fear of being judged by other trans men was really about me judging myself as being not enough. The truth is that I’ve only experienced a single negative comment from a trans man about me having a child, and that said much more about the person saying it than about me.
At one point in the film, you talk about finally accepting that your body knew what it was doing. Are there elements from your story that could potentially help other people who are navigating questions of gender and identity?
I hope that my story could help other people. That particular moment that you mention was clutching at straws really. It comes at a point in the film where I’m pretty desperate and am hoping that somehow trusting my body was the thing that was missing. As it was, that time didn’t work either!
If there’s anything that I think could be helpful, I or that I would have found helpful to see, it’s that ideas about gender and identity shift through time. I think many of us imagine when we transition or come out as gay then that’s it, whereas we’re all changing all the time. In the film, you can see both Tracey and I changing as time passes. I think there are parts of our identity that we’re ‘allowed’ to change – the music we like, the clothes we wear, things we like to do – but gender and sexuality are supposed to be these fixed things, and I’m curious as to why that is.
How do you share the story of your family with your child?
Our child has grown up knowing our story. It’s something Tracey and I were both very sure about, that we didn’t want any revelations, surprises or secrets but were just going to be honest and upfront.
What advice would give to couples who are thinking about having a child together?
I think finding support by making or joining networks of LGBTQ parents either online or in real life can be invaluable, but there’s nothing like becoming a parent to burst any queer bubble you may have been living in! Suddenly, you’re mixing with all sorts of people in the playground and making friends you might never have expected.
What do you hope that people feel when watching this film?
A lot of people comment on the ordinariness of the film, and I think that’s important. So often, trans people’s stories become all about “the surgery”, as if transition is our whole life. I hope people see that actually you can be trans and happy! You can be trans and be loved and loving.