Having always felt he was born in the wrong body, 10-year-old Tom chooses the name Mrs McCutcheon rather than the name he was given at birth; he also prefers the flow of a dress rather than the cut of a pant. Now at his third school Tom is having trouble settling in and finding acceptance from his newfound peers – except for Trevor, a tough little charmer who also suffers prejudice due to his Aboriginal heritage. With the school dance only days away Tom is thrust on a journey of self-discovery and sacrifices to find his own place in the world. Be prepared for a courageous ending that might just revolutionize the school dances forever!
WHY THIS FILM?
Mrs McCutcheon was written for the screen by the talented writer/director Ben Young and directed by award-winning theatre director John Sheedy, who also signs the story, in his first foray into the world of film. Despite its short format and streamlined production, it features a stellar creative team and cast with vast experience in the art of moving storytelling. But more important than that, Mrs McCutcheon aims to give voice to the thousands of trans and gender diverse children.
As you may or may not be aware, Gender Dysphoria in Children is a formal diagnosis identified by psychologists and physicians to describe children who experience significant discontent with their biological sex, assigned gender, or both. It usually manifests during early childhood and always does so well before puberty. Most children struggle with endemic bullying from their school peers, surrounding community and even within their own family unit. There are currently 14.8 million trans and gender diverse children in the world and we hope to offer support to them, their family and friends and to attempt to educate the world by throwing a pulsing light on the topic and celebrate its positives and vulnerabilities. This short little film has some big ambitions to make a significant positive impact on their lives.
By John Sheedy
Like most kids at primary school I attempted to conform to the masses rather than be anything but true to myself. I spent my lunch money on football cards and recess time trading them when, really, I had no interest in football at all. I played British Bulldogs and Brandy in my lunch break with the Zimmer twins because they were cool when I should have been writing and performing small theatrical events with Kate and Alicia Rogers at the back of the Art Room and I had a punch up with Simon Buso because everyone said I should.
My school was Oberon Primary School, which sat in the industrial landscape of a small town called Geelong in Victoria. There were 18 children in my class, an even mix of boys and girls. There would be two at a desk with the usual goodies sitting up the front and the naughty kids at the back – I was at the back, but in the middle sat a desk with only a single occupant to it, a boy called Cameron, he was tough and charming, when he wanted to be, he was a source of curiosity to the other kids, he was also the only indigenous boy in the whole school. He sat alone, ate alone and was only ever really acknowledged when it came to sports, as he was exceptional at it.
In the middle of the year Oberon Primary School would hold its annual school dance, which would always create a thrum of excitement through out the school. It was compulsory attendance. In the lead up to the big night, Mrs Rancon would take us through dance lessons, Betty Lester would talk the girls through proper dress conduct and Mr McKee would lecture the boys on manners and ladies, all very old fashioned. But what the teachers never managed was the most important thing of all – who was taking who to the night of nights.
It was decided pretty quickly The Zimmer twins took the two most popular girls, Andrea Scott and Simone Hose, girl best friends partnered up with boy best friends and quiet kids partnered with other quiet kids and so on and so on. I myself was set to take Nadine Whitehead, who had been begging me to marry her when we got older for most part of the year. Couples were put up on the black board with the first dance lesson set for the following day. All but Cameron had a partner. All year I had watched this boy sit alone in class, alone at recess and lunch, walk alone on school excursions and now he had to hold a brave face in the humiliation of not having been asked to the dance.
On the walk home that afternoon I found myself completely overwhelmed with sadness for this boy, I imagined him going home to his parents and having to make up lies why he would not be attending, the humiliation of sitting out of the class alone whilst everyone else giggled through their first dance class. I thought a lot about the isolation that he already suffered and how he would carry this into his future. I thought so much about what it must be like being Cameron that I arrived home in tears and was unable articulate to my parents what was wrong.
The next day I arrived at school to find Cameron’s name up on the board with our class teacher Ms Peterson’s name next to it. She out of the goodness of her heart had volunteered herself as his partner much to the taunting delight of the rest of the class. Her good deed had backfired to such an extent that Cameron was teased for weeks on end, he was randomly absent on the days of dance practice and needless to say Ms Peterson was stood up on the evening.
I have never forgotten Cameron, I have never forgotten my first lesson in empathy, and I have never forgotten the defeated shape of a boy sitting alone in the middle of a room of strangers. I wish I had defended Cameron at the time, I wish I had made friends, I wish I had packed up my desk and sat next to him, I wish I had been more true to myself, I wish I had asked Cameron to the school dance.
This film is an attempt at reclaiming the bravery that I lacked all those years ago.