13:54 PM

Common Reader events kick off with screening of 'Kiki'

University of Houston-Clear Lake's Common Reader Program, in collaboration with the Women's and Gender Studies program, are kicking off the fall semester with a screening of "Kiki," a documentary in conversation with the common reader selection, "Becoming Nicole."

The screening will take place Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Garden Room of the Bayou Building, or via Zoom. The event will open with remarks from College of Human Sciences and Humanities Dean Glenn Sanford, followed by a Q&A with Jayla Sylvester of Save Our Sisters, who will discuss her organization's advocacy of transgender people of color and female ethnic minorities.

Clinical Associate Professor of First-Year Seminar and Humanities Anne Gessler, who is also the coordinator of UH-Clear Lake's Common Reader Program, said the film expands on themes highlighted in "Becoming Nicole," authored by Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times best-selling author Amy Ellis Nutt.

"In the book, 'Becoming Nicole,' we read about the true story of a young transgender girl fighting for acceptance and equity in her middle school," Gessler said. "It became a court case in Maine. We will focus on themes of civil engagement and discrimination."

However, Gessler pointed out that "Becoming Nicole" did not go beyond a white, middle class person's personal experience. "With 'Kiki,' we are expanding to show the broad gamut of trans experiences," she said. "'Kiki' is a documentary about the LGBTQ ballroom scene, in which there is a competition to present fashion, dance and self in an innovative, performative way. The competition is supported by community organizations trying to serve teens and build leadership skills."

Ultimately, Gessler said, both the book and the film highlight the importance of community engagement, civil discourse and self-advocacy.

"The film topics are LGBTQ-oriented, but in a larger sense, it's about training young people to look at the world and think that if they don't like what they see, they can find a way to change things by being an active agent," she said.

She added that this year, the Women's and Gender Studies program is studying the concept of "suff/e/rage."

Gessler said the program's collaboration on this event was the first in a planned yearlong series of events. "We are asking, what can we do with our frustrations? How can our anger be productive?"

To attend the event, register online.