Joe Ippolito

Joe Ippolito, Visioneer

June 03, 2014
Joe Ippolito’s “activist, researcher, educator, coordinator, and filmmaker” identities are woven together in a single mission statement: “To have my body of work reflect a passion and commitment to helping improve the lives of all trans people through visibility, accessibility, and empowerment.” Mission accomplished: Joe founded and chairs Gender Reel, an annual film festival dedicated to portraying gender non-conforming, gender variant/queer and transgender people, identities, and experiences. He also produced and directed his own film, Growing Old Gracefully: The Transgender Experience; his documentary, TransHISTORY: A Movement Through Time, is currently in the works, and his media activism landed him the Leeway Transformation Award last year.

Joe has served on the board of Philadelphia Family Pride and the American Psychological Association’s Division 44, and has chaired the planning committee of the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference (PTHC). A Doctor of Psychology, Joe teaches at Metropolitan State University and Argosy University and co-authored the aging chapter in the newly released Trans Bodies, Trans Selves. An assessment and referral clinician by day, he is an organizer and advocate without cease.

What excites you most about Gender Reel?

Gender Reel in general excites me, but if I had to quantify, one of the festival’s most thrilling parts is the diversity of films we receive from around the world. Each year it just seems to get better and better. For example, so far this year, we have received submissions from India and Hong Kong. Just knowing films related to the gender non-conforming/trans experience are being made in places where things are not as readily open or accepting is extremely hopeful.

What inspired the creation of Growing Old Gracefully: The Transgender Experience?

My inspiration for creating Growing Old Gracefully is rather personal. The desire to make this film stemmed from the fact that I personally turned 40, looked around and said, “Man, I am not prepared very well for the aging experience.” Then I started talking to other aging trans people, and what I found was they, too, were not at all prepared. Because of the work I was doing with Gender Reel, I figured the best way to get the word out about the issues impacting aging and aged trans people was to do a film.

Transgender aging issues that you think are under-discussed?

I think the issue of trans aging is largely under-discussed and/or explored in trans communities overall. While there has certainly been an increase in attention paid to these concerns over the past few years at conferences like PTHC, mainstream society is still largely unaware of the problems and issues at hand. The trans community has moved forward a lot over the past 10 years, but there is still a lot about our experiences that are misunderstood. Ageism is an issue across the board for most people, trans and non-trans alike, but for trans people it’s a bit more complex. Some of the more pressing concerns: lack of trans-inclusive housing options, lack of trans-competent healthcare providers (such as home health aides, neurologists), estrangement from community because you are old, loss of family/spousal support for late-in-life transitioners, depression, suicide, healthcare issues resulting from long-term hormone use, and lack of financial resources. What we are actually seeing is some people end up going back in the closet and/or detransitioning out of fear they will be discriminated against, oppressed, or hurt because they are trans and old.

Anything else you wanna say?

In terms of new projects I am working on: I kick off the filming of my next documentary, TransHISTORY: A Movement Through Time, at PTHC this year. Additionally, I also created Trans-Masculine Abuse Project, an online support network for trans men who are the targets of domestic and intimate partner violence/abuse.

Gender Reel is still accepting films and performance pieces. Deadline: June 20, 2014.