“We Exist” Documentary Shows Life Beyond Gender Binary

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Lauren Lubin is the kind of person who will tell you that you don’t have to see the whole staircase in order to take the first step. Such was the case for the upcoming film documentary We Exist, which Lauren (as creator and executive producer) began developing three years ago. It explores the intimate everyday life of a person living outside of the gender binary—including all of the emotional, physical and spiritual shifts one is faced with while living in a binary world. The gender binary is a completely outdated social construct—a binding method of labeling a wide spectrum of gender as either female or male.

This topic is momentous—it extends across all media, not only with groundbreaking inclusions and portrayals of transgender and gender neutral characters in film and television, but also as a headline in the news and tabloids—like the recent tabloid coverage and speculation of Bruce Jenner’s personal transition. The line between what’s open for sharing, and what’s invasively scrutinized is blurred. We Exist will not only invite and fuel meaningful dialogue, but will also serve as an up-close learning experience—an intimate journey with an honest and crucial message.

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Gender identity and expression falls onto a spectrum just like sexuality, and neuroscience proves it. The most recent research was led by the Medical University of Vienna, and Huffington Post reported their findings this past January, showing the brain holds a wide variety of gender differences from person to person, not just divvied out by biological sex. Living outside of the gender binary is a very real and relevant part of reality that can no longer be ignored—only embraced. A shift in the present paradigm is necessary because who we are and how we exist is and should be sacred—we each have a right to pursue our own happiness, our wholeness.

We Exist has received plenty of recognition during its time in production and Lauren sporadically blogs about the gender binary and transgender issues for Huffington Post. Everyone Is Gay met up with Lauren last year to discuss the gender binary, and just last month, Mashable chatted with Lauren and released the official trailer for We Exist, posing the question: “How do we mindlessly gender people in our everyday conversations?” To assume a person is either male or female, to assign or assume an identity to that person—is to isolate, make separate, and in many cases change the interpersonal interactions based on that gendering. But mostly, it disregards a person’s truth.

I’d be remiss not to mention how I know Lauren. It’s important to the interpersonal web of this story. We met at a bizarre ‘80s Mommy & Me class held in the suburbs of Chicago as babies. Our parents plopped us down onto a blanket in our diapers. In childhood, we played in the yard, shed our bathing suits and jumped naked into the pool—all gender and yet-to-know-the-world views aside. Today, I’ve written about We Exist across many mediums, not just “for a friend” but for advocating a movement I believe in so greatly—isn’t that what we’re all doing this for? I caught up with Lauren—creator of We Exist, a maven with words, who’s lived in the jungles of Costa Rica and New York City, respectfully—a storyteller and a truth seeker, Lauren is living and existing.

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AfterEllen: What’s special about this film to you?

Lauren Lubin: This film is unique because it is the first of its kind to intimately document the everyday life—as well as the emotional, physical, and mental changes—that non-binary individuals go through while living in a binary world. Up until now, gender has been depicted within society and the media as exclusively as either male or female. This is one of the first films to really break that mold entirely.

AE: Why is the message of We Exist so important right now? 

LL: This message is timely because the current understanding of gender is under contention more now than ever before, and the film’s central message—that we all exist beyond the binary—blows the door off of the way most people still view gender. From high-profile stories covering Bruce Jenner and Tom Gabel’s gender identities, to the rise in popularity of shows like Transparent and Orange is the New Black, it’s clear that the media, and world at large, is ready to take on this issue.

AE: What are your hopes for We Exist after its release?

LL: I have always seen this film as the first step toward tackling and changing the many oppressing social issues people like myself face. And already, I’ve seen how We Exist has begun to make such changes, particularly among my followers in the We Exist community. My hope for this undertaking has always been to create a film that people like myself can share with their loved ones and say, “Hey, this is me. This is how I feel. I’m not the only one.”

AE: Can we dismantle the gender binary and replace this faulty system with a wider spectrum of thought/awareness? If so, what’s the most imperative change or shift necessary?

LL: It is absolutely within society’s reach, to expand upon the current gender binary system. It’s clear now, and the science backs it up: Gender—like sexuality—does exist on a spectrum. There are pockets of change already occurring all over the world: from Nepal recognizing a third gender, to individual establishments and schools implementing gender neutral bathrooms, to Facebook enabling their users to define their gender on their own terms. But in order to institutionalize and integrate a broader gender system across all of society—academia, medicine, legislation, government identification, and so forth—it’s imperative for change and accountability to occur at the top. Until then, it’s up to us individuals to educate, advocate and lobby against the status quo until that happens.

AE: Describe your perfect day, as you, being you—existing.

LL: My current reality as a non-binary person living in a binary world is that once I leave my home, there are very few public spaces where I can fully exist. What’s more, legally I do not fully exist as my true self, which not only dehumanizes my person but also make my life extremely difficult and unsafe. The ideal, perfect day for me would be just like anyone else’s: to step out into the world without question or fear, knowing that I do and can exist as I am, wherever I am, and to be recognized, respected and protected exactly as I am.

Watch the trailer for We Exist below. For film updates, check back with us and sign up to receive news and other updates at weexist.co.

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