Today I have the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to for quite some time! I’m taking the spotlight off of myself and putting it on one of my best friends, Joslyn DeFreece. Joslyn is a trans actress and artist, who recently starred in a majorly trans affirming commercial for Sonnet Insurance which is currently airing in Canada. It’s groundbreaking in that it features a trans actress, without much fanfare, not just as part of the mainstream, but in fact, to sell their product. The commercial is the very definition of progress. I had the chance to sit down with Joslyn and learn a little bit more about the process, as well as talk about what it means for our community and her message for trans kids. You can check out the commercial here:
NOTE: THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN LIGHTLY EDITED FOR LENGTH
DANA: So can you tell me a little bit about how the whole thing came together? What the shooting process was like?
JOSLYN: I auditioned for it the beginning of July, and then I didn’t hear anything for a while and I didn’t think I got it. I ended up finding out on a Saturday at 8PM that I needed to fly out Sunday morning to shoot Monday morning in LA. That Sunday I right away met with Matt, the director, who’s awesome. He shared his work with me, which was actually really really powerful. When he shared his short film with me, or music video, that was based on Romeo and Juliet, I was like, holy shit this is gonna be really cool … I could really get the sense from Matt from the beginning, that this was something very important to him.
DANA: Can you talk a little bit more about that? I know being an actor in it, it’s hard to talk about the ‘vision,’ of it, but what’s your interpretation of the vision the commercial?
JOSLYN: Um, what I found so compelling about it … well, okay … all the people run scattering when the rain comes down and I’m left standing there. All by myself, turning around, talking about how none of this means anything. That for me, just because of my own personal journey, I found it so beautiful, because it was like the marrying of myself. The acceptance of myself. Loving the masculine part of me. Loving the feminine part of me. That’s kind of the beautiful thing. I’m turning around and I’m stepping into me. That’s what I loved about that turning around process. I’m stepping into me.
DANA: So you had said that the commercial was shot in the summer of 2016, how did it shift for you… thinking about what you did in it and it pending release, how did it shift for you after the election?
JOSLYN: Um, like the state of affairs with politics, having Trump as President, seeing the presence of hate in the world, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t like, wait, what did I just do? Exposure? Part of me was like, I just… we’ve had that conversation… just all of the sudden, visibility.
JOSLYN: and being scared about, what does that mean? Am I gonna be hurt? And, I mean that’s just gonna be our reality [as trans actors] for the rest of our lives, that threat … no, maybe not for the rest of our lives.
DANA: Hopefully not…
DANA: But for the foreseeable future.
DANA: Um, so, on that… why is visibility so important? Why now?
JOSLYN: For me, and the journey I’ve been on, it means so much more. Like the first time I watched it, watching it with you, the first time I watched it that night, I was like… oh wow, I would’ve given anything to see this as a kid. It gives me hope to seeing me do it. It’s like, oh yeah, maybe this is possible. Not the marriage part, but the love and acceptance part. You know? I want a kid to see it. I want my inner child to see it and be like, yeah, you’ve come this far, keep going, keep going. Don’t let rain, or bullshit politics, get in your way. It’s like, and we were talking about this, no more fighting. It’s living. And this is a great example of that.
DANA: And living is the best resistance possible.
JOSLYN: Yeah. Living and living fully and truthfully and not hiding. That is what I want, and I want kids to see that. I want kids to be like… like I picture myself as a kid, seeing that commercial and thinking; [being trans] is not negative. It’s this beautiful pure thing. And that’s what I think gets shown in the commercial. It’ beautiful and pure in the sense that I saw my own child. I see that in my face. That’s one thing that I’m so grateful to the whole team for. They were there and they captured it. Everyone was such a team and taking care of me. It was a powerful experience that day because of everyone that I was working with was really inspired by what we were doing. It wasn’t like we were just there to do a job.
DANA: If you could say one thing to trans kids out there, what would it be?
JOSLYN: There’s so much I want to say. Simple statement like, I love you, I love you, I love you. Don’t give up. Don’t listen to what you might hear. Believe your heart. You know … that’s what I would say. You know who you are. Don’t let anyone else tell you who you are. That’s what my fear is about what’s going on with politics right now, that some kid is gonna hear that message I heard when I was a kid: ‘You’re not valid.’ Like I lost myself because of what other people were saying, and I had to fight to be seen. And with the commercial, that’s what’s so beautiful, because, I feel like I’m seen. Like it’s not some glamorized version, I mean, yes it’s a wedding dress, and it’s beautiful, but I felt like I saw me… and I hope kids out there see themselves too.
DANA: Is there anything else that you want to say that I have not asked about?
JOSLYN: Don’t ever let someone say your dreams can’t come true, because I am living proof that they do.