By Katie Small
GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, seeks to increase media accountability and community engagement to ensure authentic LGBTQ+ stories are seen, heard, and actualized. On Monday, January 23, at the Box at The Ray, GLAAD’s Anthony Allen Ramos hosted filmmakers Kristen Lovell and Zackary Drucker, who co-directed The Stroll, a documentary premiering at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival that tells the history of transgender sex workers in New York City’s Meatpacking District in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.
Lovell and Drucker discuss how the documentary came to be and the broader paths they are taking to reclaim and shift the lens on stories from the transgender community. The two filmmakers met while doing grassroots queer youth activism work in New York.
Co-director Kristen Lovell is featured in the documentary as both an interviewer and interviewee; Lovell’s connection to the Stroll dates back to her own period of transition, when sex work was the only employment available to her as a trans youth. She speaks from personal experience while describing the lives of trans women who worked the Stroll.
“I worked out there for over a decade and lived in a shelter for homeless youth. I was kind of like a mother bear to a lot of the queer street kids that came into the shelter,” Lovell recalls. “We built a family, a sisterhood. But it’s very easy to get caught up in street life — and when all the doors are closing in your face because you’re trans, you take whatever means necessary to survive.”
When asked what they hope viewers take away from The Stroll, Drucker expresses the need to destigmatize sex work. “There’s been so much sweeping under the rug of sex work and the role it’s played in trans life. Trans people have always had to partake in the underground economy in order to survive,” Drucker says.