When I first heard about the Trevor Project, I remember thinking “I wish there was something like that for me when I was struggling in the closet as a kid in the small suburbs of Greece.” Fast forward a decade later. I would find myself at the United Nations sitting on a historic panel on Transgender Health on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, with the subject matter being our film and its impact. People see a short documentary, but what they don’t see is the series of events that led to it. One of my earliest childhood memories is that of observing my toy action figures, examining their anatomy while wondering who I was. What would follow would be a long journey of self-acceptance from marrying a woman (though I was a gay man deep down), to coming out of the closet and pursuing my dreams as a filmmaker in the United States. At the first opportunity I joined the Trevor Project as a volunteer and have since done my best to support many youth going through their own coming out journeys and struggles with suicidal thoughts.
A lucky turn of events connected me with Leslie Ann Lopez, a talented opera singer set to perform in my first feature film Man In the Attic. Through Leslie Ann I met her child, Brendon Scholl, a youth with whom I clicked immediately. It was friendship at first sight. I remember walking into Brendon’s room, enamored by it being filled with art, covering every crevice of the wall and ceiling. Brendon was very open about their art and what it meant to them, and they shared the story behind some of their drawings and how art had saved them. My coming out journey was not easy either, so Brendon’s story spoke to me in a profound way, though being gay and being trans are vastly different journeys. As our friendship continued to unfold, the CEO of the Trevor Project—who was also a friend—mentioned that it would be an honor to have Brendon as a speaker in one of their events. When sharing the invitation with the family, I also shared my wish to document the family’s story and Brendon’s transition and coming out story in a film preceding their speech. Brendon and their family joined with excitement, ready to share their story in order to support other youth going through similar journeys. That was when all the dots connected, becoming the beginning of DRAW WITH ME.
Although I knew that telling this story came with a lot of responsibility, I felt ready and the family truly made me feel safe and comfortable in doing so. The entire family joined as one in supporting Brendon and the film, from their loving grandmother to their aunts Lynda Lopez and Jennifer Lopez, who both joined the film; Lynda by using her voice as a journalist asking the right questions and Jennifer with an educational introduction shared with millions of her followers. What I truly believe drew me to the story though, was Brendon’s confidence in knowing who they were at such a young age, and being ready to use their experience as a tool for other youth who were struggling with their identity and coming out. — Constantine Venetopoulos
DRAW WITH ME—a short film (with coda) by Venetopoulos documenting the young artist and BLM activist and their transition from Rebecca to Brendon—is available for streaming. See link below for details.
Directed by Constantine Venetopoulos
From top: Brendon Scholl, image courtesy and © Scholl; Scholl with their aunt Lynda Lopez, still from the film; Draw With Me poster; President Joseph R. Biden, still from the film; Constantine Venetopoulos. Images courtesy and © the filmmaker and Ithaka Films.