Changing House

Directed by Zave Martohardjono
2009
USA
18 mins

Rusty and Chelsea are a transgender lesbian couple who have devoted fifteen years to making their Brooklyn home a communal living space for transgender women in need. Their house served a vital and unique community role with its doors always open to newcomers. A crossroads for transgender civil rights organizers, it became home to Stonewall legend Sylvia Rivera in the last years of her life.

But the couple's dream of a commune quickly met a complicated reality as it became unmanageable. Social workers referred more young transgender women to Rusty and Chelsea than they could accommodate, and eventually, the self-made family lost their “Ma” Sylvia.

In this intimate film, Rusty, Chelsea, and long-time resident Cellia commemorate the house's rich activist history, reflect on the joys and challenges of communal living, and discuss the continuing struggle of the transgender community with discrimination and homelessness.

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