Director Lisa Rideout Focuses on Transgender Sex Workers

Jun 4, 2021 by

This month on the Planet Classroom Network YouTube Channel, audiences can screen Lisa Rideout’s acclaimed documentary One Leg In, One Leg Out.

It is the true story of Transgender sex worker Iman Brown.  After a decade as a sex worker, Iman dreams of becoming a social worker to help her transgender community members. As she explores taking classes to be a social worker while still doing sex work, One Leg In, One Leg Out questions whether tenacity, ambition and a life long dream are enough to overcome a challenging situation and make a positive difference in her community.  Directed by Lisa Rideout, this is a soul-stirring story that recognizes the work that is done in society by sex workers.  It is also the personal story of a transgender woman balancing two worlds while trying to move forward.

The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome Lisa Rideout.

Lisa, what was your inspiration behind telling Iman’s story – was there a personal connection or experience that interested you in this subject matter?  

My inspiration behind telling Iman’s story was a personal connection that I had with her. I had met her on the set of another film that I was shooting and we became friends right away. And getting to know Iman over a year, I was really struck by her resilience, her positivity, and the way that she tackled pretty tough circumstances with a sense of humor. And I thought her story was an important one to tell. I also focus my films on women that are overcoming or have overcome insurmountable odds. 

I think that’s because I grew up around women who have done that. My mom raised me by herself. Working, you know, 12-hour shifts in the ER as a nurse. And her mom brought her and her brother to Canada from India by herself, and started a new life. So I’m really drawn to stories about strong women, and that’s why I wanted to tell Iman’s story. 

Do you believe that Iman was able to get both of her legs out of the sex worker industry?

In terms of Iman getting both legs out of the sex work industry, she’s currently working at Maggie’s, which is an organization based in Toronto run by and for sex workers. And she’s an outreach worker at the organization which means she helps other sex workers. So she provides resources to them, she provides anything that they need. So it’s a bit of a tricky question to answer; but, she’s using her experience that she’s had in sex work to help others. I think it’s really important to recognize that there are specific skills that are gained through sex work that can be used in different positions. 

Despite the challenges, Iman seems to have so much joy in her life. Did you discover where the joy comes from?  Was there anything about Iman that surprised you during the journey of bringing this story to life?

Iman is definitely someone that experiences joy, that has joy in her life, that has positive energy, and I think it’s just something that comes with her personality. Ever since I met her, she just stays positive about what the future is and I don’t know…I think it just feels like part of her personality to me. And I think when you have gone through and overcome many things, then you kind of don’t sweat the small stuff. So, I think that’s where it comes from for her, and she is really happy to be living, you know, what she considers her authentic life. So..I think that brings joy to her as well. One of the things I was surprised about, in terms of Iman and making this film, was I think I went into filming with a naive understanding that our society is much more open to sex workers than we actually are. And I could see, you know, people’s stereotypes about sex workers. They would say it to me when I told them about the film. I saw how people would react to Iman on the street. And yeah…I just saw that we’re definitely not as open, and there’s still a lot of discrimination against sex workers. 

In terms of stereotypes that people have of transgender women – what do you hope audiences will learn when they see your film?  What do you hope they will feel? 

I hope that in terms of stereotypes about sex workers or trans women, that featuring Iman in a film helps people get a better grasp on someone who’s not a stereotype. Someone who’s a full human being like everybody else, who is full of humor, who has overcome a lot. And I hope that people also understand some of the support that’s needed for sex workers, and recognize that as work that is done in society rather than something that should be shunned away. 

Thank you Lisa!

C.M. Rubin and Lisa Rideout

Don’t miss this month on the Planet Classroom Network YouTube Channel Lisa Rideout’s acclaimed documentary, One Leg In, One Leg Out.

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