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Outfest kicked off its 40th anniversary film festival Thursday in Los Angeles by presenting Grammy-, Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actor, performer and activist Billy Porter with its 2022 Achievement Award, and then hosted the premiere of his directorial debut film.

As Kemberlie Spivey reported in Forbes in November 2020, the original title was What If? Now, it’s Anything’s Possible, a transgender coming of age drama, starring an out trans actress, Eva Reign. Here’s a look at the trailer for the film, which debuts on Amazon Prime on July 22:

Reign and Porter are making all the headlines, but the unsung star of this project for MGM’s Orion Pictures is Mexican-born out trans screenwriter Ximena Garcia Lecuona. With this film, she is finally emerging in the spotlight, walking the red carpet at the premiere at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown L.A.

Before their big night, Garcia Lecuona and Porter answered my questions for Forbes:

Dawn Ennis: How do you feel about debuting your film at Outfest and what does that mean for the LGBTQIA community and representation and visibility overall?

Billy Porter: It feels like coming home. One of the first films I ever starred in was Greg Berlanti’s The Broken Hearts Club all the way back in 2000. Haven’t been back since. I’m thrilled. Representation matters, and I am so blessed to have lived long enough to see the day where I, a Black queer man, get to live to the fullness of my authenticity and thrive.

Ennis: How does a brand like Outfest help support your vision?

Porter: Outfest has always been a lifeline for those of us queer folk who had no place to go. To have a queer film festival that’s 40-years-old is a testament to the fierceness of our community. Build it—and they will come.

Ennis: What does it mean to you to be honored and recognized by Outfest?

Porter: I haven’t really been able to digest the magnitude of this moment. I’m working on that. But I will say this—it was over 20-years ago when I decided to choose myself and hopefully change the trajectory of my life. I did that. And I’m humbled and geeked that Outfest sees me.

Click here to read more about Outfest and my interview with its executive director.

Ennis: What was your reaction when you learned the story you wrote was finally going to be made into a movie?

Ximena García Lecuona: I think the first reaction was not excitement. It was anxiety. I was like, ‘Oh, no. Oh, shit! Like, what? What have I done?’ Because I really wrote the movie not thinking of the consequences, you know? It was just a fun thing to write. I wanted to be a writer. I needed to have some samples. And then when it actually started to happen, it was like, ‘Oh, no. People are going to see what I wrote? Get to know me on a very large scale?’ That kind of exposure was very, very scary for me. But that went away, eventually. Eventually, it just faded into happiness and feeling I was telling an important story.

Ennis: And then to have Billy Porter, of all people, select this as his directorial debut.

García Lecuona: Yeah, that was great. I think I was excited when they told me that, because I just really wanted to meet Billy Porter.

Ennis: Having met him and interviewed him, I can tell you it’s a treat. Yeah. I heard from Outfest executive director Damien Navarro that he was very inclusive on the set as well.

García Lecuona: Yeah, he was great on set. He’s very sensitive, very fun, great with the younger members of the cast. He’s an angel.

Ennis: I think one of the things I worry about, as an aspiring screenwriter, is I write it and then somebody changes it and it’s unrecognizable from what I had as a vision. Has that happened to you in any way?

García Lecuona: Things definitely change, but I like it. Like in Anything’s Possible, Billy came in, and not a lot of the script changed, like the script itself, but Billy is very intuitive, in the moment. What the movie needed was changes on the spot and I like every change that I saw. I was like, ‘Oh, no, that was correct, like, I overlooked that in the script, or it just went to a very surprising place, that I like. I think the movie benefited from having so many voices. At some points, I think I would kind of forget about the delivery and the joy involved in the script and go to serious places. Billy came in and said, ‘No, we can have that, but also make it fun, and have them dance here.’ I love how it evolved and changed.

Ennis: It is a collaborative process. You’ve been in the industry, for lack of a better word, for six years. I noticed that the IMDB people are still using your deadname [that’s the word many trans people use for their birth name]. How do you feel about that? Is that being out there of concern to you?

García Lecuona: Do they really? Because I know I changed it on my IMDB Pro profile. Doesn’t really bother me that much. Like, for example, right now, I’ve been battling with Zoom because it always has my deadname on it, and I have to pop on and, really quick, change it. Like, ‘No! Don’t read that!’

Ennis: Well, it’s part of the process. And if you don’t mind me asking—I don’t want to make this all about your transition—but how long have you been out?

García Lecuona: I was out as as transgender nonbinary for about five years. And I came out as a trans woman a year ago.

Ennis: Got it. And when did you first know? Because I knew when I was four years old. But that’s not everybody’s experience.

García Lecuona: No, not that soon. I didn’t know until later. I think when I was growing up, I wasn’t that feminine, you know? Like I had Legos and violent video games and stuff.

Ennis: Lots of girls play violent video games.

García Lecuona: That’s what we do. But I didn’t know until later. I think I always knew there was something different, something, but I didn’t really like it. That really clicked, that it was about gender, when I was maybe 21 years old.

Ennis: May I ask how old you are?

García Lecuona: I’m 28.

Ennis: I can’t speak to what goes on in Mexico City, but here in the United States, it’s a genuine war against transgender identity. They want to stop us from competing in sports. They want us to stop getting gender affirming health care, both kids and adults. And they’re now back on the bathroom fight, trying to keep us out of the bathrooms that match our gender identity. What’s your perspective on all that stuff that’s going on? There’s even a new poll saying most Americans don’t think that transgender people are the gender we say we are.

García Lecuona: It’s crazy, because when I started transition, I was living here in Mexico, and I was like, ‘Oh, should I move back to the U.S.? Is it better over there?’ And I started doing it here, and now I’m thinking, maybe it was better to do it here. In a lot of ways, Mexico is kind of more advanced in that regard, because I think there’s not as much of a culture war over here as it is like in the U.S. Like, the hot button issue of transgender people extends to everything, like an ideological weapon. We represent everything, like the degradation of Christian morals or whatever. It was kind of like a microcosm of everything that conservative people think is wrong with the world, which sucks. We’re just trying to live our life and be happy and be loved. I think there’s less of that here, in Mexico, where I feel like I’m less of an ideology.

Ennis: What about Outfest? Tell me about going to L.A.. You must be excited.

García Lecuona: Yeah, I’m very excited. The first movie that I wrote is coming out, so I’m excited to see it on a big screen and look at everybody’s reactions and see if they cry at the crying part. It’s cool. I’m very excited.

Ennis: Well, I cry at the opening of a paper bag, but I cried watching your trailer. Just the trailer, you got me to cry. So, I imagine I’ll have to bring a whole stack of Kleenex.

García Lecuona: I hope so. I cried writing it, a lot.

Ennis: Tell me about that process. What inspired this story in you? Was it a fantasy? Was it real life experiences?

García Lecuona: When I first wrote this, it was four years ago and I was freshly out as nonbinary. I was, for the first time, facing the prospect of gender transition. That was very scary for me, and I was also working towards being a writer, so I was writing all the time, and I was writing these weird, Mumblecore, sci-fi things. It has, sort of, stuff to do with gender. And then I came across this post on Reddit that inspired me about, you know, same story, a boy who had a crush on a girl who was trans. And it just won my heart. It was like immediate inspiration. I was like, ‘Where’s the pen?’ I needed to write this down.

I think it was because I was looking for a story that framed the trans experience as something not scary, or just something cute and beautiful and worthy of being, that this is what I needed to do here. It’s kind of a cliché, but it was like, the movie I needed in my life. And so I decided to write it. I think I put a lot of my heart into it. I wrote it really quick. It was like inspiration. And I think it was when I realized, ‘Oh, this kind of writing is fun!’ Doing funny young adult, teen, cute stuff, instead of tortured philosophical things. I actually had a lot of fun with it.

Ennis: Are you ready for those people who will attack you or criticize the film, as you mentioned before, for spreading ‘trans ideology?’

García Lecuona: Yeah, I think I’m ready. I don’t really care all that much, but I just don’t think that I am in the fight, you know? Like, I’m just writing my stories. I think it’s kind of funny, too. Like, I was reading the comments on YouTube, for the trailer.

Ennis: Never read the comments!

García Lecuona: I know. They’re mostly good. But, oh my God.

Ennis: Okay, mostly good.

García Lecuona: One in a million comments is like, ‘Anything’s possible, instead of changing one’s biological sex,’ and like, oh, no. Like, what is ‘biological sex’?

Ennis: A friend of mine who works for the American Civil Liberties Union, attorney Chase Strangio, explains that biological sex is this term opponents of transgender rights came up with during a fight ten years ago, to keep us out of public bathrooms in North Carolina, except for the ones matching the gender we were assigned at birth. There’s really no such thing as biological sex. It’s not a word. It’s not a phrase. Sex is sex, right? And gender is gender. And I have biology. You have biology.

Ennis: Let’s talk about the actors in your film. How did you feel about who was cast in the movie and how that process went?

García Lecuona: The actors are lovely. I wasn’t that involved in the casting. They would just like call me and be like, ‘Oh, we have Kelsa.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God!’

Ennis: But was it important to you to have cisgender or transgender actors in certain roles? To have a trans girl as the girl?

García Lecuona: Obviously, yeah, very important.

Ennis: Tell me why, because unfortunately, some people don’t get this.

García Lecuona: Because, for example, if you have a boy playing the trans girl, I think it sends a message that that’s what we are, just boys playing a role. Which is not true. And anything that’s physically or emotionally all those things that go into acting, I think it just turns out better if it’s played by someone that the experience is true to themselves.

Ennis: Tell me what’s next for you.

García Lecuona: I’m cooking up some other things. I’m working on a musical project. It’s called Quinceañera X, about a genderfluid kid who is freshly out. They want to do their quinceañera, but they’re not out to their family. Their mom is a conservative, so they kind of plan in secret. And then their cousin is this emo girl who doesn’t want to do her quinceañera, so they trade places and ignite all this family drama. And I’m working on some things here in Mexico, too. Just writing, like the writing is very natural to me, as I’m just creating stuff constantly.

Ennis: Have you received a lot of support in your own transition?

García Lecuona: Lots of support. Yeah, it’s complicated. But the support is there. The love is there. I mean, let me say instead, not support, not understanding, but the love is always there.

Ennis: What message do you hope this film sends to young people? I myself have a 15 year old child who came out as trans femme in December. And even though I’m a transgender woman, I’m still their parent and having to deal with that and adjust to it. And although I can understand it, I still make mistakes, because I’m an idiot and I’m an old fart. So what’s your message to young people, like my 15 year old, about your film?

García Lecuona: I think what the message is, that I discovered through writing it, to now, is the message of trans joy. I think it can be very scary to transition. You can feel, based on all the movies that have come out before now and the kind of misunderstandings and hate towards our community, it can feel that being a transgender woman or a transgender person in general is scary or painful, or you’re going to have a bad time, or like a shitty life. And I hope this movie shows people that that that’s not true. You know, it’s a wonderful thing to be transgender. You’re going to have maybe a complicated life. But you’re going to have the same experiences as anybody else: Love, friendship, happiness. But augmented by this amazing sensibility that we have to the world.

Watch the trailer for Anything’s Possible, directed by Billy Porter, by clicking here.

Find out more about this and the other films at Outfest and its many events by clicking here.

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