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ShortList 2020: ‘How to Make a Rainbow’ Director Shows a Trans Mom Finding ‘Support System’ in Her Daughter (Video)

”There’s a really special and genuine quality that children have when it comes to self-expression that a lot of adults struggle with,“ director Ryan Maxey says

As a trans mother, Jade Phoenix Martinez deals with a lot of “bulls—” in her life. But you wouldn’t know it from the documentary short film “How to Make a Rainbow,” which highlights the deep love and bond between a mother and daughter rather than the pain.

Ryan Maxey’s film follows Martinez and her daughter Alaizah for two years and examines the struggle of how Martinez works to raise and teach her child all while going through her transition. But Maxey really wanted to focus the 16-minute film on Alaizah’s natural understanding, empathy and acceptance for her trans mother she loves dearly.

“I would’ve expected more of a challenging scenario where the parent is teaching what gender is and what transitioning genders looks like and how to grow and how to deal with it,” Maxey told TheWrap. “What was the most incredible thing is that Alaizah and other kids in Jade’s life were like the most naturally understanding and non-judgmental people and were more of a support system to the bulls— that Jade has to deal with in the outside world.”

Martinez started her transition when Alaizah was just 1 year old, and “How to Make a Rainbow” tracks Martinez raising Alaizah from ages 4 to 6 (she’s now 8), all coinciding with Martinez working to get gender transition surgery. As Alaizah is soaking up lessons, she’s also adjusting to calling Martinez “Mapa” or learning from her mom about gender norms that wearing a dress doesn’t make you a girl.

“There’s a really special and genuine quality that children have when it comes to self-expression that a lot of adults struggle with because of things they learned and have had put on them,” Maxey said.

“How to Make a Rainbow” also reveals that Martinez has had to raise Alaizah without help from her family, whom we learn didn’t accept Martinez’s transition and often tried to correct Alaizah into still referring to Martinez as her dad.

Martinez told TheWrap since “How to Make a Rainbow” has been completed and played at festivals, her situation with her family has improved somewhat, and she’s using the film as a teaching tool as she speaks on panels and at schools about being a trans mother and how to teach the next generation of kids about trans individuals.

“I want to empower my daughter to her full agency, and my job is to get her there,” Martinez said. “Even children can have a lot of empathy, and it shows that we were born this way to empathize.”