Olympia High School graduate Evan Bialosuknia made history as Florida’s first transgender Homecoming queen in 2021.
Now, Bialosuknia is the subject of a new documentary, “Evan Ever After,” which was screened at the 2023 Florida Film Festival.
“Evan Ever After” is a short documentary directed by Ariel Mahler and Radha Mehta, both of whom are preparing to graduate from the American Film Institute as directing fellows.
Both screenings of the film sold out, and since the start of filming, Bialosuknia has been a guest on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and featured as a NextGen leader in TIME Magazine.
ENJOYING THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE
Since graduating from Olympia High, Bialosuknia has moved to Boca Raton to attend Florida Atlantic University for business management. Bialosuknia was the first transgender person at the school to pledge and be accepted into a sorority.
Marnie Bialosuknia, Evan’s mother, said watching Evan’s growth has been challenging but also amazing.
“As a parent, you want your child to be happy, but the truth is they have to learn to make their own happiness, so you kind of have to give them tools to figure out how to be happy,” she said. “For me, my whole thing is I want my child to be safe, and I want my child to be accepted. As a parent, it is still scary. There are things we had to think about that maybe others don’t when selecting a college.”
Evan has been enjoying the college experience and has made a lot of new friends.
“Honestly, I’ve just been trying to focus on myself — have more self respect and just spread the positive vibe, not just on the outside but also on the inside when I’m alone,” Evan said. “Sometimes, that positive energy is like a mask, and it used to be.”
Since starting to transition, Evan said the positive energy has been easier to maintain.
“I’ve definitely blossomed more as the person I am, and I gained a lot more confidence and have been a lot happier mentally,” Evan said. “Obviously, there are still points where I’m down. There’s still times that are hard, and there’s still things that happened before that happen now that are never going to not happen. You’re all in your head, but it’s all in your heart for how you decide to handle it and what you do to make the best of it. It’s not a choice, so you have to push through.”
Despite the many highs, Marnie Bialosuknia said there are still challenges.
“The biggest thing is maintaining her mental health and making sure she’s taking care of herself and doing all the things she needs to do to be feeling good on the inside and not just presenting to the world that everything’s wonderful,” she said.
Marnie Bialosuknia explained she thinks it is important to state Evan’s experience could be different than a lot of other transgender people and she recognizes Evan comes from a place of privilege not all people have.
“Not only does she have a family with two parents (who) support her and a brother and a sister, but we also have insurance that gives her the opportunity to continue on with her transition,” she said. “Not every trans person has that, and I think that that has a big impact on her happiness.”
‘EVAN EVER AFTER’
Marnie Bialosuknia said the idea of a documentary was never in her realm of possibilities.
“Your kid says, ‘I’m going to run for Homecoming queen.’ And I’m going, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be a nightmare; I mean, this is not going to end well,’” she said. “That’s what I was thinking. While Evan is so positive, I’m very untrusting.”
Mehta, who is bicoastal and has a home in Windermere, said she reached out to the family after seeing Evan’s story go viral.
“I just felt like these are good people,” Marnie Bialosuknia said. “I knew they were going to take care of it and they’re going to present the story in the right way.”
Mehta said she did not want to just share the story from the perspective of an ally but wanted Mahler, who is transgender, to help direct it. Together they then brought on cinematographer Leo Behrens, who also is transgender.
“I feel like all of the different avenues this film explores between the two of us and our own experiences helped us capture Evan’s story really well,” Mahler said. “I am always wanting to air on the side of almost under-explaining the trans journey, because to me, I know that, and I’ve seen it a million times. But Radha brought in the very healthy and necessary perspective that a lot of people haven’t seen it and do not know what it means to transition or what the journey is like. I think we reached this really beautiful middle ground.”
After connecting over phone and Zoom calls, Mehta, Mahler and Behrens traveled to Florida during winter break 2021 to begin filming.
The crew stayed at the house for multiple days and collected more than 30 hours of footage, cut down to about 15 minutes by editor Jiye Won.
“Having other trans people on the film was wonderful for my family, because my other children had never met any trans people before,” Marnie Bialosuknia said. “It was difficult, because it was a new experience, but it was the best experience.”
The directors are continuing to tour the festival circuit, and their hope is to win a jury award at other Oscar qualifying festivals so they could be considered for a possible Oscar win if the film called for it.
Evan said the purpose of the film is not to persuade or to change people’s opinions but rather show people who are in that position that life-changing things can happen in an instant.
“If you just put yourself out there and be friendly and have that positive energy with the right people, you can be happy and have a normal life, and you don’t have to feel like you’re different or mistreated,” Evan said.
Evan’s last surgery is scheduled for May 2024 in San Francisco.
“The narrative that is coming out is just completely false,” Marnie Bialosuknia said. “No doctor that I’ve called is performing surgery on a child. Most of them won’t even see you if you’re under the age of 18. … (And) not all trans women want this opportunity; everybody has their own experience that’s true to them.”
Marnie Bialosuknia said she hopes other young trans people who are struggling see the film and see they can overcome the negatives.
“None of this was going on when Evan first started her transition,” she said. “It’s horrific. ... It infuriates me. ... It makes me embarrassed to live here, and it makes me not want to be in this state. … It’s scary, because Evan was a minor when she started transitioning, so based on the legislation today, it would mean, ‘Guess what — you can’t do that. You have to stop.’ If that had happened, I wouldn’t have a kid."