Jonathan
Skurnik

Details

Biography
Filmmaker and educator Jonathan Skurnik was a gender expansive child who loved to play with both dollhouses and Hot Wheels, wear pants and dresses. Like any child, he wanted it all! Then he started to get teased and bullied and gave up "girly" things. In the early 2000s Jonathan read about children who were gender creative and transgender and were living in communities that supported them. These children and their families were doing what he hadn’t been able to do as a child. So Jonathan created the Youth and Gender Media Project, a series of short films about these modern day heroes, which are screened in schools throughout the country to make the world safe for all forms of gender identity and expression.
The films introduce new concepts to audiences such as: the idea that a young child can be transgender; that trans youth have the strength to be who they truly are regardless of the pressure put on them to conform; coming to terms with the new and still very rare use of hormone blockers to delay puberty. By telling these stories from the perspective of universal themes like family acceptance, coming of age, being true to one’s self, the power of community, and the importance of tolerance and love, they remain accessible and deeply moving to people who might even be resistant to the idea of transgender youth.
Jonathan is documentary filmmaker and educator. Five of his films have broadcast on PBS and European Television, as well as on Satellite and Cable stations. His films have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center and in art galleries in New York City and at over two hundred film festivals throughout the world. He has won numerous awards, including Best Documentary at the American Indian film festival, the Change Maker Award at the Media That Matters Film Festival, the Audience Award for Outstanding Achievement at Outfest, the Harry Chapin Media Award for films about poverty and Best Documentary Award at the UrbanTV film Festival.
In addition to the Youth & Gender Media Project, Jonathan founded the Workfare Media Initiative and The Cante Sica Foundation, two grassroots audience outreach and engagement projects that provide transformational educational experiences through facilitated screenings and discussions and immersive digital resources.
Jonathan leads workshops and master classes in theory and production for filmmakers in the US and China and teaches at Chapman University and the New York Film Academy. He also writes and directs narrative films and makes multimedia installations. He serves as the chair of the steering committee of New Day Films, the only cooperatively run educational film distribution company in the US.
 
 
Testimonials
"Becoming Johanna is a must-see for anyone wanting to understand what it means to grow up trans. We screened the film at Oxnard College and were honored to have Jonathan, the director and Johanna, the main character, join us. It was an unforgettable experience for our community. Johanna gave us clear-eyed lessons of courage and strength. We were left uplifted and hopeful. The evening was a true celebration of the human spirit."
— Dr. Amy Edwards, Communication Studies & Director of OC LIVE

"Jonathan Skurnik’s film series on gender fluidity raised an overwhelming interest across the CLU campus, drawing in students from our undergraduate as well as our graduate programs. The films poignantly and genuinely represented the multifaceted world of gender fluid children and their families, exposing our students to fascinating and generally underrepresented perspectives and prompting a discourse on the topic of gender fluidity, particularly its presence in schools. Skurnik’s passion and dedication to his work was evident through his deeply honest film making as well as through his engagement and interaction with his audience; he effectively inspired lively discussion by encouraging personal viewpoints and experiences."

— Elmira Tadayon, Center for Equality and Justice, Cal Lutheran, Thousand Oaks, CA 
"Jonathan Skurnik is an outstanding facilitator. As schools work towards becoming inclusive and safe places for all students, Jonathan’s films and discussions can help school staffs better understand how they can put into practice strategies that will help all students achieve their potential."
— Chris Davis, 10th Grade Humanities Teacher, Clark Magnet High School, Glendale, CA

"Polytechnic’s Upper School welcomed the star and director of Becoming Johanna to share their documentary film and to speak to our students. Watching Johanna’s experience and debriefing with her personally was a transformative experience for our community. Our students and faculty left the assembly with a well-developed understanding that we all have more in common than may appear at the outset. More importantly, taking the time to learn each other’s stories allows us to put a face on our difference and to be more supportive of everyone’s needs." 

— Jennifer Fleischer, Upper School Director, Pasadena Polytechnic School
"Our members and attendees were both educated and inspired by your beautiful film, Becoming Johanna, especially the transgender young people and their parents. The Youth and Gender Media Project films educate people about the gender spectrum in gentle and approachable ways. It’s wonderful that so many schools and school districts have chosen to show your films. You have made the lives of many gender non-conforming children better, and probably saved lives as well."
— Mariette Sawchuk, President, PFLAG Los Angeles
"Clark High School hosted a screening and school-wide training with Jonathan Skurnik of the Youth & Gender Media Project that illustrated the serious ramifications associated with the suppression of student’s identities and equipped administrators and educators with an inclusive blueprint for creating an accepting school climate for all students. Our educators appreciated the training’s effectiveness in its ability to address teacher concerns and help prepare them to meet the needs of LGBT students."
— Patrick Davarhanian, History & English Teacher, Clark Magnet High School, Glendale, CA
Speeches
Jonathan Skurnik is available to provide up to three of the screenings and presentations described below during a single visit to your institution.
 
Becoming Johanna (27 minute film)
How does it feel when your mom prays for you to be someone else? That's the struggle this 16-year-old transgender Latina faces. While she was born a boy, Johanna is a young woman and only living a lie could change that.
 
The filmmaker, Jonathan Skurnik and Johanna from Becoming Johanna, are available to screen the film and lead workshops on transgender youth inclusion and gender bias at high schools, colleges, and conferences. They facilitate activities and build an atmosphere of trust that enables students, often for the first time, to tell their own stories around their gender expression and identity, and build capacity around allyship.
 
Creating Gender Inclusive Schools (21 minute film)
What happens when you bring gender inclusion training to an elementary school? In Creating Gender Inclusive Schools, the Peralta Elementary School in Oakland, CA demonstrates the power of an open and honest conversation about gender.
 
Jonathan Skurnik is available to screen Creating Gender Inclusive Schools for college teacher training programs, gender studies departments and school districts to help future-teachers, students and educators learn about gender diversity and how to be a classroom ally for all youth, regardless of where students fall on the spectrums of gender identity and expression.
 
I’m Just Anneke (11 minute film)
Anneke is 12. Everybody who meets her assumes she's a boy. She's not sure if she wants to be a girl, a boy, or something in-between when she grows up, so her doctor has put her on a hormone suppressant to give her more time to decide.
 
Jonathan Skurnik, sometimes accompanied by Cory Oskam (formerly Anneke), is available to screen I’m Just Anneke in middle and high school classrooms and in professional development settings. Interactive activities give participants the opportunity to discover their own current and historical relationship to today’s more nuanced understanding of gender, and to learn the skills necessary to build safe and inclusive classrooms and schools.
 
The Family Journey (14 minute film)
What do you do when your child tells you they're questioning their gender? The Family Journey: Raising Gender Nonconforming Children follows the journey of parents and siblings of kids who are questioning whether they're a boy, girl, or something in between.
 
Jonathan Skurnik is available to screen The Family Journey to audiences of parents and caregivers of K12-age children. Participants learn about transyouth and how parents, caregivers and their allies can create safe and nurturing home environments for trans and gender expansive children.
 
Media