Actor Lío Mehiel spoke about the importance of trans visibility at the Sundance 2023 premiere of the film Mutt.

Mehiel won a U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award in Acting at Sundance for the emotional drama by Vuk Lungulov-Klotz.

Mehiel plays the protagonist Feña, a young trans man who finds himself at the crossroads of his past and present while navigating the bustling streets of New York City.

Despite finding himself in constant fear of rejection from people he used to know, he ultimately sees that the world is more willing to accept him than he believes, trading pessimism for honesty and vulnerability as he welcomes post-transition life.

At the heart of the film is the theme of family, and Mehiel drew attention to a scene that gave them the tingles: a hopeful interaction between Feña and his father defined by words of affection and love.

The scene contrasts the reality that many queer folks can have strained relationships with their parents, and it represents a sliver of hope for how parent-child relationships should be, Mehiel said.

“Whenever there is an uptick of queer or trans representation in the media, there is an equal and perhaps greater response from the other side … that are looking to suppress trans rights, trans agency [and] queer liberation,” Mehiel told uInterview founder Erik Meers. “While in Hollywood we are seeing trans representation and this film is able to be part of that movement, this film is more important now than ever because even just in Utah, they are trying to fast track anti-trans legislation.”

Mehiel is hopeful that the Sundance’s premiere in Utah will spark a change in attitude surrounding trans healthcare, emphasizing the importance of artistry as a driver of conversation.

As of Jan. 28, however, Utah has become the first state to prohibit gender-affirming care for youth in 2023. The bill, signed by Gov. Spencer Cox (R), will make it illegal for family physicians to provide reassignment surgeries, hormone therapies and puberty blockers to minors, following a wave of anti-trans legislation among red states in 2022.

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