Crystal, a young transgender girl, is the beating heart of the film. Photo: In The Turn
The Vagine Regime, an unusual queer community at the heart of the sport of roller derby, is the focus of the documentary In The Turn.
The film, directed by Erica Tremblay, looks at the rapidly growing and fascinating world of roller derby through the eyes of this community.
And those who saw it in Sydney this week, as part of the Mardi Gras Film Festival, were probably left wondering about the destiny of a particular 10-year-old girl.
Often referred to as the fastest growing sport in the world, roller derby has gender policies that are among the most progressive in the world of sport, and is a grassroots game that welcomes all identities. It is a crucial detail for the people that play it.
And this is where the Vagine Regime comes in. What is the Vagine Regime, you say?
Alex Krosney, one of its key organisers, describes it like this: "Imagine spending your entire life keeping quiet about a huge part of yourself, then suddenly literally tumbling into a community of people who shout so loud about it that you can't keep it down. Sometimes, no matter how comfortable you feel about yourself or how awesome everyone in your life is about your sexuality, you need to know there are people to dress up like vaginas and run around on your behalf. These people are the Vagine Regime".
Or as one of the initial founders, known as Injure Rogers, told us "I think the idea of just creating a culture that not only 'accepts' or 'tolerates', but celebrates diversity in many ways can have the most profound effect".
The very looseness of requirements for membership – be a part of roller derby, say you're Vagine Regime, and you are – allows people to self-identify and express joy and connection in a way as fluid as their identities. And, of course, reveling in being true to oneself is at the core of Sydney's Mardi Gras Festival. Vagine Regime Australia took an active part in the Mardi Gras parade with a float entry some years ago. It was organised by a woman known to the community as 2Ton Teyla who took it upon herself to introduce the Vagine Regime to this country.
If you were thinking the sport was simply an American phenomenon, you would be mistaken. The Victorian Roller Derby League is currently ranked 4th in the world, by the competitive governing body the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. So it was no surprise that Team Victoria took home the championship trophy for the second year running at last weekend's Battle On The Bent Track in Queensland, despite torrential rain.
The tournament, now in its fourth year, was organised by Cassy Harvey who says "It provides a safe space for queer skaters to be who they are within this encompassing community… we put all this work every year into running a tournament to raise money for organisations that help our younger generations feel safe to be who they are too. And we have a whole lotta fun doing it."
So back that 10-year-old I mentioned (who is now 12). Crystal, a young transgender girl, is the beating heart of the documentary. Her story weaves through the journeys of the other athletes and it is her story that spoke most powerfully to those of us making the film.
It is particularly fitting that the modern incarnation of the sport is the same age as Crystal.
At the initial stages of film development, those involved with the project reached out to the community for crowdfunding. It was then that Crystal wrote to the Vagine Regime hoping to find a sport and a community that would let her play. She was able to find that, and more. The Australian community, in addition to boasting internationally competitive skaters, has been one of the documentary's biggest supporters.
Since the documentary was made, Crystal has grown, developed her skating skills and been welcomed into more sporting groups in her hometown in rural Canada. And she has plans to join a growing community of junior skaters worldwide, to find her other home.
As one of the skaters in the film, Emily Mills, said, "I never felt truly at home until I found roller derby and the Vagine Regime. We get to play a kick-ass sport, participate in an amazing, grassroots-built community, and be ourselves. I can't stress how incredibly important that is."
Genevieve Berrick was an associate producer on the film In The Turn.