Award-wining documentary Becoming Colleen by filmmaker Ian Thomson, which follows the experience of 82-year-old woman Colleen Young as she affirms her gender, will have its Sydney premiere during the Mardi Gras Film Festival, with support from HIV and LGBTI* health organisation ACON.

From Coffs Harbour in the Mid North Coast NSW, Colleen’s dream is to travel to Thailand for genital reconstruction surgery, but must deal with the reality and challenges of transitioning into a Christian-run nursing home in a conservative coastal community instead.

“This is a deeply moving and personal story that tells of Colleen’s journey, her love for her wife Heather, and how a small community comes together to support an elderly trans woman achieve her greatest dream,” Ian Thomson said.

Becoming Colleen was produced with production funding from ACON, NSW’s leading HIV and LGBTI health organisation.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said: “Projects like Becoming Colleen can have deep and far-reaching impact in creating awareness and understanding of the issues facing trans and gender diverse (TGD) people. ACON is committed to supporting TGD people and we will be soon launching our very first blueprint into TGD health and wellbeing”.

Mr Parkhill added the film “gives us an opportunity to put the spotlight on key issues facing our communities including those living in regional areas and in aged care facilities. We commend Ian for this project and thank Colleen and her family for sharing her story”.

The film Thomson’s second documentary exploring LGBTI stories. His first feature was the 2014 exposé of homosexuality in surf culture Out in the Lineup.

However, as Mr Thomson explains, Becoming Colleen is a more personal story: “I was moved by Colleen Young’s humility when I met her over two years ago. I was familiar with trans stories in the mainstream media, but not one from a local traffic police woman in regional Australia. I found the relationship between Colleen and her wife Heather so compelling because it told of a love that transcended traditional gender roles.

“It is only with the support of organisations like ACON that independent filmmakers and storytellers can tell the stories from marginalised Australians on the fringe of our culture and in regional areas that do not usually attract larger state or corporate funding,” Thomson said. “To become a diverse and culturally inclusive society, it is essential that we share these stories.”

Becoming Colleen won The Audience Award at its world premiere screening at the Screenwave International Film Festival and is currently screening at festivals around the country.


Becoming Colleen will have its Sydney premiere at Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival on Sunday 24 February at 3.30pm at Event Cinemas George Street. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion ‘Diversity in Aged Care’ featuring advocate Sandra Pankhurst and panellists from ACON and Nursewatch. For bookings and more information, go to