Adding diversity to the adventure film industry
“Be your most authentic self”
My name is Frit Tam, I am an adventurer, filmmaker, photographer and trans activist.
I own a film studio called Passion Fruit Pictures; our soul mission is to add diversity and colour to the adventure film industry. I set up Passion Fruit Pictures when I became aware that because of misrepresentation, there is a huge population who do not feel welcomed in the outdoor and adventure industry.
My story starts when my parents came over from Hong Kong to study. They met at The University of Nottingham and moved near to Reading shortly after I was born.
As a child I was always sporty, I would play any sport offered to me, football, hockey, tennis, I thought it was a great way to spend my time. But I never camped, hiked or even climbed a tree. Being from a Chinese family, who emigrated to escape extreme poverty, going outside and sleeping on the ground was just a reminder of what they had left behind.
To put it into perspective, there is a small woodland just outside of my parents’ house and only recently have I ventured into them. I think that they are too afraid of what might be in there, so outdoors is not an environment that they are comfortable in. Having never seen people that looked like me in outdoor adverts, naturally, I grew up with those same feelings, and I too was uncomfortable in that kind of setting.
I knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker from a young age, and was lucky that the education system worked for me. I got good enough grades to get into university, and did a course called Visual Effects and Animation for films at Bournemouth.
It was through the course that I did a cinematography module, which opened my eyes to storytelling and the power of film. Through the module I picked up a camera and started telling stories.
When I was around 20 a friend of mine told me she was signing up for a 100km hike on the South Downs Way and asked if I wanted to join.
She said that she was doing it in a 48 hour stint which at that time sounded ridiculous to me. Instead, I signed up to the 50km stint with another friend, neither one had hiked before and we barely trained.
We set off incredibly slowly, taking pictures every ten minutes. Neither of us had ever been anywhere as beautiful. We didn’t end up finishing until 1:00 am because we were so inexperienced.
As we finished I remember that feeling of bodily exhaustion but mentally I was on cloud 9.
I had never had that level of mental clarity before, all the stress slipped away, I knew that nature was there for me.
Despite being the last ones to finish I felt so proud of what I had accomplished, It helped me learn that my achievements are for me.
Looking back I can see that my good grades and sporting achievements were for my parents and not for my own happiness. I was wrapped up in my job, wanting to make as much money as possible. I wanted the flashy car, the flashy house and the flashy clothes all for others’ approval.
After the walk there was no one there to applaud and the feeling I got was profoundly better.
Having been given the opportunity to experience this intrinsic happiness, I recently had a conversation with my parents and I came out to them as Transgender.
Having properly started to unpack it, there had been some really clear signs that date back to when I was young. For example, when I was younger I found a show on the tv guide called “make me a man” and I was adamant I wanted to watch it, I was only ten.
Now, I identify as trans male but for 32 years I presented as female. This means I have a huge journey ahead of me as I process my experiences walking through the world as someone who seemingly identified as a woman.
Most trans people identify themselves as the gender they have transitioned to regardless of what they presented as when they were younger. For me, because this change is so recent, I am still trying to navigate my needs.
For example, I have an upcoming trip called “Glide for Pride” which is a 2 month long, 2000 km roller skating and cycling challenge across England.
I aim to visit LQBTQ+ charities, historical sites and role models to dispel the myth that LGBTQ+ people are ‘the only gays in the village’. As, in reality there are endless LGBTQ+ narratives up and down the country. I want to get across to people that it does not matter where you live; rural or urban, there is always someone that resonates with your story.
We are also going to make a feature film about the trip. It is going to be the first adventure film that focuses on a trans story and highlights those of East Asian Origin taking part in adventures, a demographic which are completely neglected in the outdoors industry.
I hope, as someone with Chinese heritage, that other South Asians watch the film, feel inspired and gain the confidence to start their own adventures.
Originally I was going to do the challenge as female Frit and use it as a last hurrah to her. I wanted to say thank you to her, for getting me to where I am now, and use it as a ceremonial farewell. But then I reached a point in my journey which felt like doing this would be dishonest to myself.
What’s more, with the trip getting a lot of publicity, anytime anyone might misgender me, I felt as if it would go against the very core of me. The more It started happening, the more I became uncomfortable with it. I felt as though I was doing the transgender community a disservice.
I have got quite a few fears about coming out, but most of this is overridden by excitement.
One of them is the use of public bathrooms, this is an issue for a lot of trans people.
A friend of mine gave me some great advice for this, she said “sometimes you have to be brave and sometimes you have to be kind to yourself, use whichever bathroom you feel most comfortable with on that day”. She inspired me to be kind to myself.
I am also concerned that others might disagree with my general existence. It is okay if people do not understand my existence as a transgender man, but I ask them to be respectful with their opinions. After all, my existence should, first and foremost, make me happy.
I think when you live to make yourself happy you become your authentic self. You gain the ability to set your own boundaries and honour yourself. People who inspire me are those who do this, because when their cup is full, they are then in a position to fill other people’s cups as well.
This tale was written by Millie Davies based on the interview with Tales to Inspire.