Skating, cycling, life – the challenges facing Sheffield filmmaker Frit
Filmmaker Frit Tam lives a life based on challenge.
The physical challenge he faces is tackling a 1500km rollerblading and cycling challenge across England, starting this month.
Called Glide For Price, the two-month trek aims to raise awareness and tackle the issue of belonging in the LGBTQIA+ - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual - community.
It is this challenge which never ends for Frit, who now lives in Sheffield
Born a girl, the 32-year-old identified as a woman for many years.
Glide For Pride will be the beginning of Frit's open discussions about being a transgender man, and learning to embrace a new level of authenticity.
The physical challenge seems simple in comparison, but it is still a challenge as he only learned to rollerblade this year, training on a basketball court in Bolehills, Walkley.
Frit is new to Sheffield, but the city has been on his mind for some time. He’s keen on climbing and hiking, so it makes sense.
He and partner Frankie Dewar moved from Reading to Walkley and are enjoying themselves. They couldn’t wait to explore the city. “We just found a house so moved and let’s see what happens,” says Frit.
“Sheffield has been on my radar for years. A few years ago I wanted to move here but circumstances didn’t align.
“Then last year we were thinking of moving because of the upcoming trip and it made sense to be Sheffield.”
“I’m an outside type and being next to the Peak District was a big thing. I used to drive up from Surrey to be there.”
He also wanted to be in a city and to experience the diversity it offered. “What I’ve discovered in Sheffield already is so good,” he says, smiling.
Born in Nottingham, his family moved to Bracknell when he was one. His dad, a civil engineer, and mum, who became CEO of a charity, were from Hong Kong.
“I feel like I’ve taken them for a ride,” he says. “All they wanted for me was a stable job and income.”
It didn’t really happen as Frit is now a self-employed filmmaker, which isn’t particularly stable or guaranteed an income.
Talking about his childhood, it’s clear he has had much to think about.
“Under the age of 10, I can see characteristics of someone who is transgender, wanting to wear boys clothes and cut my hair short - I was misgendered as a boy,” he says.
“Part of it felt right and part of it was unsettling because at the time I had no idea transgendered people existed.”
Frit was helped by having a best friend who was gay and identified as a lesbian as young as five. He’s concerned about how we discuss these issues.
“Think about how we talk to kids,” he says. “Questions like ‘Are they your boyfriend’? For me, I didn’t know what a relationship was, but I knew I didn’t want to hold hands with a boy. I wanted to be a male counterpart, I just profoundly knew it.”
His cultural heritage was also an issue.
“Growing up a British-born Chinese person, I just didn’t embrace it,” he says. “I was fortunate to have other class members of various ethnicity, I was not the only non-white, but all I wanted to do was fit in.
“I remember being a teenager and saying ‘Forget I’m Chinese’. I turned my back on a lot of traditions and heritage.”
He muddled through, eventually going to university in Bournemouth to study visualisation and animation - in other words, the visual effects in films.
But Frit grew to love cinematography and it led him to get a job as a production assistant. Initially producing and shooting corporate videos for clients such as Network Rail, Sainsbury's and Barnardo’s, Frit moved into filmmaking to tell stories that made an impact on him.
Specialising now in Adventure documentaries, he recently set up a film studio, Passion Fruit Pictures, to add diversity to the adventure industry through filmmaking.
He says: “I love adventure films but only a tiny minority of the population is represented in them. The main barrier is funds. It’s an issue of what sold before will get made again.”
So Glide For Price will be filmed to tackle the lack of diversity Frit talks about.
He said: “Belonging is a key human need, but yet so many of the LGBTQIA+ community have often felt as if they don’t belong within mainstream society.
“All too often, mainstream media demonises the LGBTQIA+ community and portrays us as predators or having been 'brainwashed'. When you are in the formative stages of understanding your sexual orientation or gender identity, and the majority of readily-available media sources provide this level of misinformation, it's no wonder that you can feel as if you don't belong.
“It can also create dangerous environments for those in the community to 'come out' and live authentically.
“I too felt this alienation when I grappled with my sexuality, and again when I began to process and embrace my gender identity. I knew from as young as 5 years old that I felt more akin to my male-friends, and yet it took me until I was 31 years old to feel a sense of 'permission' to embrace my transgender identity.
“My trip, Glide for Pride, is aiming to change this with the power of storytelling. I will be sharing LGBTQIA+ stories across England, all the way through history to the current day from rockstars to charity workers, MPs to poets. There are a wealth of stories to show that we do belong, because we always have done.
“As an adventure filmmaker myself, I couldn't not make a film about it. Alongside my partner, Frankie and our talented filmmaker friend, Rachel Sarah, we will create a feature-length adventure film to capture the stories that I encounter, as well as document my own personal journey along the way.
“This is will be a first of its kind within the adventure industry, with no other documentaries within the adventure space focussing on an LGBTQIA+ narrative in this way with a transgender protagonist.
“We will be launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the film production in June 2021, and we would love for you to support the journey!
“I have two big aims for 'Glide for Pride'. Firstly, to counter the misinformation dished out by the media, and instead, show healthy, happy and wholesome stories of people within the LGBTQIA+ community living healthy, happy and wholesome lives.
“And secondly, for these stories to have positive effects on anyone who is in the early stages of understanding and embracing their sexual orientation or gender identity. I have a message for these people: you do belong!”
He wants to complete 10km a day on rollerblades and 40km on the bike. The cycle training included Jenkin Road, Wincobank, the infamous climb which tested even the Tour De France riders.
Frankie will be there for some of the journey, complete with the Peugeot van they sometimes call home.
It should be some trip and our money is on Frit making it a success story.
To contact Frit go to : https://www.fritandhealthy.co/glide-for-pride