LGBT Response


Crystal: A Rainbow Full of Colors

Born in the late 1960s with the given name of Timothy, Crystal was raised in an extremely wealthy and very religious household in Tennessee. She lived her bold and unapologetic truth initially as a gay man, but soon transitioned to living life openly as a transgender woman in her late teens, in a time and place where this was unheard of.

Embarrassed and ashamed, Crystal’s family did everything they could to eradicate her “sinful ways”, sending her to controversial conversion therapy, as well as military and reform schools, all in attempts to thwart her truth. When that didn’t work, they chose to hide her away by creating fake drug charges for which she was punished with an extreme 50 year-to-life sentence.

To make matters worse they erased all evidence of her, and even paid to have her booked into the Department of Corrections under a false identity in order to protect the family name.

Despite being abandoned and erased by her biological family, Crystal was a true purveyor of love and a devout believer.

Crystal lives on, remembered in the hearts of her friends, old and new, who cherish her love, strength, and undying faith in the face of relentless hardship.

Crystal’s Song

Original Recording: Full of Colors
by Crystal and Doug Lowe

Featured twice in the film, Heart, Baby!, this original unaltered song was recorded inside prison in 1983, co-written and performed by two real-life inmates: Crystal and her friend Doug (a cisgender male).

Full of Colors was recorded 10 years before Crystal passed away. When you hear the lyrics of this song it is like a foreshadowing to the end of Heart, Baby! 

We love Crystal so much and promised the real people behind this film that we would honor and respect her. Don’t let Crystal or any trans person like her ever be erased again. 

We ask that you see and remember Crystal, just as her friends and the entire cast and crew of Heart, Baby! do. We love that there are times she sings out of key because it’s real – and listen closely, you can even hear her crying. 

All of Crystal’s proceeds from this song will be donated to the National Center for Transgender Equality

Because Heart, Baby! is also dedicated to my brother, Steve, who was a gay man and a devout Christian, a portion of the publishing profits will go to GALIP (God’s Agape Love (put) Into Practice) so that every human wanting to discover the love of God has can find a safe place to do so. 

Please gift or share this song with someone you love. 

#wontbeerased #crystal #remembercrystal #fullofcolors #heartbabythemovie #godisgood 

Thank you!

Angela Shelton
Writer/director of Heart, Baby!

A Message from Shawn-Caulin Young

Shawn-Caulin Young gives an award-winning performance as Crystal.

As a a gay man, and proud member of the LGBTQ community, accurate representation of our stories is a priority to me. Going into production on Heart, Baby!, I knew that we needed to find a trans woman to play the role of Crystal so we asked our casting director, John Jackson, to hold a nationwide search. After several weeks of combing the country, we uncovered a heartbreaking reality— only 10 individuals were submitted. Of that 10, only 1 matched Crystal’s specs. Unfortunately, she was unable to convey Crystal’s essence. We were backed into a corner, unable to decide whether or not to shut down production. However, I knew her story was too important not to tell. That’s when Angela asked me to do a make-up test. The moment Crystal’s friend Doc saw a photo, he burst into tears. Angela came back to me and insisted I play the role.

I agreed to do so under one condition— I live as a trans woman. I transformed 3 months before filming and committed myself to living in New Orleans as trans until we wrapped. As a cisgender man, I needed to know in my soul what life was truly like for woman like Crystal if I were to tell her story. My world was blown apart. I experienced first hand the discrimination, degradation, objectification, and danger that trans individuals constantly endure. I was stalked, harassed, and assaulted almost daily.  I felt a deep loneliness and pain as well as the beautiful liberation.

My goal was to bring authenticity and dignity to the role while honoring Crystal’s truth. I wanted to become a true advocate and ally who could speak from a place of shared experience. The process deepened my respect for my trans brothers and sisters and all of the challenges these brave souls must face everyday.


As a member of the trans community, I do not believe this is an LGBT movie, I believe this is an American story. It’s about love. It’s about God. It’s about America.

Brandon, Arizona

Perhaps one of the most searing love stories I’ve never been told before.

College student, Vermont

It inspires me and gives me so much hope. Love can cure all.

College Student, Vermont

It took me completely by surprise.
I feel really lucky that I got to see this. The whole world should see it.

Festival Director, Tennessee

As someone who has been around people who have been in prison, it jarred a part of me that I didn’t realize I could have in a film experience.

Activist and college student, Vermont

First and foremost thank you to Angela for knowing the importance of this story being told! More importantly thank you to Shawn for your interest in not only playing the part of Crystal, but for also living the life of Crystal in public in order to immerse yourself in it. I am a Fifty year old trans man and I find it genuinely validating that a cisgender man is willing to put himself through the public hell that we as trans folks are subjected to, just to live our lives. You doing this added a whole other level of importance to this for me. To have a trans actor/actress play this part would have without a doubt limited the exposure of the film due to discrimination there are so many people that would have refused to even watch it just knowing a trans person was in it. Because of you Shawn, our story gets to be seen by hundreds maybe thousands that would otherwise have missed it and who knows maybe some of them will walk away with a different opinion of my community!  Even if it’s only one changed heart that could turn into one saved Trans life. We’ll never know the full impact of your courage to do this, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart! Trans stories need to be heard and I want the best person to tell them and in my opinion, Shawn truly was the best person to tell Crystal’s story.

Brandon Milligan

I can say I’m for anyone playing trans roles cisgender or otherwise because what’s important is making a quality film! Film changes the world and has the profound ability to affect people. I have been a film fanatic since I was a kid. I love acting and story telling and in my opinion the right actor for the job is simply the person that understands the role, has the ability to ACT, is passionate about the project and acting, If there is a role of a sailor we don’t say that only a person who is a sailor can play the role. That would be a poor choice. It’s the same for trans roles. If you are transgender and want to be in film, then shut your mouth and get to work and become a great actor. To be given roles simply because you are trans is unrealistic and arrogant. I spent time in Hollywood acting when I was male it wasn’t easy then and it’s not easy now. If trans people are not getting roles it’s not necessarily because they are trans. It’s because they either don’t fit the role or they are not a good enough actor. People have an inflated image of themselves, so when they get denied they need something or someone to blame. I loved that Shawn played the role of Crystal in Heart, Baby! As a trans woman, I was very impressed with Shawn. Not only because he tried to find a trans actress for the role originally, but because he lived our truth.  Shawn went through the hell of what it is to live publicly as a trans person. He understands and experienced for himself how hard our life is.  Shawn-Caulin Young played Crystal so well, that it will help many people out there in the world, see people like me more as human.

Adalyn Blake

As a transgender woman and trans actress, I was nervously prepared to see a gay man portray a transgender character. After watching Heart, Baby!, I was so blown away that I know there is not one trans woman out there that could have played Crystal as well as Shawn did. Crystal was a gay man who came to the realization that she was transgender and thus became Crystal, just like so many of my trans friends have thanks to their growth from life experiences. My thanks to the filmmakers for creating the best film we have ever screened at the festival. Heart, Baby! received the highest award points in the history of our film festival. We were proud to give it The Jury Award, as it was the first time we have ever given that recognition.

Maryanne Holms, Desperado LGBTQ Film Festival

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