May 17th marks the 10th annual campaign for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Incidentally, it also marks the beginning of the 22nd annual Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival. Though these events evolved from different sources, the parallels and overall raison d'être for both are remarkably similar.
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia's mandate is simple: Reach out to everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, to highlight the positive aspects of LGBT people and celebrate their contribution to society. Inside Out from its inception has set out to challenge attitudes and change lives through exhibitions of films made by and/or for queer audiences.
The power of cinema can be an effective force in bringing communities together (even communities within communities) to educate, to entertain and if nothing else, in our case, help raise awareness and foster discussion on queer issues (or at least bad plot points). Such is the beauty of a film festival. We are all there for one reason: to see movies (and maybe get to second base). What better way than with a captive audience to help spread one's message?
This year marks a significant shift in queer filmmaking, a movement away from the simple "coming out" story, and away from films that play up gay stereotypes because it really is no longer "fine" if we do it ourselves. Films with LGBT content are becoming just that: films with LGBT content, versus "gay movies." Queer cinema is growing up and Inside Out has a glorious cross-section of movies that demonstrate just that. As we sachet away from replaying old tapes of "coming out" and back alley blow jobs (but yes we understand we sometimes like to see that too), we move into scary territory: what happens afterwards?
Movies like Keep the Lights On (Sundance and Berlin Film Festival award-winner) delve into the complex relationships of gay couples; movies like Naked As We Came explore family dynamics and dysfunction in the wake of a matriarch's illness, where the fact that the handsome son is gay isn't the main plot point. Movies like Cloudburst explore issues of (gay) marriage in the latter years of a lesbian couple. These are still our stories. And we want to share them with everybody.
More than ever, the LGBT community is turning the camera back on themselves to reflect on the rich, sometimes devastating prats and pitfalls of being queer. Never before has Inside Out had a wider selection of non-fiction films on offer. How to Survive a Plague and United in Anger: A History of Act Up both delve into the activism and heroism of the two coalitions that turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. We learn about the charismatic leaders of our community around the world in documentaries like Call Me Kuchu (Berlin and Hot Docs award-winner) and see that we still have a lot of work to do. Yes we've come a long way, but this is not the time to sit pretty and watch Glee. This is the time more than ever to stand up (or please sit down if you are in a movie), and highlight our positive aspects and contributions as LGBT people.
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is a day of celebration, not of victimization. It's not a day to rest on this victimization philosophy. It's a day to speak openly at work, at home, in schools, in communities, at the movies and in our own families (and to the neighbours if they'll listen) about how awesome it is that we were born this way.