Alright, I’ve got movies on the brains.
On Thursday night, I attended the Los Angeles Transgender Film Festival at the Echo Park Film Center with my little sister who identifies as bisexual. Twas’ a gaydies family night! We had a blast.
I am madly passionately in love with cinema, more now than ever before. Probably because the passing years have exposed me to a multitude of films that reveal the medium’s innate power for educating and changing people. For educating and changing me.
Back in 2007, I was a femme lesbian who was attracted to other feminine women. Never lesbians — always bi-curious potentially bisexual women or straight women who questioned in secret. I mainly hung out with gay men and straight girls, rarely any lesbians. Maybe 1 or 2 lesbos from time to time. My hair reached down past my shoulders, I wore stilettos and was obsessed with my weight — how fat and ugly I was, and how well I did or didn’t hide it.
I’d developed an aversion, a disdain really, for all things masculine — especially in women. I had not yet begun to question why it was I proudly owned and cultivated this prejudice within me. Until Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival accepted my lesbian short film A Two Woman One Act in June 2007. That year at Outfest, I became aware of the fluid nature, and varying expression of human gender and sexuality.
On a gender front, the films at Outfest explored the lives of butch women, feminine women, androgynous women, boyish women with soft feminine edges, feminine women with strong masculine edges, women who identified as / were transitioning into men — transmen, and men that conversely fell under similar categories. On a sexuality front, they depicted the experiences of bisexuals, gays, lesbians, closeted homosexuals, the bi-curious, and transmen and transwomen who identified as straight, bisexual, & homosexual.
I spent most of the festival watching documentaries on the Transgender community because my film fest partner-in-crime was gay filmmaker Dante Alencastre whose documentary works focused on Transgender issues and rights. Through these Trans-world expositions, I became aware of my own internalized homophobia and began the lengthy process of understanding the wondrous, brilliant, NATURAL NORMALCY of our “otherness,” our “queerness” and how negatively affected I’d been by a media-centric society where the media predominantly represents the white straight population’s take on normal. In learning about the Transgender community through these movies, I began uncovering the layers of my identities — as woman, lesbian, and feminist — and learning to whole-heartedly accept their often unboxable nuances. These films united me in understanding, solidarity, and passion with my GLBTQ cause and community.
The Movies have always been my great love — ever since I was a wee little girl watching The Neverending Story on repeat. Long before I understood the terms “woman” and “lesbian,” I connected with, felt impassioned by the word “moobie.” The older I’ve gotten the deeper I’ve fallen in love with cinema arts. The Transgender Film Fest provides a great example of why. The Transgender (TG) community is an underrepresented group of people that are often trivialized, villainized, and dehumanized by mainstream culture — both in media and mass society. Their lives and identities are often ignored, pigeonholed, and misunderstood. Sadly, even by some of the GLB’s (Gay, Lesbians, & Bisexuals) in our GLBTQ community. I’m grateful to relay, however, that the TG community has taught me much about their experiences and causes through film. A medium of expression that stirs the viewer’s individual mind by touching their universal heart. In other words, one person’s experience is another person’s experience no matter how different their outside circumstances may appear. In my opinion, it’s through empathy that one little movie … a string of little movies … a narrative feature film … a documentary … changes someone’s perspective.
Over the past 4 years I’ve seen about 15 films on the Transgender community at film festivals, Laemmle’s Movie Theaters, and streaming online. Following the triumphs and tribulations of their oft overlooked tales, I’ve come to relate with a group of people I had little knowledge of or interest in before 2007. Films like the 1987 narrative feature Vera (An Outfest Legacy Project restoration) and the 2008 long-form documentary STILL BLACK: A Portrait of Black Transmen have transformed my relationship to my own gender-expression (female) and sexual orientation (lesbian) from a place of self-loathing and ignorance to one of self-knowledge and acceptance. They’ve broadened my consciousness and conscience …
Movies are a powerful tool for education and change. I am honored, grateful, and proud to be a part of the Queer Film community. I am constantly blown away by all I have left to learn on the human “being” itself — especially being its self in TRUE form. I was thrilled to take my little 18-year old bisexual sister to a film fest by and about Transgender people where she learned more about the profound and complex GLBTQ community she embodies and represents. Especially since, unlike myself, my sister tends to be romantically/sexually attracted to women with a more masculine bent, butch women, questioning trans. I’m glad to say that in these years I’ve healed that senseless prejudiced self-hating side of myself, and grown to relate to, respect, and appreciate the varying expressions of human sexuality and gender-identity. As a result, I’ve been blessed to form beautiful priceless friendships with butch lesbians and transmen in my community.
That being said, I also acknowledge that movies — being a powerful medium that affects change on individual and mass scales — can also be used to oppress people. Sadly, many movies still often perpetuate negative stereotypes or ignore an entire section of the population by choosing to spotlight one group experience over another. This is especially evident in Hollywood. The world according to Hollywood films tends to center around Anglo, straight, and Jewish populations. Once in a while, when Hollywood films do stray from depicting formulaic characters in regurgitated plots and strive to convey the stories of “minorities” — a.k.a. all other members of society — we’re often victimized, marginalized, or turned into one-dimensional caricatures of ourselves. The Token Black, Gay, Latina, etc. gets to star in their own token movie … yay! Not yay.
One of the many reasons I won’t be watching The Oscars this year.
Another reason is because I’m tired of supporting the community-destroying system of Meritocracy. Meritocracy: A competitive system in which human beings earn self-esteem through achieving merit i.e. outside validation. A system where professional colleagues are pinned against each other, compared, and then anointed “1. Better than the rest.” Maybe that system works for boxing or sports, some physical game built around the accumulation of points, but I believe Meritocracy has no real constructive place in the arts — a subjective realm of individual expression.
At the Oscars, 5 supposedly “best” actresses, writers, costume designers, etc. of films — that were LOBBIED into nomination by usually affluent companies — go up against each other for the Homecoming Queen crown. Nominees wear abhorrently expensive outfits, blow winks at each other, and weep at tha’ podium o’ “success” upon receiving a statue of naked golden dewd while shouting, “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, YOU LIKE ME!”
I once bought into that? Yuck & sad. (P.s. I think Sally Field is an AMAZING actress. Her acceptance speech just makes me sad.)
My dislike for Meritocracy isn’t just limited to The Oscars, however, but stretches outward to all award shows with set nominees. You want to take a fair vote and choose “best” film or “best” artistic anything of the year? Fine. Let all the Academy members actually vote for THEIR favorite film of that year then. Don’t choose their nominees. Just ask them very simply, “What’s been your favorite film this year?,” “Who’s been your favorite actress this year and for what role?,” etc., tally the votes up, and then announce the results at the award ceremony like so, “We’d like to congratulate Sophie’s Choice for being chosen by The Academy members as their favorite film of the year.” Let’s call a spade a spade. The Oscars like most award shows are not an objective forum where “high quality” projects get the recognition they deserve. It’s a circus tent where rich people who know other rich people entertain their egos by jacking each other off in front of a TV screen for millions to see. The Oscars are, in essence, a televised 4-hour group masterbation session between professional exhibitionists. At least when they have a comedian host — like Ricky Gervais — who calls out the event for exactly what it is, the audience derives some joy from the lewd acts of heavy petting taking place on stage. The Oscars enjoy pretending they were created to award the most worthy piece of art (i.e. film) and artist (i.e. director) of the year the acknowledgment they deserve. When the truth is, and everyone knows it, The Oscars are as objective as art/film itself, which is NOT objective at all.
Maybe I’m just annoyed by the fact that The Oscars confuses its 100% subjectivity for 100% objectivity, takes itself too seriously, and then doesn’t hire Ricky Gervais to host.
If you’d like to read the brilliantly hilarious introduction Ricky Gervais drafted (in jest) for this year’s Oscar hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco, read below or directly from his blog!
And so on…