The Freedom To Marry Documentary

Recently, I saw the documentary Freedom to Marry and was thoroughly underwhelmed. A part comes from my own doubts around the now finished fight for marriage equality but another part comes from just how predictable the documentary was. Jay Weissberg reviewed the film for Variety and wrote that:

Despite a small theatrical run, “The Freedom to Marry” feels designed for TV in every way: It does its job more or less efficiently (we could do without Wolfson’s parents’ friends talking about what a bright boy he was) in cookie-cutter documentary fashion. Rosenstein, a childhood acquaintance of Wolfson’s, is unable to disguise the artificiality of certain “spontaneous” conversations before the cameras.

And that’s exactly what it felt like. The message and theme of the documentary oversaturated the film in a way that felt like you were being hit over the head with what the filmmakers wanted you to take away from it. That doesn’t mean it was completely terrible or anything – there were some great moments and the film does hark back to how gay people have been treated in the United States. But I ultimately left the theater feeling underwhelmed by the production and forgotten by the larger LGBTQ+ community. (That last part isn’t necessarily tied to the documentary and is a larger trend that I’ve personally felt in the past few months.)

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Stonewall (2015)

During its initial release and promotion, I wrote about Roland Emmerich’s 2015 film Stonewall and about how the film was essentially not representative of what happened during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. I wasn’t the only one to critique the film before even seeing it – the hashtag #NotMyStonewall brought up a variety of criticisms for the film and of the decision to center a cis, white gay man rather than the real life people who were present.

And for over a year, I forgot about the film. It didn’t seem to really do that well, getting only 10% from Rotten Tomatoes, and despite being friends with a large amount of LGBTQ+ folks, I honestly don’t really know anyone who actually went to see it. But a few weeks ago, I was staying at a place that didn’t have internet and because the one video rental place in town was having a special deal of renting five videos for the price of three, I decided to finally see what Stonewall (2015) was all about.

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Major!

By complete chance, I saw the documentary Major! recently and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the past few months. A small part of my experience was also learning that a local nonprofit movie theater does a queer movie series and being surrounded in large part by other LGBT and queer folks. But being able to learn about and celebrate Miss Major was really the best part.

The documentary is in large part about Miss Major Griffin Gracy and her story as a black trans woman, veteran of the Stonewall Riots, a survivor of Attica State Prison, former sex worker, and community leader/activist. Her work at the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), for example, has supported trans women who are currently in jail and prison or who are formerly incarcerated. There are interviews from Miss Major herself and the community around her about her life and work and there’s so much love and support in this film.

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Teaching LGBT History.

Recently, I read about how some school districts around the US  were going to be teaching about LGBT history to students. This is, of course, a cause for celebration because it allows for LGBT students to learn about their community’s history in school. For one of the first times (at least in my experience), young people might be learning about the Stonewall Inn and Compton’s Cafeteria Riots and about people like Audre Lorde, Sylvia Rivera, and Marsha P Johnson.

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Police at Pride.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about police presence at Pride celebrations – after the mass shooting in Orlando and a potential attack in LA stopped, many people are on edge about potentially being attacked or killed because of their sexual orientation and/or gender. And it’s hard not to be a little terrified after everything: in addition to the Pulse shooting, queer/LGBTQ people are generally most at risk for hate crime related violence and that trend is unfortunately going up.

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NYC Trans Day of Action – June 24th, 2016.

This Friday is the 12th annual Trans Day of Action! This yearly event is a protest organized by the Audre Lorde Project in New York City to call for several different demands and in some part, remember that Pride is rooted in a police riot started by trans women of color.

Pride is still really important – it allows for a celebration of a community that’s regularly erased, discriminated against, and violently beaten. But it’s started to grow more into a corporate party that, like many other things, over represents white cis gay men and where police and banks often outnumber many trans community groups in several major city celebrations. Trans Day of Action puts trans people of color back to the front and center.

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Moving Forward.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can move forward in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando this past weekend. Sending out thoughts and prayers, hosting and going to vigils, and feeling grief and sorrow is incredibly important – it reminds us that we are not alone in all of this. And I don’t want to downplay the importance of taking the time to really grieve and heal from this tragedy. Because all of that is a really critical part of moving forward.

Coming together as a community is important too. The Twitter hashtag #QueerSelfLove is a reminder to not only love yourself but also a reminder that there are still so many around us. Our queerness, sexual orientation, and gender are all vital parts to who we are as people and we should love and embrace our queerness in the wake of not only this tragedy but also in the face of everything else.

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Bathroom Bills.

States like North Carolina have been making waves over the past few weeks with different pieces of legislation that are inherently discriminatory in nature – many of them focus on discriminating against LGBTQ folks in the name of religious freedom and public safety. The North Carolina bill comes as a response to the Charlotte City Council’s recently expanded ordinance that would allow for trans people of the city to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. The bill does a whole lot more though – as Camila Domonoske explains:

The new [state] law establishes a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance that explicitly supersedes any local nondiscrimination measures. The statewide protections cover race, religion, color, national origin and biological sex — but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill does so much more as well. Among other things, it essentially supersedes literally any local government ordinance – from non-discrimination policies to minimum wage increases. So not only does this impact LGBTQ folks in the state but also makes any sort of citywide minimum wage increase nearly impossible and thus impacts low income and working class folks as well.

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Do I Sound Gay?

A few days ago, I watched Do I Sound Gay – a recent documentary following David Thorpe and his journey to understand the stereotypical ‘gay voice’ and to see what he could do to change his own gay voice despite being an openly gay man. The documentary joins Thorpe as he talks to researchers, vocal coaches, friends, strangers, celebrities, etc about the gay voice and while the conversation primarily focuses on gay men, there is a universal message that it’s okay to be who you are – gay voice and all.

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Trans Day of Remembrance – #tdor.

Today is Trans Day of Remembrance, a day to remember and speak the names of the people we’ve lost over the past year because of transphobic violence. It’s a day to mourn, to honor the lives of our trans siblings that have died over the last year, and to bring attention to this problem.

Today is a day to remember but also amplify. Read and listen to those of us still here – like the artists who’ve created posters for today or different posts on Black Girl Dangerous.

Gwendolyn Ann Smith is the founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance and a few years ago, wrote about what today is all about and why it’s so (unfortunately)  necessary:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is not an event for fundraisers and beer busts. It’s not an event we “celebrate.” It is not a quick and easy one-day way for organizations to get credit for their support of the transgender community. It’s not something to trot out on the 20th of November and forget about. We should be working every day for all of us, living and dead.

Why do we remember? We remember for Rita Hester and Chenelle Pickett. We remember for Brandon Teena, for Gwen Araujo, for Marsha P. Johnson. We remember for Deoni Jones of Baltimore, Md., killed last February. We remember for Tyrell Jackson of Florida, killed on April 4, 2012. We remember for Coko Williams, killed in Detroit on April 3. We remember for Paige Clay, killed in Chicago on April 16. We remember for Brandy Martell of Oakland, killed on April 29, 2012. We remember for Tiffany Gooden, killed in Chicago on August 14. We remember for hundreds of others killed around the world in anti-transgender murders.

We should always be working to end transphobic violence and to support the community. Like Smith mentioned, today is not about brownie points for being a good ally – it’s about remembering those we’ve lost and supporting the people we still have. There are other days that also exist to uplift the trans community like Trans Day of Visibility and Trans Day of Action because it’s constantly important to protect and support trans individuals and the community.

If you want to be an ally today, there are several ways to be one (and I won’t have all the answers). Stand with us as we remember those we’ve lost this year, say the names with us. Fight against transphobia and transmisogyny when you see it every single day – call out people, fight for legal protections, support trans people who are struggling, help stop trans murders.

Remember that it’s important to not be trans exclusionary in feminism and to protect all of our sisters, not just our cis-ters. Remember that the violence against the trans community and the larger LGBT community is more likely to impact trans women of color so also fight against racism and misogyny. Attend actions if you can, read and support as much as you can.

I’ve said it before and I’ll always say it but to all of you trans babes out there, I love you so much. Your existence is authentic and wonderful and you are made from millions of years of stardust. The universe sits with you every day and I’m so thankful that the world exists with you. There are many resources out there to help if you need it or if you’re struggling.

Today, I’ll be saying the names of those we’ve lost, remembering the ones who died because of who they are. I’ll be remembering Keyshia Blige, Tamara Dominguez, India Clarke, Papi Edwards, Mercedes Williamson, Penny Proud, and so many more.