Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Gay Rights Movement

I came across this short documentary by Ryan James Yezak over at Pam's House Blend. It is a powerful 7 minute reminder of how far this country has come, but how far we still have to go when it comes to full equality for our glbt brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. The clip is very well done and very emotional (at least for me), but I do agree with Pam's quibbles about the piece, which I have snipped and posted below.

This is the first time I have encountered anything by Ryan James Yezak and I am impressed. He is definitely very talented and I think his work will have a powerful impact in the fight for full equality. I am including a link to his next project, Second Class Citizens Documentary, I hope you'll check it out.

And as for Pam's quibble, which is not directed so much at Yezak as it is at the gay rights movement in general, I'll post a snippet and you can decide if she has a legitimate point or not, I believe she does:

My quibble with the piece is about the decisions revolving around what is and isn’t included.  In a compilation of any historical movement that is only around seven few minutes, you have to select what you feel is representative, and that’s editorial license of the filmmaker. My comments aren’t really toward Yezak; his selections do represent the status quo thinking about the movement – it’s largely about gay white men.
Aside from clips of Ellen DeGeneres talking about the murder of Lawrence King (and a blink-of-an-eye clip of her coming out on her sitcom), you’d think lesbians are practically non-existent in the movement. And it’s definitely “gay rights” only – don’t expect anything related to trans folk here either. If gays and lesbians are second-class citizens, you have to wonder what society considers transgender citizens if we render them invisible from the movement (as bis already are).
And people of color? Well, aside from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (an opportunity to show gay activist and organizer of the March on Washington, from which the clip is taken, Bayard Rustin, was missed), one unmistakable landmark event in gay rights history is Lawrence v. Texas, which revolved around an interracial couple, John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner. Not in the clips. Note: if Dan Choi hadn’t been in the DADT-related clips, then the vid would have been a complete whitewash. It’s kind of sad.
But my point is that editorial decision making is subjective in any film or documentary, and this particular slice of the cinematic pie probably represents the general audience’s perceptions of the movement and what it looks like as well. Will that ever organically evolve into broader vision of the movement? I hope so.


Anonymous said...

I'll have to watch the video later.

As for Pam's quibble -- and if it's only a quibble on her part, I admire her for her superhuman restraint -- hell yes, she has a point. A disproportionate number of the voices leading the LGBT movement are gay white men and it shows. You have gay male bloggers -- and while I'm working to change that, I fully admit to falling into this trap -- who claim to represent the LGBT community, yet completely ignore issues and even show insensitivity and hostility towards those issues that don't directly impact gay men. (Hint: Look at the number of gay men who will engage in various sexist and misogynistic behaviors when discussing women like Maggie Gallagher or Michelle Bachman. Or look at their willingness to throw around words like "tranny" -- again often in references to the physical appearances of anti-gay women like Maggie Gallagher.)

If the dominance of gay white men was a problem that was limited to this video, I might call Pam's point a "quibble." But the fact that it's representative of a larger and systemic problem with the LGBT movement at large, I'd say it's a huge ordeal.

Seething Mom said...

Jarred, I am always struck by your passion and your amazing ability to put it into words that resonate with all of us.

I hope you come back and comment once you have seen the video and if you have not clicked over to the link for the documentary called Second Class Citizens, I hope you do that as well.

I too agree with what Pam said. And I think she did a great job walking a fine line, trying not to throw the baby out with the bath water by not going after this obviously talented and passionate new young filmmaker personally, but still pointing out a big misstep the gay rights movement makes in hopes that he will not commit the same sin. I hope Pam's message gets through to him, it will only make his documentary better and more authentic.