Why We Need LGBTQ Pride

Why we need Gay Pride

This post is way overdue. I’ve been thinking of writing it for years – but somehow never put the text to page. Perhaps I was optimistic – I think part of me thought “Do we really need another straight person weighing in on gay rights? Does anyone really want to hear from me?” I think I also told myself that maybe the situation was okay now – that we as a people had embraced the LGBTQ community as equals and could finally put decades of hate and mistreatment behind us. I now see that I was foolish and complacent.

Hearing about the so-called Straight Pride parade happening in Boston (my home city) later this summer has made me feel many emotions – mostly sadness. While I welcome everyone to read this post, I confess that I am writing it for my fellow straight people – particularly anyone who feels that a “Straight Pride” parade is needed. My hope is to enlighten you by sharing my own journey of discovery. I’m not here to name-call and I’m not hear to insult – there’s too much of that going on right now. Let me just share a story and, hopefully, change your mind.

Where I Started

I grew up in Massachusetts during the 1990s, at a time when “gay” was often used as an insult. I called things gay to say that they were weird, lame, or stupid – and I used this word fairly often in my high school days. I won’t say that I was the only one, but I was part of that culture. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t say it with hate – I didn’t hate gay people, at least not consciously.

As a teenager struggling with an avalanche of hormones, social anxiety, and mental illness – homosexuality was just something else that I didn’t understand. It weirded me out to think of people who were so different from my own budding sexuality – it made me uncomfortable to think about, but mostly because I kept thinking “man, I hope I don’t turn out gay.”

And it wasn’t because I saw them as inferior or wrong – I just saw all the shit they got. I didn’t fully process it (that didn’t come until much later), but I externally was like: These people are looked at as wrong in society’s eyes. Even though Massachusetts had just legalized gay marriage, we were surrounded by states that hadn’t, and I saw a lot of stories on the news that were essentially debating the humanity of these people.

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My definition of “support” included liking South Park, which had one gay character on it – so there you go.

I didn’t understand the hatred, mostly because I didn’t see gay marriage as a big deal. “As long as they don’t get married on my lawn – why should I care?” Was a common joke of mine back then. I thought I was being supportive – but I’m cringing writing this now.

“What’s the big deal?”

High school ended and I started college – going from Massachusetts to Montreal (or from liberal to more liberal). Canada had legalized gay marriage as a nation in 2005, so I just figured it was a non-issue. I was honestly surprised to see that Gay Pride parades were still a thing and that the gay village was a vibrant community in Montreal. I still initially avoided it – mostly due to insecurity.

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I was still at the level where I thought Brokeback Mountain wasn’t good, it had just “used” homosexuality to win awards. Of course, I hadn’t bothered to actually watch it before forming this opinion.

But I started getting annoyed at gay pride. After all, what was the point? Gay marriage was legal – equal rights achieved – end of story, right? That’s what I figured anyway (in my glorious wisdom as a 20 year old). I started to think that they were being crass – pushing the rest of the world to not just acknowledge them but demanding our perpetual attention. I believe my thought process was “Yeah, you’re gay. I get it. Can we move on?”

I just kept thinking that “pride” was wrong. After all, pride is a sin in Christianity and shouldn’t we only be proud of WHO we are, not WHAT we are? Wasn’t that why Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was so famous?  I wasn’t proud to be straight – I just was. Why wasn’t that enough for the LGBTQ community? Why did they still need all the public dancing and parades and attention?

My Enlightening

During this time, I met two women who were in a relationship with each other and we all (somehow) became friends. They were patient enough to put up with my antics – including my continued questioning of the need for gay pride and wondering why it was all a big deal. It’s not that they didn’t call me out – they did, but they also kept talking to me, which, in retrospect, was huge.

Eventually, one even convinced me to spend time with her at Queer Concordia – the LGBTQ student area on my college campus. I had stopped by there a couple times before to see them, but never to hang out. I still saw it as somewhere that wasn’t “mine” if that makes sense. It was a place for queer people and, since I wasn’t queer, I figured there was nothing for me there.

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It’s amazing how much I avoided the village – which is an amazing part of Montreal by the way. So many good restaurants and bars in that area.

But she had to stay so, if I wanted to hang, it meant I had to stay there too. So I sat – being bored at first – chatting with her and watching as people came and went. Queer Concordia was really just a couple rooms. The main one was a common space – there was a couch and a couple desks for computers. The walls were lined with posters and bookshelves.

It pains me on multiple levels to admit that, despite being a writer, it took me a while to really look at these bookshelves. It actually wasn’t until that day that I really took the time to read the titles and several excerpts.

And holy shit.

I was expecting books on famous LGBTQ people or inspirational stories about gay pride or something like that. What I found was book after book of “Hey, you’re gay. Please don’t kill yourself.”

It boggled my mind. Gay marriage had been legal here since 2005 – why did people still need these. It was that day that I realized being legal didn’t mean being accepted. It didn’t even mean widespread tolerance.

The Truth about LGBTQ Pride

It’s funny how you can know things without understanding them. Reading those books didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already “know.” I knew gay people had been mistreated. I knew they had suffered. But I knew it like I knew basic math. It was all abstract – all just facts existing in the ether. But reading the personal, often heart-breaking, stories of people (some of whom had since committed suicide) was different.

Because of a multitude of factors, including my own personal insecurities, I had always kept LGTBQ issues distant from me. I acknowledged them the same way that people might acknowledge a spider on a tall ceiling. I looked into it as little as possible.

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Looking back, I think I was still too caught up in my own warped perceptions of masculinity to fully see how much of a jerk I was being.

Reading these books made me realize the simplest truth. These were people. Human beings who went through the same insecurities and hardships I did, only they had a major extra issues piled on. They weren’t “normal” in society’s eyes. They were the insult that people like me had been so casually tossing around. They were the other that we weren’t sure deserved all the same rights and protections.

Did God love them? It was a matter of debate and who you asked.

Holy fucking shit.

When I think of what a mess I was as a teenager (and really through my early 20s), I can’t imagine dealing with any more challenges. The fact that some of these people had taken on my problems and more…and without my caring.

It was that day that the apathy I had built up began to crumble and empathy and sympathy started rushing in.

You see, gay pride isn’t about being proud. It’s about being okay. LGBTQ people have felt not okay for so long – so fucking long – that they need sometime to feel okay. To feel like, “yeah, I’m gay, so what? I’m still human!”

As a straight person, I never had to feel bad about being straight. Every major romance I read or saw on television/or in theaters featured my sexuality as the norm. Every religion supported my sexual orientation. No culture criminalizes straight sex. I had never had to think about these things…because I was “normal” in that regard.

And I never considered what my “normal” was doing to other people, mostly because I was too busy using it to reassure myself that I was okay. Heck, at least I wasn’t an “other” – so, even at my lowest, I had that going for me.

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I think this partly explains why I’m supporting Tulsi Gabbard for President. I see in her a similar journey to the one I went on. We were both wrong – but at least now we’re trying to be actual human beings.

It was a selfish form of humanity. I had claimed to care about these people while still not seeing them as people. I identified them as an “other” and that got annoyed when they started to turn that into a positive (or at the very least a neutral).

I was the asshole. I had given them only token awareness instead of human understanding.

From that point on, I never said “gay” as an insult again – and I started going along to Pride Parades. It was the god damn least I could do.

So to you out there who may feel you need “straight pride: – my question is, why? Which LGBTQ person ridiculed you for being straight or made you feel inferior? If you’re feeling left out now – it’s because you are doing it. You may not be doing it consciously, but you are separating yourself from them. LGBTQ pride isn’t about making us feel inferior, it’s about bringing them up to our level.

We’re all the same. We all need to react with compassion and kindness. If you want to live in a world where LGBTQ pride isn’t needed, then you have a simple job to do: support, support, support. Go to the parade – make a friend – have a chat. Denounce any who use their religion as a smokescreen to be cruel to their fellow humans.

Why we need gay pride
The fight is not over. The President of the United States recently passed a ban on transgender people serving in the military, casting a blanket statement that says “You can’t trust them. They’re weird.”

It’s not hard. It’s super fucking easy. We’re not the front-line here. We’re the backup singers to musicians who are finally getting their chance to sing. And it’s amazing – it’s so amazing that children born today MAY actually grow up in certain places where being LGTBQ is okay – and not a source of shame.

It is our job as allies to support these people and to help them fight the unfairness they still face.

I promise, if a day ever comes when LGBTQ people rule the world and start saying “Hey maybe we should outlaw straight marriage” or “hey maybe we should start a religion where straight people are evil,” then I will be on the side of straight pride. But that day is a science fiction parody at best right now.

The rainbow is all colors guys – we’re on there too. Please reach out to the LGBTQ community and get to know them. I’m sure you’ll reach similar conclusions.

And – to all the LGBTQ people reading this – All I can say is I’m sorry for taking so long to see you as people. I love you all – Your spirit and patience are fucking inspiring. Keep being awesome.

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Reaching for the Stars: an Interstellar Review

Christopher Nolan has long been in the upper echelon of film directors working today. He has built a reputation by adding just a little more to already established formulas. The Dark Knight Trilogy, for example, had layers of political subtext that most other superhero movies (Captain America: the Winter Soldier being the only exception) never even hint at. Inception was a heist movie dealing with the complexities of the human psyche. In the past, Christopher Nolan has been expertly walking the beaten path. Interstellar marks the director’s first departure from traditional Hollywood storytelling. Ambitious and bold, the film often soars nearly as much as its subject matter – yet like any first flight, it is far from perfect.

The visuals of Interstellar make it a movie made for cinema. This also marks the first major 4K release brought to theaters.
The visuals of Interstellar make it a movie made for cinema. This also marks the first major 4K release brought to theaters.

Interstellar opens in the not-too-distant future. Mankind stands on the brink of extinction as we have exhausted our food sources and are unable to save a planet that is clearly dying. How and why we are unable to beat a crop blight is never really addressed (Nolan does not want to directly address climate change, it seems). As humanity prepares for its final generations, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his family receive mysterious messages compelling them to find the remnants of NASA, the organization which presents the last and best hope for humanity’s future.

Seems a wormhole has been opened in our solar system, a gateway to another galaxy where humanity might be saved. McConaughey, along with a team of scientists (notably Anne Hathaway and a Bill Irwin voiced robot named TARS) must journey through the wormhole to save mankind’s future… at expense of their own. This theme is where Interstellar shines brightest.

The realism of TARS' design coupled with the talent of Irwin's acting creates a being that is surprisingly human.
The realism of TARS’ design coupled with the talent of Irwin’s acting creates a being that is surprisingly human.

Christopher and Jonathan Nolan‘s script highlights both sides of the nature of humanity. The instincts for self-preservation, parental protection, and love are addressed well within the script and reflected by a cast of characters who each represent different points of these ideas on the same scale. The story of fathers (McConaughey and Michael Caine) doing whatever it takes to save their children (Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, and Hathaway) adds the relatable drama that propels the movie through the innermost depths of the science fiction drama.

Make no mistake, this is not a film that is science fiction in setting only. As Nolan intrigues the audience with his characters, he takes them to worlds and introduces theories most commonly left out of mainstream cinema. Don’t know anything about relativity? Well, prepare to get a lesson as this film is all about how time is anything but a constant. Refreshingly, the science seems solid. The audience believes that both Nolan brothers researched every idea of the film thoroughly in order to keep it grounded.

The planets in the movie seem too terrifyingly real to be fantastical.
The planets in the movie seem too terrifyingly real to be fantastical.

Yet for the praise, there are criticisms. This is a film about reaching, and that is what the audience is sometimes asked to do. Not every logical turn falls perfectly into place. This is especially true at the movie’s climax where the audience is asked to take a serious leap of faith to help reconcile the plot. These jumps are not commonly found in Nolan brothers’ scripts. Likewise, this is the first Christopher Nolan film I personally have ever seen where I have questioned whether a cast member (click for spoilers) really added  anything to the plot.

Long a pioneer in visual storytelling, Christopher Nolan has managed to create an incredbly reflective and thought-provoking piece of cinema. Time will be needed to fully judge just how much of a success or failure Interstellar is.
Long a pioneer in visual storytelling, Christopher Nolan has managed to create an incredibly reflective and thought-provoking piece of cinema. Time will be needed to fully judge just how much of a success or failure Interstellar is.

Those expecting a perfect movie will walk away disappointed. This is not Christopher Nolan’s best film. That said, this is the type of movie more A-list directors should be making. Interstellar grows Nolan as a director by taking him outside his recent action blockbuster zone and allowing him to make a movie that is both very large and small at the same time. In a year of formulaic films, it is pleasing to see someone taking risks. Interstellar is a film that shot for the moon and missed, but that’s okay since it landed among the stars.

 

 

Five Films to Restore Faith in Humanity

I was going to write an article about the new Thor and Captain America but… there’s been a lot going on this week (both personally and with the world at large) that I feel it is important to write an uplifting post, and not just more sarcasm about how Marvel will use a woman and a black man to sell comic books. Life throws us moments of doubt and despair, where peace dissolves and innocent people get hurt. Sometimes, when we’re looking at everything going on out there… it’s easy to get depressed. Someone once told me: “life sucks and then you die.” Below are five examples of films dedicated to showing that, yeah while life can truly suck sometimes – there’s a lot more than misery to get out of it.

5. Good Will Hunting

I feel like I have to include this one since I’m from the Boston area. This is an inspirational movie for two types of people: 1) for the person who feels trapped by where they were born – who doesn’t know any other type of life than the harshness of growing up – and 2)for anyone who has ever known someone like that. Matt Damon plays Will Hunting, a genius with issues (to put it mildly). Throughout the movie, the audience watches as he drives away anyone and everyone who tries to care about him. His girlfriend, his friends, even his psychiatrist (played by Robin Williams) have to overcome the barriers that Will throws up. The story highlights that good people can come from nothing, and great people can escape it. This scene here, the famous “it’s not your fault” scene, is one of the best acted sequences I’ve ever watched. It is one line over and over again, and what makes it work is the level of the performances. Who hasn’t wanted to hear these words right after something terrible has happened?

4. Secondhand Lions

Not the best movie ever made, but one of the most poignant when it comes to believing in human nature. Haley Joel Osment (“I see dead people”) is a kid with a crappy mom. She drags him around everwhere – not for his benefit but solely for her own. It is one of the more subtle forms of abuse out there. Anyway, she leaves him with his two great uncles (played by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall) and, well, it turns out that they’re just fantastic. Both men are proof that strength of character can win out over life’s misfortunes. There is a speech that I have included below that may be one of the best things I have ever heard. Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant, this is something that it feels good to believe in:

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Hands down the best thing that Jim Carrey has ever done (outside Dumb and Dumber) and one of the perfect movies for anyone suffering from heartbreak. This may be THE film for the complex nature of relationships. It showcases the duality of emotions (loving someone vs missing someone) associated with attraction and all the joys and sorrows therein. We all have someone we’d like to forget – but it helps to remember why we’re trying so hard.

2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Wait – what? Yes, I understand this must come as an odd pick but I will defend it. The movie features two main characters: Nemo (James Mason) and Ned Land (Kirk Douglas). I find that these two characters perfectly represent the strengths and weaknesses of humanity. Nemo is brilliant and careful but also distant and cruel. Ned is thoughtless and brash while being loyal and brave. The whole film represents a struggle between the various aspects of human nature, and personally, I feel it ends on a very uplifting message. Sadly, I cannot really find a youtube clip to prove my point so…. here’s “whale of a tale!”

1. Ikiru

Now here’s the one you’ve never heard of. Watch it – that’s all I can say. There are few films that left the impact that this one did. Ikiru is Japanese – roughly translated “to live,” and the movie is about just that. The main character is a middle-aged bureaucrat who learns of his imminent death and seeks to find meaning in his final months. Akira Kurosawa was one of the most visionary minds the world has ever seen. There really are no words, it is a film that must be seen to be understood.

 

So there you have them. Five slices of inspiration. I know, I know. There were plenty of other movies I could have included. To be clear – I do not necessarily feel that these are the five best. These were simply the first five films that popped into my head.