Beyond Tolerance

There are more great queer-themed movies playing!

Frameline, the LGBT film festival, is going on this weekend and all through next week. I’ve been working with the Family Acceptance Project to promote the film they put together, “Always My Son.” There’s another showing on Sunday but last night was their big premiere (it was paired with a film that’s been getting a lot of press, “The Mormon Proposition”). It was followed by a reception featuring a Q&A with the family featured in the film. It was all a great success and I’m very happy for Caitlyn Ryan and Jorge Sanchez, director and program coordinator of the Family Acceptance Project.

“Always My Son” is the first in a very promising series of films created by the Family Acceptance Project (FAP), a program affiliated with my alma mater, San Francisco State University. The films will focus on the stories of families with LGBT children. FAP has been conducting studies about such families and working with them to promote familial acceptance of queer youth.

The studies have shown a huge impact for youth whose families accept them for who they are. The results may be obvious to folks who grew up as queer youth, like me. Young people whose families show behavior of rejection, such as trying to change the child’s sexual orientation or forcing them to hide it, are at a much higher risk for things like attempted suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. Those whose families showed acceptance had higher feelings of self-worth and were more likely to believe that they could grow up to be happy, healthy adults.

The Family Acceptance Project is doing really great work that’s long overdue, serving as a resource for families who may feel like they’re alone in trying to deal with a child’s sexual orientation. The family featured in “Always My Son,” for example, is a religious Latino family living in the Central Valley, where I grew up. When their son, EJ, came out as gay, they felt lost. EJ’s father, in particular, struggled to reconcile his son’s sexuality with the macho Latino ideology he was used to. After a crisis showed them that they were contributing to the suffering that might have them lose their son, the family shifted and went beyond tolerance to full acceptance, embracing their son for who he is. They got help from the Family Acceptance Project, found an affirming church and provided their home as a space for queer youth to come together and find support.

It was an incredible story, and watching the family at the reception last night, I couldn’t get over trying to imagine how EJ must feel. To go from feeling rejected and hated by your own family to having your family serve as an example for others learning to accept LGBT youth must be a great feeling, and it’s probably why I never saw EJ stop smiling. The fact that this was a Central Valley family of color from a faith background touched me personally on multiple levels, and I’m so glad that the film showcased a family that people may not ordinarily think of as a leader in LGBT equality. I think it really shows the potential power of unconditional love to transform hearts and minds in ways that may be difficult to imagine.

I really recommend seeing this film, if you get a chance. There are rumors that Sunday’s showing may be sold out, but it’s definitely worth it to try to get some of the tickets they’ll sell right before the show starts. Even if you don’t get a chance to see the movie, check out the Family Acceptance Project and see if there’s any way you can help. It’s wonderful work that will hopefully continue for a long time.

Published in: on June 19, 2010 at 9:27 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Thoughts after the Queer Women of Color Film Festival

I began this post by titling it “Queer people of color and the arts,” and then sat here as my mind went on a million different tangents. Obviously I could say a lot on the subject, but I’ll start here:

I love San Francisco in June! There are so many great things to do, from literary events to queer events to self-created sit-at-Dolores-Park-and-play-with-other-peoples’-dogs events, that I hardly know how to choose. Happenings that make it fun to be queer in this city in the month of June include: Frameline, the LGBT film festival; the National Queer Arts Festival; and, of course, Pride.

This past weekend I volunteered at the Queer Women of Color Film Festival, which was tremendously fun, thought-provoking and empowering. I always know it’s true, but each time I see an event like this I’m struck again with awe at the power of the arts in communities like these. This is what thrills me — I have my nerd moments over seeing things like women who once felt powerless and voiceless finding their voices and sharing it with others.

I’m not thrilled when people try to divide these communities, using powerful forces like faith or family or tradition to say that queer people and people of color live in different worlds with opposite ideas. The strength, joy and community in the space at the theater yesterday says otherwise.

CUAV co-presented a group of films that included Susannah Hong’s “Pretty Ugly,” challenging standards of beauty that fail to appreciate queer women of color; “Ferment Me My Heart,” Louije Kim’s hilarious kimchee chronicle; and “Our Houses,” in which queer women recount self-discovery and desire in their own terms. KB’s “Bulldagger Women and Sissy Men” approached a subject that’s close to my heart, queer people in the Harlem Renaissance, to illuminate their undeniable place in the movement.

All of the other films were incredible too. An audience member commented during the Q & A session that we are in a renaissance now, a thought that sent chills down my spine. The Harlem Renaissance intrigues me as a time when Black people, including many Black queer people, demonstrated the use of the arts to celebrate themselves and each other, to heal from their wounds and to proudly show beauty and strength. Even if it’s not as pronounced as the Harlem Renaissance, if we’re in a time when the arts can have a similar impact, then I’m thrilled to the bone.

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Let’s tell them where we’ve been, sisters,

so they will know our stories.

I’ll tell them where I’ve been,

and maybe I’ll remember too.

Published in: on June 14, 2010 at 12:29 PM  Comments (1)  
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