Before I go into why I see some elements of The Gay Rights Movement as problematic, I want to say that overall it is a powerful compilation of historical events worthy of your click. It has a heavy focus on more recent events — bullying, DADT, with a nod to significant moments in the past — Harvey Milk, and the CBS documentary The Homosexuals, which kicks off Ryan James Yezak’s short documentary. It’s well done, and emotional.
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.
With that, I hope to see more from the talented Yezak.
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