Query from a reader

I am looking for films, movies or documentaries to show in my class next semester that illustrate the struggles that homosexuals have in American society. These can focus either (and) on individual struggles as a homosexual or on the struggles that same sex couples encounter.

In providing your response, I would greatly appreciate any additional information regarding the approximate length of the documentary and where I may be able to locate a copy.

Thank you in advance for your help : )

11 thoughts on “Query from a reader

  1. i thought ‘shades of gray’ was an excellent documentary (http://www.film.com/movies/shades-of-gray/14539702 ). it’s about being gay in the state of kansas. among other things, it includes a truly terrifying sit-down interview with fred phelps. (the film was made just as phelps was starting to be known nationally.) tim depaepe, the director, is an excellently nice human being, and would probably help w procuring a copy (shadesoftim@yahoo.com). film.com says it’s 73 minutes long.

  2. ‘If These Walls Could Talk 2’ – it’s an obvious suggestion and a movie rather than a documentary but it definitely engages with social/political/legal issues and it made a strong, largely positive impression on me when I was first thinking about outing myself, so I’d recommend on that basis alone.

  3. “Word is Out” is a documentary from the late 1970s. It was broadcast on TCM earlier this year.


    “The Celluloid Closet” is a documentary about the portrayal of homosexuals in the movies.


    “The Boys in the Band” is a dated movie that still is interesting to watch.


    “Desert Hearts” is a movie about lesbians in the 1950s.


  4. Transamerica is a good one–although it’s more about trans issues (obviously–although there’s a subplot involving homosexuality more directly), I think the subject matter in general is pretty amenable to these kinds of discussions.

  5. There’s an episode of PBS Frontline (from early 2000s sometime) called “Assault on Gay America: The Life and Death of Billy Jack Gaither” that I have used to very good effect in classes. It tells the story of the hate-crime murder of a gay man, and weaves this in with much information discussion/analysis of homophobia, especially in relation to masculinity.

  6. This post provides me with much food for thought. Although I do not have an answer to the question asked in the post, I hope it is okay for me to share a tiny thought/idea on the general topic of LBGT depiction in film and television, and the harmfulness of normative hetereosexuality and various stereotypes. Many of my bigoted (and worse…) friends seem open to learning through education at least in part by the material provided in the comments above. However, in my anecdotal experience, some of my bigoted (and worse…) friends seem resistant to any sort of enlightenment on this issue and they use their own distorted interpretations of the material listed in the comments above to support and exemplify further their bigotry (and worse…). With regard to this group of seemingly resistant to enlightenment bigots, I wonder whether at least a minimally effective treatment of LBGT people in films and television shows is to depict any LBGT details in so far as the various plot threads etc. require such depiction, but otherwise not to address or focus on those details any further at all. I wonder whether including LBGT people in films and television shows and treating them the same as hetereosexual and other people (no more no less discussion of their sexuality, no more no less depiction of their sexuality, etc.) could have positive effects for certain people/audience members generally. Roughly the idea is neither to hide LBGT details, but not to pay those details special attention either – just to let those details exist in the story, etc. along with all of the other details. (I do not intend to minimize the importance of any work needed on this topic, just wondering whether this one little idea could have positive effects for certain people.) If this little idea has been developed with much more precision and detail by others, could someone please explain or give references in another comment? If this little idea has been shown wayward, unworkable, and/or unhelpful by others, could someone please explain or give references in another comment?

    It is very difficult for me to maintain the idea in this comment when thinking about the seriousness of hate-crimes and harmful stereotypes as discussed by the material in the comments above. However, the idea occurs to me from time to time and I wonder whether anyone has any constructive comments on it. Peace.

  7. Although you only ask about docs and movies, you might also consider other video resources. Two I’d recommend are the It Gets Better Project (www.itgetsbetterproject.com/pages/about-it-gets-better-project/) and the ACTUP Oral History Project (www.actuporalhistory.org/). Both contain rich and powerful testimonials to the past and present effects of homophobic discrimination and the ongoing struggles against it. It might take a little time to find stories that fit your class, but you could also engage students by having them find material there that they find relevant to the course as you cover it, and working this into minor or major assignments.

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