Earlier this week, I saw an item in my news feed. A story from HuffPost Gay Voices where editors were asked to name films that had had an impact upon them personally. I quickly skimmed the list and the comments as to why folks had mentioned one film or another, and was in love with the article. Aside from the films themselves, I was really in love with this type of story, where real people share something of importance to them. In my opinion, so many problems would simply vanish, if more of us did this, and more of us were open and respectful as we listened and learned from one another.

At least once a day, I go through a fit of anger that my entire life is political. There are people who hate me and who I am, enough that they want to keep me from having equality. I don’t get to just live my life, but I have to constantly be an advocate for change and inclusion. Many people experience this including women and most if not all racial minorities. But I can only speak to my own experience of it, and that is one of having to fight tooth and nail to be part of happily ever after.

But in the midst of this ‘life as political advocacy,’ there is the real stuff that is just life, and most central to that is anything connected with how we come to understand ourselves and who we are as human beings. This list of films is one small part of that as these individuals share films that were important to them. What a gift. Maybe because I’m on old guy, none of these films speak to the time period when I came out. But a number of these films were still monumental to me.

Check out the article here for the list of 22 films

There were very few films on this list I didn’t know or know well, and a few of them, I could easily put down a thousand words about what that film meant for me. I’ll just mention a few from the list that are important to me: Brokeback Mountain, Beautiful Thing, The Broken Hearts Club, and Making Love. All are monumental works in my opinion. But I’d also like to spend some time on films that aren’t a part of this list which were powerful for me.


I saw this for the first time when I was 17 or 18 or so. My mother took me I believe to see Joel Grey and the “show business” stuff, but it was the love interest sub plots that really captured me, and both drew in and scared me all at the same time.

La Cage aux Folles

While the Bird Cage did make the Huff Post list, for me, it was the original film which inspired Bird Cage for which my heart sings. I remember years later seeing it again and telling a date, that it was the most beautiful film ever. However, upon viewing, I’m not sure why I thought that exactly. I saw this film originally with my first real boyfriend on the day we broke up. We remained friends after and while our relationship was often rocky, we maintained a friendship for many, many, years before we lost touch. That this was a foreign film with sub titles was moving for me. It let me know that others, in other cultures were more willing than many Americans to give voice to stories that included people like me.


The last two of my list were plays before films were made of them.

Rocky Horror Picture Show

This film made the HuffPo list and I had already written some about it on Facebook the other day, reprinted here:

  I saw the stage version of Rocky Horror in London 1976, and have the vinyl from that early production. I was working as a theater intern for a professional theater company at the time, and the show opened my eyes to what can be done to make a stage show more interactive and exciting. They used these fluorescent lights in a great way to be lightning. I’ll never forget that. Shortly after returning to Cleveland I deigned lighting for a production of Genet’s The Maids, which was too far out there for the director to accept, but was really very much in keeping with how lighting could be used. These experiences helped me know that while I was fairly mediocre on stage, my talents were connected to other aspects of production, and the fact that photography is all about light- well just fits. Time warp. My first time in a gay bar was in London on that trip.

But before this was a film, it was a musical on stage, and I saw it in London, December 1976.

I was in London with Kirk, the man who had brought me out, his wife Carol, and the theater company I worked for, most of them resenting me, feeling as if Kirk’s interest in me was taking his attention away from the theater company. I felt very alone, and at just 18 and being away from the State’s for the first time, in a way, I was very alone. The base message of sexual liberation and allowing pleasure was powerful to me, and seeing the play was a way for me to come to grips with my own sexual orientation. I wasn’t in love with Kirk, and didn’t want his advances, but I was very much gay, and I was happy to come to accept that.

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

Some gays may love this film because who doesn’t love any movie with Cher in it, right? But for me the impact on this script goes back to the very first production of the play in Columbus Ohio in 1976. The play went onto New York before becoming a film, but in the original script there were two sets of characters, the teen-aged characters and the adults who return for a reunion. Each set of characters’s stories are acted out in a then and now method, and I played the role of young Joe, who returns during the reunion as Joanne.

Young Joe’s story is a powerful one , and I’m not sure it adequately is told within the movie. He wants so badly to be normal and yet his real self cannot be hidden except to those whose love and support he needs the most. I was a fairly lousy actor. Mostly because I didn’t know who I was so it was impossible to dig deep inside to find my own experiences with which to bring a character to life. In the original play, there is a scene between Joe and Mona that happens shortly after Joe has been raped. I will never forget the director Ed, tearing me to shreds about how I was playing that scene and hoe little I understood about many queers were treated out in the real world. I had lived a fairly charmed and easy life with little to no bullying, and certainly no physical violence.

The character Joanne was the first example of a trans person I was exposed to, and for the better or the worse, many of my early ideas about transexuals was connected to Joanne and the women who played that character. I couldn’t find an official trailer but did find this:

The 22 films in the HuffPost article are not in my opinion, the most influential LGBTQ films ever produced. Some may be, but others, not so much. But I don’t think that was the point of the list. Each and every person has their own films, books, music, and other things which impact and speak to them. The more we learn to hear each other, the stronger we become as a community.

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