|Only Trannies Have
What Outfest '99 Tells Us About Ourselves
an essay by Randy A. Riddle
As an out Gay man living in North Carolina, far
from the Queer meccas of New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, I make my living as a
computer consultant. My big passion is documentary filmmaking. Over the past
five years, I have finished three feature-length works that have looked at people and
organizations in my own community. But, despite all my efforts at entering
festivals, floating proposals, and networking with members of the Gay community all over
the Net, I have never had my work shown in a festival or successfully picked up by a
Last year, after I got yet another rejection
letter from Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian
Film Festival, I was a bit frustrated. So, I wrote back to them with a parody of
their rejection letter. One of the programmers was impressed by the letter and got
in touch with me this year and asked me to send my new documentaries. The programmer
seemed genuinely enthusiastic and I sent yet another entry. Yet again, a rejection
letter came in the mail.
So, I began to wonder, as I turn thirty five and
living in the South, am I really out of touch with contemporary Gays and Lesbians?
Is my experience as a Gay man common? What is the Gay community really like?
Just who the heck are we, anyway?
Mulling this problem, I happened to come upon
Outfest's web site, which included phtographs and
descriptions of seventy four feature films that will be showcased in this year's
festival. Yes! Here's my chance! With Outfest's self declared mission to
present "high-quality gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender themed films and videos
... that enlighten, educate and entertain the diverse communities of Southern
California", I knew that I was seeing a perfect snapshot, a random sample, if you
will, of the community at the end of the twentieth century. So, with my trusty
laptop at hand, I downloaded all of the descriptions of Outfest '99's feature films and
entered each work into a database.
I examined each synopsis carefully and poured
over the stills that accompanied the descriptions. Finally, after years of debate, I
could settle the age old question and find out what Gays and Lesbians are really
like. Statistics never lie, do they?
So, with a quest to get in touch with the Gay
community and, most of all, myself, I present the results of my humble scientific survey.
Only Trannies Have Beards
The first thing I noticed was the presence of
facial hair -- or, more accurately, the lack of facial hair -- in the photographs
that accompanied the film descriptions. I've sported a beard and occasionally a
goatee ever since my teens and most of the people in my documentaries have some type of
facial hair. I suppose my network of friends, contacts, and co-workers must not be a
good indication of the Gay community as a whole -- out of the seventy-four features at
Outfest '99, sixty-nine of the films do not include individuals with any facial
hair. One, a comedy, has two people with goatees.
Beards are another matter entirely -- only three
showed what I initially thought were men sporting full beards. It turns out that
only one man (the title subject of the documentary "get Bruce") has a full
beard. The other two were films about transsexuals -- a documentary and the world's
first transsexual porn film, "Alley of the Tranny Boys", which uses a
"bear" and leather esthetic. The still for "Alley of the Tranny
Boys" really fooled me -- at first glance, I thought that Brush Creek Media,
publisher of "Bear" magazine and purveyor of "bear" and leather porn,
had an entry in the festival.
From this sample, I have to conclude that I'm out
of touch on my personal appearance. It seems that the wearing of beards only seems
to be confined to trannies these days. Who knows -- maybe I've got a hormone problem
and don't even realize it.
Shapely Buttocks for You and Me
The Surgeon General has warned the American
public for years that we are, on average, overweight. The Gay community must be
taking that advice to heart, since only two percent of the films at Outfest '99 feature a
character that is overweight. Despite Michaelango Signorile's recent book that
discussed the widespread use of steroids among Gays and a focus on pumped-up body culture,
bodybuilder types only made up one percent of the individuals depicted. About forty
percent of the individuals shown in the stills are of average height and weight. The
majority shown -- about forty three percent -- could be described as thin, or
I'm a bit overweight myself and recently joined a
gym to get back in shape. Hey, no more hamburgers for me! If I'm going to be
Gay in the 21st century, I'm going to have to work on those washboard abs and shapely
Fountain of Youth
If one goes by the old adage that we make up ten
percent of the population, we're everywhere, and just like everyone else, one would think
that a sampling of Gays and Lesbians would reveal the same mix of age groups as the
general population. Yet, despite what you hear about the population aging and the
large number of Baby Boomers out there, people over forty make up only four percent of
individuals shown in Outfest '99 features. It appears that the largest age group in
the country right now are Twenty Something's, shown in forty percent of the films. A
close second are individuals approaching middle age, which are shown in thirty seven
percent of the films. Teens are holding their own at seventeen percent.
I suppose that window of opportunity for my
homosexuality is quickly passing as I approach 35 -- does the lack of older Gays and
Lesbians indicate that our sexuality changes when the gray hairs begin appearing?
Will I become straight or *gasp* completely asexual in a few years? Are
twenty-somethings going to take over the world?
No Log Cabins Here!
Recently, there's been a great deal of discussion
about how disinterested Americans have become with politics and the films screened at
Outfest '99 seem to back up that claim. A full sixty-nine percent of the films
screened have no apparent politics. Interestingly, one one hears claims about both
the rabid liberal politics of Gays and Lesbians from the Religious Right and analysis by
Gay journalists that indicate the community is more conservative. Only one film in
the festival espouses liberal activist politics -- a documentary concerning orgy parties
in San Francisco. Four espouse middle of the road politics that one might associate
with HRC or the many movements in areas such as domestic partner benefits. None of
the features seems to deal with conservative Gay politics at all.
Where are the Log Cabin Republicans? For
that matter, where are all those Sex Panic people? Or even just a generic
liberal? It seems that despite all the news releases and press reports I see about
these folks, they're just a figment of my political imagination. Perhaps Bill
Clinton and Al Gore are right: you can be for homosexual equality and support the
Defense of Marriage Act at the same time an noone will even notice.
If Outfest '99 is any indication, the Christian
Coalition has nothing to worry about.
Fluoride Causes Homosexuality
The films of Outfest are a fascinating look at
where we exist. Films that originated in the US make up thirty five (47%) of the
seventy four works to be screened at the festival; the others come from around the world
-- Australia, Canada, Peru, Norway, England, Hong Kong, etc. Perhaps it's something
in the water, but there seem to be alot of Gays and Lesbians in France (9%) and Germany
(8%). Amazingly, five percent of the world's Gays and Lesbians live in Canada, but
three out of four Queers in that country are Lesbian. It seems that homosexuality no
longer exists in Japan; the only Japanese film to be shown at Outfest '99 was made in
Growing up in a rural area and living most of my
live in small towns, I was curious if my experience matched those of other Gays and
Lesbians. I had no idea that so many people lived in urban areas nowadays --
seventy-two percent of the characters or subjects of Outfest '99's films live in the
city. Suburban dwellers are seen in twelve percent. I suppose my experience is
unique -- I could find no film that showed Gays in rural areas.
Religious conservatives seem to think that
homosexuality is caused by recruitment of young men and women through the media and our
ultra liberal public school system. But, these statistics reveal something far more
sinister -- since all Gays and Lesbians seem to live in urban and suburban environments
and, more telling, show really nice teeth in the stills for these movies, I can only
conclude that homosexual tendencies are caused by fluoridated water. Perhaps I used
too much toothpaste as a child.
On closer examination, another interesting truth
about contemporary Gays and Lesbians is revealed. We can only be happy if we move to
a large urban area. A full thirteen percent of the films in Outfest '99 have what I
refer to as the "Exodus Factor" as a major theme -- a young man or woman who
goes to the city to be themselves. I suppose I'll never be happy staying here in
North Carolina. Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and the world's other major cities are
the place to be if you're a happy, well-adjusted Gay man or Lesbian.
The Missing Lesbian Folk Singer
We've all heard that the Queer community is not a
homogeneous group in society. There are rural lesbians, radical faeries, Leathermen
and Leatherwomen, bears and a whole host of lifestyles that we pursue. Outfest '99
certainly dispels that myth -- a whopping 89% of the individuals depicted in this year's
lineup of films lead no lifestyle in particular.
Those individuals that do pursue a particular
lifestyle, however, show an interesting mix. Two percent are skinheads and two
percent are community activists. One percent are involved in the "goth" or
sex party subculture. The Gay male bears seem to have disappeared -- the only film
that showed a "bear" lifestyle was that transsexual porn film, "Alley of
the Tranny Boys". (My, my. That film seems to be breaking all the rules.)
I kept hoping I'd see a Lesbian folksinger, but I
suppose those have gone the way of the now-unseen Faeries and Leathermen.
But how do we contribute to society? What
is our role in the daily life of our communities? An examination of professions
among subjects depicted in the Outfest films showed that only two percent of us are
involved in politics, as activists or feminists -- it seems that only a small percentage
of us are out there pushing the Gay Agenda. Another seven percent are journalists
and writers, a relatively small number considering how we supposedly influence the godless
liberal media. One percent are generic white collar workers while three percent work
in various blue collar professions (waiter, etc). We have a fairly low rate of
unemployment -- only two percent of us currently have no regular job (a housewife, a teen
waif, and a eunuch).
One of the most curious aspects of our
professions is a statistic that four percent of us are involved in law enforcement as
policemen/policewomen or lawyers and four percent of us are professional criminals (thief,
assassin, gang member) -- is there such a wonderful balance in society at large between
those who commit crimes and those who police criminals?
Remarkably, our professions seem to cluster into
specific areas. A full twenty percent of us work in the entertainment industry as
composers, dancers, or comedians. Eight percent are filmmakers or film
directors. Interestingly, nineteen percent of the people depicted in the films are
students (at least a couple of those are film students), while one percent are teachers
(who, in all the instances, become romantically with a student in the film). Another
nine percent are what might be termed generically as sex workers -- go-go dancers, porn
stars, and porn filmmakers.
A Young Man's Search for Identity and
With the large number of filmmakers and
entertainers that make up the Gay community, I initially thought that it might be an
indication that we are on the cutting edge of creativity. I was very disappointed to
find that we may have slipped a bit as the arbiters of good taste in society.
Twenty seven percent of the films to be screened
-- almost a third -- involve what could best be described as the "Young Man's
Search" storyline. The plot involves a young person, a man or woman, dealing
with his or her sexuality in their first relationship. (One film synopis for
"Oi! Warning" specifically used the phrase "young man's
search".) Are we really showing good taste by sitting through 19 films that all
tell the same story? Are we really that unsure of who we are?
Sixteen percent are of the "Roommates and
Relationships" variety, looking at Gay or Lesbian roommates in relationships with
each other. (Just how many films can you name, starting with "Boys in the
Band", that use that plot device.) One film involved a campy road trip (shades
of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") and another was a lesbian vampire film that
sounded suspiciously like ... well... a straight vampire film. Two percent of the
films at Outfest '99 involved relationships between a teacher and student -- it would be
interesting to see if this is a plotline that was seen in greater numbers in past years.
One program not included in these statistics is
well worth mentioning. "The Home Video Gong Show" is an evening where
individuals can bring in their home videos of the cat falling off the television set or
their straight ass-hole neighbor accidentally getting kicked in the groin for a fun-filled
evening of something akin to "American's Funniest Home Videos". With all
the originality demonstrated in the films by the professional filmmakers (and the large
number of Gays and Lesbians who work as professional filmmakers or entertainers), I guess
there's no need for new talent in the industry right now.
So, Who the Heck Am I?
Reflecting on the results of this statistical
sample, I can't help but feel devastated. All this time I lived my life thinking I
was homosexual. Despite my attraction to other men, I'm going to have to make some
changes if I expect to retain my card-carrying status as a member of the Gay
community. Let's see ... in order to keep my beard, I'll have to become
transsexual. I've got to throw away that copy of the Gay Agenda I got in the mail
from some nonexistent Gay political group the other day. I'll need to get a job in
the entertainment industry in a major urban area. Of course, I'll have to dig
up some Gay roommates to get in a relationship with. I suppose I'll have to
struggle with my sexuality for awhile, but I'm a bit old for a young man's search for
fulfillment. Oh, and let's not forget those washboard abs.
Then again, maybe I'll just try celibacy instead.
About the Author
Randy A. Riddle is a computer consultant and
filmmaker living and working in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He recently began
going to the gym and hopes to look like Mark McGwire by the time he is sixty.
Approximately 35% of the people shown in Riddle's documentaries have facial hair and none
work in the film industry. The database used to assemble this essay is available at
his website at www.coolcatdaddy.com/outfest.html; the complete program of feature films at
Outfest '99 may be viewed at their web site, www.outfest.org.
This article is copyright 1999 by Randy A.
Riddle, but may be copied or published freely, as long as it is reproduced in its entirety
with the copyright notice.