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Only Trannies Have Beards:
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 commercial distributor.

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 "model" types.

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 buttocks.

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 1964.

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.

That's Entertainment!

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 Fulfillment

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; the complete program of feature films at Outfest '99 may be viewed at their web site,

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.