In recognition of LGBT History Month, the Newsroom asked some St. Thomas LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff members for film recommendations to help provide the university community some diverse perspectives. Here are their thoughts on some instructive and entertaining films.
'But I'm a Cheerleader' (1999)
"But I'm a Cheerleader" is a biting, satirical, campy takedown of conversion therapy. Before she’s even had a chance to figure it out herself, Megan’s family and friends have discovered and condemned her budding sexuality, staging an intervention to send her to conversion therapy camp True Directions. There, Megan is put through a variety of gender-conforming exercises designed to make her into an "ex-gay" while in the company of other people "struggling" with their sexuality.
Script, set design, costuming, acting and editing all work together to rip into our culture’s constricting concepts of manhood and womanhood and expose their basis in fear of the unknown. The movie’s ability to swing between raunchy comedy and tender coming-of-age love story has earned it a place in the hearts of many queer folk. And watch out for turn-of-the-century performances by Natasha Lyonne ("Orange Is the New Black"), Clea DuVall (director of "Happiest Season") and RuPaul ("Drag Race").
Recommended by Mick Dargis (they), admissions data and insights analyst – Marketing, Insights and Communications.
"Suited" is an HBO documentary focusing on the Brooklyn-based tailor shop, Bindle & Keep. This is not your average documentary, but a compassionate window into the lives of a variety of gender-diverse individuals and the challenges faced when our identities and experiences in the world hinge so much on how that world perceives us. Tailors Rae Tutera (they/them) and founder Daniel Friedman (he/him), dubbed by The New Yorker as “the Brooklyn Tailors for All Kinds of Bodies,” create skillful custom clothing for gender-nonconforming clients and help clients find comfort and confidence in their appearances, sometimes for the first time. According to Put This On, 90% of Bindle & Keep’s clientele come from LGBTQ communities, which Friedman says is a demographic he had been largely unaware of before meeting Tutera.
In addition to the backstory of how Bindle & Keep came to be, the film takes us through the emotional ups and downs of a law student seeking to be taken more seriously in job interviews; an attorney preparing herself for oral arguments; a groom who just wants to fit in and not have his curves show in his wedding photos; a youth seeking a masculine outfit for an upcoming bar mitzvah; and more. It is a delightful film about authenticity, and yet emotional and bittersweet for those who know the trauma of buying and wearing clothing in a world that tells us that our shapes dictate our identities.
Recommended by Henry Bishop (he/they), faculty assistant at the School of Law and staff adviser for Out!Law.
'God's Own Country' (2017)
Johnny Saxby’s ailing father hires a Romanian migrant worker to help with lambing season on their ranch in Yorkshire, England. Through his connection with Gheorghe, Johnny starts to find a tenderness in himself that we watch unfold in his life in expected and unexpected ways. The film “God’s Own Country” has been called the “Brokeback Mountain” of the Yorkshire Dales, but that sells it short: It is a story about losing and finding, and about the power of caring for another person and how transformative that can be. Not only sheep ranchers will fall in love with this film (though you may want to watch it with subtitles, as the Yorkshire accent can be hard to follow).
Recommended by Hugh Smeltekop, the assistant director for the STEM Inclusive Excellence program.
'The Broken Hearts Club' (2000)
"The Broken Hearts Club" is a romantic comedy about a group of friends in West Hollywood focusing on Dennis, a photographer preparing for his birthday. Although cliché at times and falling into stereotypical portrayals of gay men, this film shows how friendship can continue to thrive despite our differences and quirks. Although it was released in 2000, there is something in this film that many can relate to when thinking about their own coming-out process and in learning the value of friendship, particularly through tragedy. Filmed in only three weeks, this film is underrated for its cast which includes many household names including Zach Braff ("Scrubs"), John Mahoney ("Frasier") and Billy Porter ("Pose").
Recommended by Bryan Helminiak (he/him), associate director of Residence Life.
"Pariah" is a coming-out story with many common elements told with uncommon patience and beauty. Alike (Adepero Oduye) is an aspiring poet living in Brooklyn and trying to navigate a series of competing expectations from her family, school and social lives. As the title hints, Alike faces a familiar quandary for young people: It is when she is excelling in one sphere – feeling confident in her own clothes, for example – that she is most disappointing to people in other areas of her life. While the film does not offer a too easy “it gets better” message, Alike triumphs in her own way.
Recommended by Laura Zebuhr (she/her), an associate professor of English.