Jun 11

Three (+) For Pride Month Viewing: Behind the Scenes

While there may be a lack of Pride Month events to attend this year, there’s been no shortage of series and films to watch that depict LGBTQ pride. Below are three I’ve recently seen, accompanied by notes about their creation.

I. Hollywood (Netflix), series created by Ian Brennan, Ryan Murphy. Janet Mock executive produced as well as wrote and directed several episodes.

Tracy E. Gilchrist, The Advocate, “Why Rewriting Hollywood Is Personal for Ryan Murphy and Janet Mock”:

For Murphy, the gay mega-producer of Glee, American Horror Story, the upcoming big-screen version of The Prom, and for Mock, a writer, director, and producer of Pose who broke down doors in terms of visibility for trans women and women of color, handing stories back to marginalized people and painting a portrait of what Hollywood could have been and what it needs to be moving forward is personal.

‘I wanted to do something specifically on three Hollywood icons who had,  I believed, really been treated poorly,’ Murphy tells The Advocate. ‘That was Rock Hudson and Anna May Wong and Hattie McDaniel. I was very interested in them, even as a kid’…

Of the historical figures Hollywood profiles, Mock tells the Advocate, ‘I was most intrigued by Hattie McDaniel  because of the idea of a Black woman breaking history — in making history and being the first in that space and the pressure that came from that and also the criticism that came from her playing the role that she played, that she was awarded for.’

II. The Half of It (Netflix), film written and directed by Alice Wu, whose 2004 Saving Face was notable for portraying an Asian same-sex (female) story with positivity

Natalie Escobar, NPR, describes The Half of It as “a classic teenage rom-com, but with an LGBTQ twist.”

As in her interview with Escobar, Wu also explains to Scott Simon, NPR, that the personal inspiration for the love triangle she depicts in this film is the emotional pain of a broken friendship:

…(I)f I’m very honest, probably some of the biggest heartbreaks, if not the biggest, were not actually romantic. And so thinking about all that – and as a society we’ve evolved, but I still think we have trouble, sometimes, when things are not sort of cookie cutter. They don’t fit the mold of the stories we grew up listening to. So I basically wanted to write a story told from the lens of sort of a lesbian-straight-boy friendship.

III. A Secret Love (Netflix), documentary directed by Chris Bolan

Chris Bolan is the great-nephew of Terry Donahue, who fell in love with Pat Henschel “in 1947, when norms around living openly as a gay person in the United States were far from what they are today. Though essentially inseparable from the moment they met, Donahue and Henschel kept their true relationship a secret for more than six decades. To family and coworkers, they were simply good friends and roommates; others knew them as cousins who lived together” (Mahita Gajanan, Time).

Gajanan adds, “Bolan says he knew he had to make a film after Donahue and Henschel came out to him in 2009. Once they realized it was possible to live openly, the women became ‘giddy schoolgirls’ who started spilling out ‘seven decades’ worth of stories,’ he says.” Full of pride.

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ADDED NOTE: Two other series I’ve seen during the pandemic feature secondary LGBTQ themes: both Mrs. America and Little Fires Everywhere will receive the “behind the scenes” treatment in my next post. A third viewing already eagerly covered on this blog is the comedy special Douglas by Hannah Gadsby. And another for all to watch and enjoy is the new (5th) season of Queer Eye, ever sweet and uplifting.

Feb 04

“Redefining Realness”: Trans Writer Janet Mock’s Memoir

Out today is Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock. Mock was established as a writer in New York City before she publicly disclosed her transgender identity in 2011. At that time the story of Mock’s transition and coming out was published in Marie Claire.

Now, her new book delves into much more about her life. The publisher of Redefining Realness states:

This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that saw her transitioning during the tender years of high school, self-medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world alone for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen. With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth and brave girls like herself.

In an interview last month with Autostraddle, Mock was asked what advice she’d give “to someone who is trying to live true to themselves or who is struggling with who they are”:

I think number one is tap into yourself and take your time… …(W)hat I would say to someone is don’t look to these big role models that now you hold up on a pedestal. Look to those who are right in process with you. Because you see that they’re taking their time, that it takes a long time to find yourself. So take your time finding yourself, take your time finding and honing your voice, if you’re a writer or storyteller or an artist, whatever that point of view is, and to really tap into yourself. And when I say tap into yourself, I mean like really find out who you are. Like beyond the labels that people may have embraced for themselves and find the labels that are you, you know?

Selected Reviews of Redefining Realness

Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There and Stuck in the Middle With You: “Janet Mock’s groundbreaking book is testimony to the remarkable progress trans people have achieved over the last decade– and shines a bright light on the work that still needs to be done. Mock’s clear, lucid prose will open hearts and minds, and further the goals of equality and justice–not just for trans people, but for everyone. Redefining Realness is loving, searing, and true.”

Susan Stryker, author of Transgender History: “Redefining Realness overflows with the everyday magic of survival and resiliency in low income communities of color, of loving kindness bursting through the cracks of a hard reality, and of the life-sustaining bonds of family, friendships, and a powerful trans sisterhood.”

Kirkus Reviews: “From learning her father was addicted to crack to the childhood sexual abuse she sustained to the street sex she performed to gain enough money for her sex-change operation, Mock allows readers into the deepest and darkest moments of her life…It is an eye-opening and unapologetic story that is much greater than mere disclosure; it is a necessary assessment that a transgender person is as normal as any other person who claims the title of normalcy and that gender and body shape do not form a person’s identity.”

You can watch her book trailer below: