Growing up, I’ve watched plenty of queer films that helped solidify the truth about being gay; that it is as normal as the air we breathe. As I’ve said before: queer representation in film is vital for gaining queer acceptance. In fact, any normal representation of a marginalised community is vital for gaining acceptance.
But, some of my favourite queer films dug deeper, showcasing profound insight that made me reconsider everything I thought I knew. They gave me hope for the future, they pushed me towards living a true life, and some of them revealed awful truths. And for that, they are the best gay films I know.
Here are five queer films that changed my view on being gay:
Shelter is by far my favourite gay film because every time I watch it I cry. It’s that beautiful. But most importantly, it challenged my view on what it means to be gay. That it’s not just about having sex and falling in love, but that gay people could also start their own family.
I’m yet to be in a position to have a family (I’m still searching for Mr Right), so I don’t know if having a family is exactly what I want. But it is nice to know the option is there.
It’s also nice to know I could find a love like that; someone who can push me to be a better person.
Well, here’s hoping!
While Shelter proved that it is possible to start a family, The Birdcage showed me that it’s possible to have a long and loving gay future. Among all the crazy antics, which are what makes this gay film so compelling, is one scene that stands out to me:
Under a yellow, 70s-style bus stop sits Armand and Albert, two middle-aged gay lovers who have been together for a long time. Throughout the film, Albert feared Armand was going to leave him, but Armand vanquishes the thought with an alimony agreement. And then he says this: “There’s only one place in the world I call home and it’s because you’re there.” This brings Albert to sign the agreement, where they then hold hands together, knowing their future is more secure.
It’s humble to see that a beautiful gay future is possible, and this queer film proves it.
The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert
If there’s one scene that sticks out for me in Priscilla, it’s where Bernadette comforts Adam after he was beaten by a group of thugs.
Clearly, Adam could have avoided that situation if he didn’t take drugs and dress up like a woman in a community that despises it; but Bernadette, who is a transgender woman, simply cannot avoid being transgender. It’s who she will always be. This is why she said: “I can only fight because I’ve learned to. Being a man one day and a woman the next is not an easy thing to do.”
As well as opening my eyes up to other parts of the queer community who face harsher ordeals than I, this scene also shows that being yourself will always garner negative attention. So you may as well learn to face it, or at least mitigate the consequences — sometimes it’s better to tone it down, but other times it’s worth going all out.
You’re still going to face negativity, but take Bernadette’s advice: “Don’t let it drag you down; let it toughen you up!”
Brokeback Mountain is a tragic film, which is precisely the intention of it. Two cowboys, living in a toxic masculine world, struggle with their sexuality and the passionate love they share for each other. If you’ve yet to watch it, please do. And skip the rest of this section to avoid *spoilers*.
There is no happy ending. One of the cowboys gets murdered for being gay, and we’re left with agonising sorrow. It’s hard to process the shock of it, but the ending provided an important message: homosexuality is still not totally accepted across the world. Some people would prefer to see me dead. It’s harsh, but that’s the world we live in.
The good news is, my home country is filled with an overwhelming majority of people who do accept me, which suppresses the tiny portion who hate me. But it’s not the same everywhere. Gays who live in rural towns are more likely to face prejudice.
Just because it’s not happening in your backyard, doesn’t mean it’s not happening anywhere.
Boy Erased brought up memories of my past, as even I faced the struggle between sexuality and religion. Not as deeply as this film depicts, but enough to matter. When my mother found out I was gay, she took me to the church pastor who tried to ‘fix’ me. I do remember him telling me that “a man is like a plug and a woman like a drainpipe; you can only put a plug and drainpipe together.” And I got told that I would go to hell for being gay.
Thankfully, I was on the verge of agnosticism — even at 13 year’s of age — and I even managed to see through his drainpipe/plug analogy. So these statements didn’t affect me. But the whole ordeal did affect the relationship I had with my mother. I worried if she would ever see my side of things.
I never got the awful ultimatum of choosing between my sexuality and living under her roof — in fact, she said that disowning me for any reason is totally un-Christian — but I did face an uphill battle of showing Mum my side of the story. Eventually, she came to realise that my sexuality was just who I am. I became her “gay son”, just like Jared in Boy Erased.
If there’s one thing this film reminds me of, it’s that we all have the capacity to accept things we don’t understand. All we have to do is learn about it.
And that a true mother’s love knows no bounds. Or even a father’s love.
Do you know a gay film that changed your views on something? Let me know in the comments below!