On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization officially declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder (yep... it took that long for that to happen). In 2004, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia was created to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by people who identify as LGBTQIA+. Naturally, May 17th was chosen as the date, honoring the official de-pathologizing of homosexuality. We want to commemorate the day by sharing three iconic LGBTQIA+ films--grab some popcorn and join us!
1) Moonlight (2016)
If you haven't already seen Moonlight, it may sound familiar. Barry Jenkins's 2016 film won the Academy Award for Best Picture. One of the most groundbreaking things about Moonlight is that it was the first LGBTQIA+ themed mass-marketed feature film with an all-Black cast. It is widely agreed that the story paints an accurate, non-romanticized depiction of male experiences with sexuality and masculinity. The plot specifically explores Black male identity at various intersections of sexual identities throughout various stages of a young man's life.
2) But I'm a Cheerleader (1999)
If you're feeling something a little lighter (but still poignant!), look no further. But I'm a Cheerleader (directed by Jamie Babbit) remains a topical cult classic today, over 20 years after its release. This coming of age film follows a high schooler who falls in love while at a conversion therapy camp. Although it wasn't met with immediate success, it continues to receive high praise from queer fans. For one, LGBTQIA+ fans note that the movie provided representation of queer femme women. Most depictions of queer women at that time were exclusively masculine-presenting and left an entire demographic of women and non-male persons feeling invalidated and insecure in their sexuality. Additionally, *soft spoiler* this movie actually has a happy ending. You ever notice how little film representation there is of happy queer endings? That in itself makes But I'm a Cheerleader stand out. Feel-good LGBTQIA+ love stories exist!
3) Manslaughter (1922)
This silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille depicts the first on-screen "erotic" kiss between two people of the same gender. There is a fantasy orgy scene taking place in Ancient Rome (you read that right) in which two women can be seen being directly intimate with each other. While the film was not LGBTQIA+ themed, it was huge for queer on-screen representation. It's also definitely worth noting here that this movie came out over 10 years before the Hays Code was instituted, and absolutely would not have been up to code for a later release. The code was created within the film industry and instituted from 1934-1968. It prohibited profanity, suggestive nudity, graphic or realistic violence, sexual "persuasions," and sexual assault. While it was a great way to squash expression and representation of already marginalized identities, it also led to unusual scenarios (you ever wonder why in old shows and movies you see "traditional" married heterosexual couples sleeping in two separate beds? That's the Hays Code.) The code was eventually dismantled and thrown out thanks to feminist filmmakers such as Lois Weber. Weber pushed boundaries both by being openly queer and by being the only non-male director during Hollywood's Golden Age. After the Hays Code era ended in 1968, filmmakers could once again legally depict queer couples and intimacy.
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