A recurring theme in the #AMPLIFY series is the lack of LGBTQ resources – funding, space, services, leadership opportunities, etc. We have lost a lot over the years, that’s true and we are still battling for the most basic rights., including visibility and dignity. Progress is rarely a linear progression, right?
So it is especially frustrating to see professed allies who identify as feminists and/or sex positive intrude on one of our strongest resources – the ReelQ Film Festival. Ten days of movies is what we get, movies curated to represent both the best of queer cinema and the diversity within our community. Sure, we’ll see a few mainstream movies come to the big theaters, but the good ones (like Grandma) will be gone in a week or two. And, yes, there’s Netflix. But a film festival is different from a streaming video. And anything queer and trans that’s lasted 30 years has some legs to it. It is far from perfect, but for an all-volunteer organization – it brings in some pretty great flicks. It also brings in people, people we may not see any other time of the year. It builds community.
Last year, Highmark scheduled a competing LGBT film on opening night. This year, Row House Cinema is bringing in Dan Savage’s HUMP tour during the final days of the festival (over 1/3 of the festival to be exact) and the Feminist Zine folks scheduled a trans movie on the same night as the festival is showing an international film exploring queer identity in Asian culture. That’s so not cool. It is not cool for allies to show other LGBTQ movies during that ten day period.
There are more than 300 other days of the year. There are all sorts of queer and trans positive activities, events and programming that could take place during the festival. Siphoning off support from a grassroots LGBTQ group is NOT being an ally. I don’t care if you are a feminist or sex-positive or a health insurance company that offers domestic partner benefits. The long term consequences are too significant for me to let it go unchallenged or not call you out. I thought Highmark was an anomaly, but what I see now is a pattern that gravely concerns me.
The pattern is grounded in two simple facts – either the event organizers didn’t make an effort to avoid this scheduling conflict or they didn’t care. In none of these cases did the organizers connect with the film festival to discuss or coordinate prior to publicly announcing their activities. While it is true that they may not have know about this film festival, surely they didn’t think they invented the idea of screening a queer or trans movie? It happens year round.
We’ve spent almost this entire week exploring bi visibility and the many, many ways bisexual people are erased. This is the exact same thing only writ large to the entire LGBTQ community. It is an act of erasure to schedule a competing movie during this festival and I will not just give anyone a pass because of their political identity. Remember how pissed you all were when someone challenged OUTrageous Bingo by organizing another queer bingo on the exact same days? Same thing.
If you are doing something queer and trans/LGBTQ oriented, at least Google the concept to be sure. Check the various community calendars. If you can’t avoid a conflict, then be respectful enough to contact the organizers and tell them what’s going on ahead of time. Maybe there’s a way to work it out to benefit everyone. Row House Cinema and HUMP tour eventually did work out some mutually beneficial investments in the Film Festival which was the least that they could do.
But Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community deserves better from small businesses and feminist initiatives. I’m sure your movies are also very important, but we are the ones who pay a HUGE price if we lose yet another visible LGBTQ institution so your event could get ahead. And you force us to choose between constrained resources.
It is your responsibility as allies who want our business other movie nights of the year or as feminists (or both) to avoid doing harm to our community for your own benefit. You cannot require us to pay that price and call yourself an ally.
I hope these situations will be remedied promptly and people will take some time to reflect on how to move forward in more harmony with their LGBTQ neighbors. How wonderful it would be to have MORE programming and supports available throughout the year with the investment of our allies.