How Allies Can Erase LGBTQ People When Scheduling LGBTQ Events

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.

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  • With respect for the thoughts you shared here, I think it’s really important to acknowledge that many of the zine fest organizers and participants are queer and/or trans people. To refer to them exclusively as allies unfairly erases aspects of their identities that are critical to this conversation.

    I think that there is a conversation to be had about overlapping events and scheduling conflicts within our communities, as well as how events cater or don’t cater to people with a wide range of interests, experiences, and identities. But I think we should approach that conversation differently.

    I say this with the utmost respect for you, Sue, and all that you do. Thanks for listening.

    With appreciation,
    Jess

    • Jess,

      I should clarify that when I began the conversation, I specifically asked the FZF about their identities. Not only was I unable to even find a name, the person who did respond to me via Facebook would not disclose their identity. The one person whom I knew to be part of the organizing committee told me that they thought they were the only queer person involved & she was not actively involved. She asked FZF to reschedule the movie to avoid the conflict. So I think fairness requires me to defend my statement about allies – until the “About Us” statement on Tumblr was updated a few days ago, there was simply no way to know that queer and trans people were part of the planning. (I can provide documentation to back up that statement.)

      I will accept your word the queer and trans folks were part of the planning, but that raises another point – FZF told me that they didn’t know about the LGBTQ Film Festival. So that’s a problem. The Film Festival has a 30 year presence in this region so that’s a huge oversight.

      I agree the conversations needs to be had, Jess. But I think the Film Festival has been targeted for “overlapping events and scheduling conflicts” three times in two years. That’s troubling. It isn’t a perfect institution, but it deserves a degree of respect in terms of other organizations appropriating queer and trans film culture.

      And I’m disappointed that the FZF response to this entire situation has been more like that of the Delta Foundation, Highmark and Dan Savage’s HUMP Tour than what I would expect of a community feminist organization. I’m happy to continue the dialogue, but I hope we can all be honest about the facts.

      I am very disappointed overall and have very little interest in engaging zine culture personally. I think the FZF owes the Film Festival and the community an apology, not a denial that there’s a problem.

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