Sometimes, seeing someone who shares your identity represented in media is as easy as going into a new Netflix show cold. With the current state of mainstream media, this is unfortunately not the case for many.
Together, Brock Pride, Brock Student Justice Centre (SJC) and Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) Brock put on the 2SLGBTQ+ Movie Marathon on September 5. The event was planned with the intent of exposing attendees to unique narratives of 2SLGBTQ+ identities, serving as representation for some and a learning experience for others.
The SJC’s Student Justice Educator, Michelle Mudge, stated that the event was conceived with representation in mind, especially for new students to feel accepted and safe. Speaking of the first year experience, she said, “students in the past have talked about the importance of having identity-specific events.”
Ensuring students who fall under the 2SLGBTQ+ umbrella would have the opportunity to see people like themselves represented on screen, the movie marathon was a warm welcome for many.
The event featured five different films exploring an assortment of complex identities.
“We wanted to choose a range of films that showcased divergent, complex experiences of folks who are part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” said Mudge, “a lot of times, mainstream films just centre on one particular narrative. Oftentimes, it’s a very white-washed idea of pride that is showcased in film, so we wanted to make sure we were showcasing films that reflected a bunch of complex identities.”
Sure enough, the groups behind the event ensured that plenty of diversity was put on display. Featured were webseries Her Story, about multiple transgender and queer women navigating love and desire; Tangerine, a film that follows two transgender sex workers through a day in their lives; Two Spirits, a documentary giving cultural context to the murder of Navajo two spirit youth Fred Martinez; Moonlight, an Academy Award winning coming of age film detailing one man’s struggle with sexuality and identity throughout the years and, finally, winner of the day’s audience choice vote, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a film exploring gay conversion therapy through the eyes of a teenage girl enduring it.
“Folks who are part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community don’t have singular identities, right?” They live at the intersection of other racial power dynamics, all sorts of power dynamics, that shape their experiences,” said Mudge.
While most films in the lineup were smaller and lesser known, the biggest of the evening was undoubtedly Moonlight, a deeply moving film that won Best Picture at the 89th annual Academy Awards.
“Moonlight was a film that broke into the mainstream, which was really great. Mainstream narratives about queer or trans folks tend to just focus on pride and cutesy love stories and not about the complexity about being part of the queer community, the trans community, while also within other particular communities. [Moonlight] centered on how this man struggled with his queer identity within the black community,” said Mudge.
Two Spirits was a standout next to the four other fictional films. The documentary detailed the tragedy of a Navajo youth murdered for freely and proudly expressing his gender identity. Multiple attendees said that this film was important for its educational value on two spirit identities as well.
“Two Spirits was really great — it was a really heavy film,” Mudge said, “I mean, honestly, a lot of our films were really heavy but I think that is congruent with the experience of a lot of 2SLGBTQ+ folks. A lot of people do experience homophobia and transphobia.”
Mudge stated that it was important to showcase films that present tough realities as well, in comparison to the aforementioned mainstream ideas of pride.
Overall, Mudge said that a lot of thought went into choosing the films. They wanted as many unique narratives to be portrayed as possible.
“Even in our lineup, there were multiple movies that had trans folks and they were represented in very different ways. If you look at the representation of a black trans woman in Her Story, who is a very successful lawyer, as well as the representation [of black trans women] in Tangerine — it’s just good to have complicated, diverse representation.”
In between the films, there was time allotted for discussion about the film that last played.
“No film is without its problems which is why we also built into the day a period of time to have a discussion where we could dismantle problematic things that happened in the film and talk about the implications,” said Mudge.
The event was a successful one, garnering a lot of interest from the Brock community. People came in and out as the day went on and were happy to participate in the post-movie discussions. As a result of the event’s success, Mudge stated that there were plans to potentially make 2SLGBTQ+ movie marathons more frequent, as well as bring these films into the Niagara community to reach beyond Brock.
“I also have been in discussion with folks at OPIRG Brock and the Performing Arts Centre and we are in the process of trying to organize to have a 2SLGBTQ+ movie screening once a month downtown,” she told me, “that should be forthcoming. We’re hoping it starts around November. On campus tends to draw more students; [bringing the films downtown] will bring in the Niagara community and involve Marilyn I. Walker students.”
The effort to bring films about marginalized identities to the public is an important one. Adequate representation of 2SLGBTQ+ identities is essential and events like these bring these identities to the forefront.
“I think it’s important that there’s an expansion on movies that centre around marginalized identities. It tends to perpetuate problematic stereotypes way more when the representation is singular. Whereas when we have more media and it expands to showcase marginalized folks of all different, intersecting identities it enables the opportunity to showcase complex realities because people don’t live single-issue lives. I think it really reframes the way people think about social issues and different communities through showing how people’s lives are complicated,” Mudge said, “people can’t be reduced to stereotypes.”
For further information on future events and the different organizations, students can follow the Student Justice Centre on social media: @BrockSJC on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. OPIRG can also be found at @BrockOPIRG on Twitter, @OPIRGBrock on Instagram and www.opirgbrock.com and Brock Pride can be found at @BrockPride on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as www.brockpride.ca.