One night in June 2006 changed my life forever. My parents asleep in bed, I went into the living room of our hotel room, turned on the TV, and flipped through some of the movies that were available on demand. One of them, in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, was an independent film called The Trip — which featured a picture of a gay couple embracing on its title page.
Nervous but intrigued, I put it on and turned down the sound to make sure that my mom and dad wouldn’t hear it. Little did I know what a huge transformation I’d experience over the next two hours. The film changed me from being a scared, confused, 14 year-old kid, who planned on staying in the closet permanently, into the proud, outspoken man I am today.
As I watched the film, I learned about the history of gay rights and the discrimination that the LGBT community had to deal with in the 1970s and 1980s. What lifted me up, however, was how defiant these people were in the face of oppression, particularly the two lead characters Tommy and Alan.
I saw the love they shared, and thought that if I could find that kind of love in my own life, then coming out was definitely worth it. I also had a huge crush on the character Tommy, played by the actor Steve Braun, who I was finally able to communicate with last year after years of searching for a way to contact him.
I found him and told him what a huge difference he had made in my life, how his work had given me the courage to be who I am and live my life honestly. He thanked me for my message and now, four years after I first saw the film, we follow each other on Twitter.
My experience serves as a perfect example of how truly important gay cinema really is, and how vital it is that we as a community stand up and make sure that it doesn’t die out. We still have gay film festivals that celebrate these films and encourage filmmakers to make them, but the stories of gay youth, like me, aren’t being heard enough.
So many people these days seem to think that gay-themed movies aren’t necessary anymore, that we’ve reached a level of acceptance where we can afford to be apathetic and complacent about it and stop supporting festivals like OutFest in L.A., NewFest in New York, or Frameline in San Francisco – all of which have given voice to these films.
But they need us more than ever. They need our support and donations to make sure that people still make and see films like The Trip: films that have the power to change and save lives – like mine.