THE OUT LIST: Inside the hearts and minds of some LGBT New Yorkers
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders is, as one of his subjects said, a nationally acclaimed photographer. He has taken photos of everyone from author Toni Morrison to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
A documentary he directed and produced, “The Out List,” is debuting on HBO Thursday night: a timely screening for a series of interviews with notable LGBT figures, just one day after the Supreme Court finally knocked down the Defense of Marriage Act, declaring marriage a constitutional right for all couples, gay and straight.
“I think it was great of the Supreme Court to help us promote our film,” Greenfield-Sanders joked.
The film was originally supposed to be called “Generation 8,” motivated by Proposition 8 in California, a ban on gay marriage.
“As we started to interview people, we found that there were many more issues worth delving into aside from marriage equality,” Greenfield-Sanders explained.
Metro interviewed some of his diverse subjects, all of whom felt the same: the DOMA win is great, they said, but there are still many more battles to fight and to win.
Janet Mock has a story that is rarely discussed: she is a transgender woman who transitioned as a teenager, and was therefore, she said, able to “blend in” more easily than those in the trans community who transition later in life.
But Mock said as she saw her peers struggling with their identity expression, she realized the good she could do by speaking up. So in 2011, she shrugged off the privilege of her ability to “blend” and decided to become an advocate and activist for the trans community.
In the film, she explains she did it “to tell kids that you are beautiful and that nothing is unusual or strange about you because you’re gay or lesbian or transgender or gender-queer—however you want to express yourself, that nothing is wrong with you.”
A central theme in the film is the frustration of waiting to be “legitimized” in some way by legislation that would officially deem gay people equal. Mock said she thinks “legislative rulings are very important” but that DOMA is one piece in a very large, complex puzzle.
“LGBT is not a monolith,” she said, noting that the common conception of LGBT often leaves out or ignores the bisexual and trans communities. And as far as legitimization-by-legislation goes, “Living in New York state specifically, we just had another round of the [State] Senate not voting on GENDA [the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act].”
Without GENDA, she said, transgender people are still denied access to resources, legal protections and rights as basic as access to public restrooms.
“I think it’s important that as we march down Fifth Avenue at [the Pride Parade this weekend], we have to realize that for the nearly twelfth year in a row, trans people still aren’t protected statewide,” she said.
“We have a lot more work to do.”
Wade Davis was laughing when he picked up the phone. His co-worker at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, where he provides job counseling for gay youth, many of whom are homeless young people of color, was cheering him up with an argument over the relative merits of Mariah Carey versus Whitney Houston.
It was the day before the Supreme Court shot down DOMA, and Davis was upset over the nation’s highest court weakening the Voting Rights Act.
“I’m more of a person who’s just about human rights, not just LGBT rights or African-American rights,” said Davis, a gay African-American.
For Davis, DOMA is “problematic.”
“I get it, DOMA is very sexy right now,” he said. “But I think as humans we have to look outside of ourselves. A lot of women’s rights are being rolled back, but no one is really talking about that.”
Davis acknowledged that his lack of enthusiasm over DOMA may be a result of spending the majority of his time working with LGBTQ youth.
“DOMA is a very adult issue,” he said. “What they’re really interested about is homelessness or poverty or lack of education or even bullying, lack of safe space.”
Davis also said he feared a violent backlash as a result of the DOMA decision, especially in light of the uptick in reported violent anti-gay hate crimes in New York City last month, including the horrific murder of Mark Carson in the West Village.
“There’s a correlation between DOMA and the rise of hate crimes,” he said. “It’s kind of where our society’s always been. Whenever you have an outpouring of rights… crime is more prevalent.”
TWIGGY PUCCI GARÇON
“Can you get a better name than Twiggy Pucci Garçon?” Greenfield-Sanders marveled, talking about one of the subjects whom he’s known the longest.
Twiggy is busy, and Twiggy is old school: he spends his days as a community health specialist at a non-profit, but outside of work, he walks fashion show runways and competes in the House Ballroom scene, a subculture that dates back to the days of 1980s voguing. He said moving from his hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia to New York City has shaped the life he feels “privileged to have now.”
“Living in New York has created a space where I’m a lot more comfortable in my skin,” Twiggy said. “I’ve come to terms a lot more with how I identify myself, how I express myself. I’ve accomplished some things here that I wouldn’t have ever though I could, or wouldn’t even be in my mind if I didn’t live here.”
Twiggy said he had prayed for the Supreme Court to knock down DOMA and Prop 8.
“What better way to open up New York City pride?” Twiggy exclaimed. “Two years ago we were able to celebrate marriage equality in New York state. What more of a reason to celebrate not just our pride for being out and gay in New York, but for being equal citizens in this country?”
Catch The Out List on HBO at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, June 26.
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat