When Stacy told me she was editing a collaborative short film between Equinox and the LGBT Community Center for Pride, a film that expanded LGBT out into an entire alphabet of identities, my vision swam with images of rainbow-colored Oreos and Doritos and I wanted to wrap her up in a blanket and tip her over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carry her over the sea to an uninhabited island where we could live out the rest of our days without the internet. Our careers have never overlapped before.
When I’m looking at any piece of media, my brain’s whirring and whizzing and cataloguing every way it’s going to be deconstructed in the queer community, on social media, in the comments on Autostraddle dot com. I’m assessing its reach beyond our corner of the world. I can tell you where the conversation will start, how it will evolve, and what will cause it to flame out. I can tell you if it will make it to the deep dark corners of Reddit. I can predict the moment a fandom will self-destruct as soon as two women make eye contact on TV. I’ve been doing this job for so long I can predict the queer internet’s actions with such alarming accuracy I could probably convince you I’m a seer. I can’t turn it off.
Except that when Stacy played her film for me for the first time, for five entire minutes, I did turn it off. I couldn’t help it. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen.
The film has started to make it’s way around the internet, lots of very high praise and also some heated discussion in its wake. I went ahead and interviewed the editor, since we share a bed.
Usually I have to go through so many PR hoops to get an interview. For this one I just walked into the bathroom while you were in the shower and said, “Hey, can I interview you?” It was much easier.
And now you’re interviewing me in your pajamas.
I interview everyone in my pajamas. I work from our living room.
So when you landed this film you were like, “Hey, I’m doing this Pride thing” and I was like, “Oh, cool.” And then you emailed me when I was at A-Camp and said it was some of the most beautiful footage you’d ever worked with, and I was like, “Huh, neat.” But then when I got home and watched it, I was shocked. It’s so far beyond any LGBTQ-inclusive branded content anyone’s ever made I almost couldn’t believe I was seeing it.
Yeah, I mean, I was obviously really excited. I’ve never worked on anything like this for our community. And I was nervous at first too because I knew the concept but I didn’t know how the alphabet was going to work out. The agency and The Center decided on that. You and I had a lot of conversations about it early on: Will they choose “a” for “asexual” or “a” for “ally”; “q” for “questioning” or “q” for “queer.” Stuff like that. Is kink queer? You and I talk about this stuff all the time anyway and it’s something you talk about a lot for your job, so I know how important it is. I was so happy and surprised when I got into the room with the agency and they were so open to having conversations. They were already working so closely with the The Center, following their lead.
Elizabeth Nolan, the Equinox Executive Creative Director on the project gave a couple of really cool interviews where she talked about coming organically into a space that’s made up of marginalized identities and figuring out how to amplify those voices, instead of marching in to take up space and speak to people.
Did you feel like your voice as a queer woman was also important, in the room?
Oh yeah, for sure. One of the most interesting things about being an editor is navigating which clients want what kind of feedback from you. I’m often in a room with the agency and the director for weeks at a time. I felt, from the very beginning, that every queer person involved in this project, including me, had a voice at the table. These conversations in the video aren’t scripted. It’s hours of audio of queer people talking about what these identities mean to them. I spent a lot of time thinking about and talking about what dialogue to use, which shots needed more time to fully develop.
What’s different about this than other Pride branded content you’ve seen?
Well, I mean, for starters, it doesn’t stop at gay. And it’s not centered on cis-identities. And it’s not whitewashed. The majority of the dancers are people of color and we’re talking about trans and nonbinary identities. It’s not like, “Oh, look, these two white gay dads also do laundry, just like you.” It’s like, no, these are the voices of our community and they’re speaking to our community, without apologizing. It’s empowering because it’s not seeking acceptance from the mainstream. It’s, like, you know, “Fuck that, don’t ‘miss and ma’am’ me.”
I confess that I feel very protective of you about this.
There is no way to make something like this and make everyone happy. I exist in that place every day so I have elephant skin but you don’t and —
Right, but it’s like this. We both know that any art that moves the conversation forward is going to come under serious scrutiny. Activists wouldn’t be activists if they just stopped when things got a little better. So this film takes it farther than any branded film before it, and now people want to know what that next step is. Let’s talk about asexuality. Let’s talk about what makes a queer identity queer. Art and activism move the culture forward and the culture moves politics forward, so of course the origin of change is going to be criticized. But you’ve gotta also look at it in the scope of broader culture.
Like right now on Facebook this video is a heated queer community discussion. Whereas on YouTube it’s teaming with conservatives and Breitbart readers and Reddit users who hate us.
Yes. YouTube is just slurs and complete dehumanization right now. So I think you can have these important nuanced conversations while also keeping in mind how radical and progressive something is in the context of the larger population.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are still so many queer people in small town America who can’t even come out, who don’t even feel safe telling their families they’re gay, or holding their partners’ hands in public. Even you and I take that stuff for granted. We’ve been together forever. We live in New York City.
Yeah, I mean now you have the luxury of critiquing a video like this, but there’s someone in rural Georgia like you were not long ago hiding and watching it. I hope, at least. I hope there are people watching this video who are finding language for their identities and who feel empowered to live authentically because of it.
I’m really proud of you.
Hey, I’m really proud of you too.
I would also like to mention our cat has been yelling at us this whole time.
He thinks the “S” should have been for “Socks.” He should check out your Instagram. He is most certainly not underrepresented.