Sunday, March 16, 2008

Southern (dis)Comfort

He came on the screen; spoke vaguely about an encounter that saddened him since its perpetrators believed they were doing the right (and Godly) thing. His mannerisms suggested that he was a gay male, reflecting on a gay-bashing incident. His significant other came on the screen also. She... I mean he... I mean: dressed in drag, his partner joined in the conversation. They kiss. He mentions how he is dying. She chimes in offering her thoughts. He reveals that he is dying of caner in his cervix. At this point the documentary experience becomes exponentially uncomfortable for many of the students in the class.

My natural response is to wonder exactly what was so uncomfortable about this particular documentary. On the surface, it seems obvious that those finding themselves uncomfortable must be homophobic. This is a valid charge. Yet, it seemed to me (and strongly because of my own experience) that the level of discomfort stemmed from our inability to "handle" the rather delicate situation. After growing up in a society that has assumed heterosexuality as the norm, addressing issues of gender-crossing and homosexuality may prove rather difficult. For example, speaking of Rob and Lola's relationship proved extremely difficult. Is Rob a he? Is Lula a she? Is someone inherently bad for having difficulty with this situation? Essentially, the documentary accomplishes a honorable goal; it encourages people to engage issues of gender identity and humanizes the struggles encountered by transgendered individuals.

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