A Gay Moment An Exploration of Sexuality Through Film

My first memory of watching Beauty and the Beast was back home in Sri Lanka. My brother and I watched on one of those old computers. You know the kind, they only came in three colours we had beige. They looked like a TV had been shrunk. Anyway that was the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast and from the first shot of the forest I was hooked. My brother and I watched it about a hundred times after that. Suffice to say that there was something about this movie that just stuck. This was the first movie I saw where a prince was shown as something other than perfect. In fact all the characters are flawed in some way. The people felt real. It was also the first time I saw a girl in a movie who cared more about books than boys. Plus she was brave, kind and unapologetically herself.

So when I heard that Disney was making a I've action version of this classic film I was thrilled. For months I tried not to think about when it would be released. When it finally came out on March 17th I couldn't wait to go see it. Time seemed not to agree with me however. Most of my time these days is spent either working or creating my own film. But as a filmmaker I love not only creating but watching films. It's what inspires me. Movies and books have been my teachers,my escape and my companion.

One of the things I like to before I go see a film is to read reviews about it. I start with Roger Ebert and work my way through about five or so reviews. While I was perusing I found an article written by the New York Times that said that the movie had been banned in Alabama, USA for having a gay character and showing a 'gay moment'. First of all I din't even remember a gay character in Beauty and the Beast. So I was honestly curious to see who it was, was Belle gay ? That would be an amazing portrayal of this story. I thought what a perfect film to discuss this. So when I went to finally watch the film I anticipated that anything could happen. After the film finished I was in awe because this movie beautifully transported me back sitting in front of that old computer. But I was also confused,what was the 'gay moment' ? So I looked online and found this video in an article explaining the banning of this film in certain places around the world.

After watching this I was in a bit of a state of shock. Children living in this day and age are exposed to, divorce, domestic violence, loss, negative role models, ads that make them feel like they are inadequate, internet bullying and pornography. This it what many children absorb and witness on a daily basis. So excuse me if I was just a little confused by how a scene in a movie about how to judge a person by the content of their character rather than their appearance and one that encourages us all to be no one but yourself is the source of all evil.

Wether I wanted to or not this really got me thinking. How was it that in this day an age people still hold such prejudice in their hearts. They were perpetuating that prejudice by teaching children to be close-minded and unaccepting of anyone that is different from them. Remember, we aren't born hating someone because they are different from us but if we are told enough times that we should hate someone we living it. Through my observation and discussion on this topic, I think there are two main reasons for this continued .

First, we as a society have an incessant need to categorize. If you are a male you go in one box, female in another. If you’re gay or lesbian that confuses us a little bit, what box do you go in? Then bisexual, transgender, queer, gender fluid and so on it becomes more and more complex. Sexualities we don’t have a lot of knowledge about sexualities that don’t fit in these boxes. And when they don’t fit some people turn to the easiest method ignorance, hatred
Second, we are taught as children to see gender as black and white, male or female. We can only be one of the two. Young children don’t see anything wrong with a girl liking a girl or a boy who wants to be a girl or a boy who wants to dress up as a girl. We are conditioned by society and those who raise us our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to think that there is something wrong or abnormal about being sexually different.

I remember when my brother and I were young we used to play dress up. I would dress my brother up in girl’s clothing with a wig, lipstick, nail polish the whole nine yards. We had a blast! I remember my dad walked in once when we were playing and my brother looked over and immediately my brother’s his face fell. He bowed his head embarrassed. My dad grew worried asking, “ What’s wrong, what happened you were playing so nicely ?” To which my brother replied, “ I am embraced because I look like a girl I’m wearing a dress !” My dad quickly said, “ So why can’t you wear a dress ? What’s wrong with that ? Were you having fun?” My brother said ” yes”, “ so, that’s all that matters” my dad then took a camera and took a picture of my brother where he looks so proud and happy.

It was such a small gesture and one that even he doesn’t remember but that’s because he was never made to feel ashamed or unvalued. He was just allowed to be himself and express himself.

You may ask, so how can we end sexual prejudice? It won’t be easy, and compared to where we were, people have become a lot more cognizant and accepting of different sexualities. But like change, it takes time, persistence and the tenacity to never stop learning. So the answer to your question can be summed up in two words, education and conversation. People need to be educated more about sexuality and understand that gender is a spectrum. And we also need to have conversations with our children, parents, families, friends, coworkers, students and teachers about gender and sexuality and create a world where a little boy can proudly wear a dress and not fear judgment and not feel shame. A world where your son or daughter’s sexuality is as natural as the colour of their eyes.

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