| CLAYTON WALTER
WHEN OSCAR-NOMINATED actress Ellen Page came out at an LGBTQ conference on Valentine’s Day, the internet exploded into its usual flurry of commentary, observations and overwrought think pieces. Whenever a celebrity of any stature – and especially when one as well-respected and well-liked as Page – comes out, it’s news, which irks some and thrills others.
There are a few typical responses one finds from the masses when a celebrity comes out. There are those who are quick to spout “I knew it,” thus, demonstrating a frustrating bit of arrogance that suggests sexual orientation can be determined by a stereotypical checklist. There are those who (hopefully) jokingly proclaim that they now have a chance to become romantically involved with said celebrity, while others mourn the loss of their prospective partner. I find this group adorable; so long as they aren’t tweeting in earnest. Yet the loudest group tends to be those who bemoan the fact that a celebrity coming out is “still considered news.”
I completely understand the sentiment, and in my musings on it, there have been times when I share it. People long for the day when being homosexual isn’t so much a mark of important difference as it is a casual distinction: a day when it no longer “matters.” But the world doesn’t work that way, and minorities likely always will (and probably should) celebrate the achievements of their communities.
Many would make a distinction between the news of someone coming out and, say, a member of the LGBTQ community being elected President of the United States. One has a historical, widespread impact, while the other is a personal matter. But what happens on a personal level can also speak to a larger context, a historical moment, a shift in a better direction.
Anyone coming out is cause for celebration. Any time someone feels confident, bold or happy enough to live in a more honest, open way; to claim a facet of him- or herself that was previously a carefully guarded secret; to let others know something that was previously unknown, is an amazing, newsworthy moment. Even if it’s only published on said person’s Facebook page.
So when a celebrity comes out, and provides an example of tolerance, love and self-acceptance, it’s an incredible bit of news that has the power to inspire downtrodden spirits and soften hard, hateful hearts. An A-list actress has a lot to lose, so to see Page proudly come out of the closet when, truly, there’s much at risk, is an exciting testament to a relatively new age of tolerance.
So long as anyone remains in the closet, scared at the outcry or rejection he or she might face upon coming out, any high-profile announcements that might provide a ray of hope are newsworthy in my eyes.
| CLAYTON WALTER
LGBTQ PEOPLE LIVING in rural areas sometimes dream of escaping their small, often conservative communities for the thriving liberalism of big cities. The diversity of metropolitan areas means anyone can find people they relate to and feel at home. For many LGBTQ people, the idea that such a sense of inclusion and warmth can be found in more isolated places, far from the lights and noise of the city, seems like a fantasy.
But such is the case of the communities featured in Jonah Mossberg’s Out Here, a documentary about queer farmers. From the film’s outset, Mossberg admits the relative futility of making such a film: There’s no way to exhaustively chronicle the lives and work of these farmers or to focus all that he saw into a fine point. The queer farming community is just as diverse as any other collection of people, with the film’s subjects coming from different ethnic backgrounds, community types and family situations. They represent the rare minorities – sexual and often racial – that work in an industry dominated by straight white men.
Even labeling the collection of farmers shown in the film – seven farms are shown of the dozens that Mossberg visited while filming over the course of four years – as “queer farmers” proves problematic, and thus emblematic of how vivid and exciting their community is. An opening montage tasks the farmers with defining queer, eliciting a range of answers involving sexual identity, political status and relation to the larger community. Similarly, the film later asks for them to define farming, which again brings out a variety of perspectives and ideas.
Thus, while Out Here’s subjects share little in common with each other, that lack of commonality speaks to the one broad observation Mossberg can garner from his trek across the country: that there is no easy way to survey queer farming. None of the farmers get a ton of time on screen (the film flies by at barely more than an hour long), so viewers get small tastes of life on a goat farm in Kansas or a children’s garden in Philadelphia. Mossberg cracks open the door to a world that many (myself included) may have never even thought of, so urban-minded are many in the LGBTQ community.
The film has a charming, appropriately homegrown feel to it; Mossberg allows the farmers to riff on the farming process, the allure of farming and matters of identity. Much of the most interesting discourse is on which communities the farmers feel most closely connected to. Far from the dense pockets of sexual minorities in big cities, most of the farmers feel most connected to their farming friends and the people in their communities that they provide food. A lesbian couple in Kansas talks about how they feel close to other families they connected with after having their son. There’s a thrilling sense of identity that is more than sexually based; these people are gay, lesbian and transgender, yes, but they are so much more than their sexuality. They are mothers, sons, friends, workers, church-goers and contributors to communities in big cities and far smaller rural areas.
Out Here reminds us that there are many stories to tell in the LGBTQ community and as many perspectives, goals and lifestyles as there are people. The diversity is beautiful. It doesn’t create division, but rather gives more reason to celebrate what an interesting, eclectic community we are, finding meaning and happiness in many ways, in endless places.
Out Here was screened at the Ohio Union on Tuesday, April 15 through the sponsorship of several OSU and College of Wooster departments and groups. Filmmaker Jonah Mossberg and Ohio queer farmers Josh Coltman (Williamsfield, OH), Caty Crabb (Rutland, OH) and Derek S. Lory (Clintonville, OH) were on hand for a Q&A session after the film.
| Clayton Walter