What Was Your First Gay Movie? Please Share!

posted by Madam Bubby

 

A friend of mine told me he used to sneak into gay porn movie theaters in the seventies and eighties. At that time in New York City, where he lived, such establishments were plentiful. Specifically, he remembers first seeing Fred Halsted in leather in the movie L.A. Plays Itself (newly restored by MoMA and re-released on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming and never forgot the experience, both watching the movie and the “extracurricular experience” that occurred in the seat next to him. Minus the hanky-panky in the seats, the grandparents and even great-grandparents of the current generation can tell a similar story, going to the movies to see a particular movie star they idolized, even seeing a movie that changed their lives and made them decide to go into show business. 

 

Fred Halsted
Fred Halsted

  

Now that most guys can get their porn over the internet, in fact, any movie via streaming and youtube, the “big event,” almost like a coming out to oneself (or in some cases, others as well) of going to see a gay movie may have lost its social and psychological importance. By gay movie, now, I don't just mean a gay porn movie. It could mean any movie with an overtly gay character or a gay theme. More of these movies were appearing in the seventies and eighties, following the wake of the groundbreaking Boys in the Band. Check out Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet (the book and the documentary film) to find out more about some of these movies, such as Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Making Love.

 

The Celluloid Closet book cover

 

One of these movies was my first gay movie: Victor, Victoria. I saw it when it first came out, in 1982. I didn't know at the time about the movie's gender-bending and gay content, nor did I know that the person who asked me to go (who was ostensibly dating a female friend of mine) was gay. I got more of the humor about opera and singing and cockroaches in restaurants than its complex, contradictory messages about who is really a man or a woman in this movie about a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.

 

Victor Victoria poster and image
Victor/Victoria

 

Overall, the movie seemed more escapist for me at that time, an escape into a fictitious Paris of the 1930s where you could be gay (even though that term was not used at that point, and I still tended to see that word as meaning happy) and go to fancy nightclubs and live in art deco hotels. Maybe all the singing and costumes appealed to a stereotypical “gay” sensibility in me, but I'm not sure. Other than the initial poverty of Julie Andrews and Robert Preston before they concocted their brilliant scheme, the movie was nothing like my current reality of being a college student in a sheltered Chicago suburb that seemed leagues away from what was happening on Wells Street, the center of gay nightlife in Chicago at that point and where the Bijou Theater was showing gay porn films starring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler. Looking in hindsight, I see a profound disconnect between what I thought I knew and what I really didn't know about sexual identity, not unlike the appearance versus reality conflicts the characters in the movie experience.


What was your first gay film? Reply to this blog and share with us! 

 

 
 
 
 
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Recent Comments
Carlos
Hi, about the subject, the first gay movie I saw, there were two actually, I don't recall which one was first but I saw them about... Read More
Friday, 28 January 2022 19:12
DAVID MCKELLAR
The first gay film I saw was 7 In A Barn by J Brian, around 1972. I screwed up my courage to go in and see it. What an experience... Read More
Friday, 28 January 2022 20:40
Lawrence King
My first gay movie was actually an ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK. "That Certain Summer" with Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen. Funny how pla... Read More
Sunday, 30 January 2022 07:18
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Queering Valentine's Day

posted by Madame Bubby

I've written about “this day” in a couple of past blogs, including this one on our website. Sigh. I even posted a tweet on my personal account that I “had no plans,” passive-aggressively playing for sympathy (or maybe a date?).

An article I came across in a student publication called the Miami Hurricane makes a strong point, almost a manifesto, “the fact that the day went from one about beheading to betrothing is proof that we have the ability to radically transform this day into anything we want. And transform we did.” To some extent, yes. A day commemorating an early Christian martyr was also proclaimed as the day birds began to mate and is now essentially aisles in retail stores filled with items in various shades of red and pink.

 

Valentine's Day aisle

But is that its end: Hallmark, kitschy images of cupids and teddy bears, overworked florists walking on floors covered with stem cuttings, angst about making restaurant reservations in time and buying the perfect gift?

The article I reference above mentions how some campus organizations are making the holiday more gender-inclusive and include queer narratives in its celebration.

It's interesting though, that queer narratives that either code implicitly or explore explicitly romantic relationships (with varying degrees of intimacy) don't subscribe (because they have to) to what is essentially a kitschy bowdlerization of Victorian sensibilities about gender relationships (which were perhaps more idealized than real).

In fact, in the heady days of LGBTQ liberation in the 1970s (essentially the product of social changes that began in the 1960s), an era that rejected aesthetically (and culturally to some extent) the “hearts and flowers/moon and June” sentimentality of previous eras, gay erotic filmmakers produced work that probes tensions in romantic, intimate relationships on so many levels. Marginalization in this case, as with much groundbreaking art, becomes the space and time to bend and even break conventional social boundaries.

For example, in Andrew Herbert's Song of the Loon, in the 19th century, Ephraim, a white man, has left his lover and taken up with a trapper, Cyrus. Ephraim wants to settle down to an outdoors life of bliss as the object of affection of only one man, but Cyrus knows that Ephraim isn't dealing with his own, or his lover's, emotions on a realistic level. He takes Ephraim to an old Native American medicine man, who imparts the wisdom of the ages to the young blond buck (through words and hallucinogenic visions): Sex and love are not one and the same.
 

Images from Song of the Loon
Song of the Loon (1969)

And in Tom DeSimone's The Idol, an young athlete's (played by Kevin Redding) struggles with coming to terms with his sexual orientation shows how sexual activity and intimate relationships are not mutually exclusive. In fact, no “one” person ends up being the ideal/idol in this film for its protagonist.
 

Images from The Idol
The Idol (1979)

Steve Scott's Track Meet parallels the story of The Idol, focusing on a young track star's (played by Gavin Geoffrey) tension in coming out and accepting himself. Romance, strength, affection, and lovemaking are explored by Gavin as he discovers himself and the world of gay sex.
 

Images from Track Meet
Track Meet (1976)

What's interesting is the coming out narrative present in these films, because of how its complex psychosocial dynamic of fear and repression but, more significantly, self-discovery and self-acceptance, and, ultimately, liberation, subverts the cloying and also creatively bland Valentine's Day sensibility.

Yes, of course, times have changed, but I do wonder if more LGBTQ-themed Hallmark Valentine's Day cards is the blessed fruit of liberation. The struggle of the past should have taught LGBTQ persons to expect more; that the hearts and flowers are transitory and superficial, and that the end is not finding the “One,” but the glorious and at the same time heartbreaking day-to-day challenge of loving him/her/they.

For highlights from more of our romance-oriented films, also check out this video on our YouTube channel.

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Why be a Homosexual? (Enquiring Persons Want to Enjoy Sex)

posted by Madame Bubby

Jim Cassidy
Jim Cassidy

Sex Play, which appears to be an early 1970s gay porn “naughty picture book,” features an article by gay porn star Jim Cassidy entitled, “Why Be A Homosexual.” (Cassidy appears in several vintage gay porn flicks - Whatever Turns Ya On, A Deep Compassion, The Light from the Second Story Window, and Chapter 3 - available on DVD at those links and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com.)
 

Sex Play cover

But the piece needs some immediate context. This picture book's full title is Sex Play: A Marital Guide for the Gay Male, which is most interesting, because of course at that time gays could not get married, but it assumes that there will be gay couples in long-term but not legally recognized relationships: “homosexual marriages.”

And the forward/editorial by a doctor lends the contents of the book, mostly pictures of different sex acts and positions with some explanation about their benefits to a healthy sexual relationship; authority and credibility. For example, the good doctor proclaims, “There must be a basic reason for homosexuality – it's been with us since the beginning of time and at certain plateaus, during the world's existence, was actually approved of and considered highly aesthetic.”

Yes, true, but here's where pre-existent prejudices come to the fore, “A homosexual can be as masculine as any hetero male and sometimes even more so. If a list were published of the inverts in professional sports, every phase of government, teaching, scuba diving – you name it – it would certainly seem unbelievable.”
 

Men kissing in Sex Play

It's quite daring that he mentions gays as teachers, given the false claims that gay guys are pedophiles, but the use of the word invert really shows prejudice. More significantly, in the late 19th and 20th century, invert was equated with homosexuality, an inborn trait; male inverts inclined to traditionally female behaviors and interests, and vice versa.
 

Sex Play editorial

Yet this theory seems to refer more to transgender individuals, looking at it hindsight, but, more significantly in the context of the times, the good doctor feels the need to show that the homosexuals aren't necessarily “nellies” but also that the masculine ones are the ones who hide their true inversion by living in the closet with a male lover. Very much a product of the times, this view: sexual liberation was occurring, but in the long shadow of the closet, a closet which confused often sex with gender.

Thus, perhaps, the question about why one should be a homosexual in the last article of the publication, seems initially to be almost a tautology. This article begins with the usual arguments that no one knows why someone is a homosexual, but one can spot the nelly ones; it's the more macho ones need to stay underground. Cassidy does allow for a “middle” category, “architects, artists, dress designers, hair dressers, and yes, teachers and members of the clergy ...” Yes, anyone can be a homosexual, but are there degrees by which one behaves as one? The author seems to assume that homosexuality most probably equals, to a great extent, sexual inversion.

But, later in the piece, Cassidy makes some valid points about how young men, using the example of his own experiences in the small town of Delaney, are socialized to be around homoerotic situations, like locker rooms, but that these situations involve references to heterosexual behavior, boasting about “conquests,” even though these guys are experimenting with each other sexually in circle jerks and the like.
 

Why Be Homosexual article headline

Perhaps referring obliquely to his own experience, he claims that, “once in a while, again more often than you would think, a true homosexual will emerge ...” Or, maybe, the person discovers he is already is one, was born that way, but there's a caginess going on here about the issue, followed, though, by some honest insight about how heteronormative sex/gender roles are constantly pushed on male youth, with emotionally damaging results to a young gay guy.

But, ultimately, Cassidy argues, it's all about “wildly throbbing cocks or hot, pulsating cunts.” Even the guy who feels like he must have sex with a girl, but then finds his true sexual fulfillment in a male relationship, having experienced both, he implies that sexuality exists on a spectrum, with bisexuality as a flexible, not rigid, center, an “and” instead of an “or.”

Thus, the supposedly restrictive social norms of a small town, with its rigid patriarchal gender roles, can actually, even for both sexes (though it's clear that the men who end up the choices, not the women, a serious, even lethal inequality reflective of the time this piece was written), end up transmuting into, as Cassidy claims, a “new generation [that] doesn't believe in merely love for the opposite gender; they are including their own sex for what it's worth, a delightful, sexual experience, although opposite from early training, and professing love for all people.”

Anyone can be gay; anyone can be straight; anyone can be bi. Homo, hetero, invert, whatever. Enjoy! The cause and the end result are the same.
 

Sex Play quote and image
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