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By Matt Peake on 12.5.2023

Word is Out: Stories of some of our lives

“It’s really scary standing in isolation from everybody else and that’s what I’ve feared most of my life. The fact that I wasn’t part of, part of a group.”

Homosexuality still remains a taboo, although many of you reading this would disagree. As a gay man, however, I still find myself bounded by the constraints of sexuality inequalities in our current society, and continuously reminded of my differences. The stereotypically perpetuated images of the homosexual are abhorrent; the male is often portrayed as camp, dramatic and promiscuous, whereas the homosexual female is the complete reverse; short-haired, butch and fat. Therefore, I take comfort in the knowledge that there are many others in the world like me, and even though we share the same sexual preference, we are in fact all unique. As a result, I will leap up at any opportunity to watch, listen and read anything that has a “homosexual” theme.

I read somewhere about a documentary called “Word Is Out” (Word Is Out premiered in November 1977 in San Francisco and was directed by a collective known as the Mariposa Film Group). This a documentary which tells the story of 26 gay American men and women of different backgrounds, ages, races and social standings discussing their lives and their experiences of coming out. The film explores their struggles with their own sexuality and the struggles they face against the attitudes towards sexuality in 1970s American society. For example, one woman loses her children in a custody decision and one woman is dishonourably discharged from the US Army. Two men speak of how they were sent to insane asylums in order to endure painful shock treatments in order to cure them of their “disease”.
This is definitely a film that draws you in. The men and women deliver their testimonies with intelligence, grace, honesty and conviction. Even though the subject matter is difficult, they still tell their stories with a positive and hopeful attitude.
The impact of the film was startling. It was the first feature-length documentary about lesbian and gay identity made by gay filmmakers. When audiences saw the film, thousands wrote to the Mariposa Film Group’s post office box number listed at the end credits to express how much the film meant to them — and many of them on how viewing the film saved their lives. So much so that the film has became an icon of the 1970s emerging gay rights movement.

Despite having evident themes of homosexuality, I believe it’s a film not only about sexuality but also about the love that can occur between two human beings, regardless of gender. However I feel most importantly, it teaches us about freedom. The freedom to be whoever we want to be.

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