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‘Between the Shades’ doc gets to the shared heart of the LGBTQI community

The film premieres on Monday, June 11

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Beth Malone in ‘Between the Shades’ (Photo courtesy of Jill Salvino)

There are a lot of assumptions and generalizations made about the LGBTQI community – and not just from the outside.

There are so many clichés – that gay men can’t be monogamous, that an older person with a younger partner is a sugar daddy (or momma), that pansexual or bisexual or gender fluid people just haven’t accepted they’re gay, the list goes on and on.  We’ve heard them all.  Many of us, whether we like to admit it or not, have said them, too – or at least thought them.

It’s something that seems to spring from a human need to categorize things, to organize the world into recognizable patterns that make it easier to comprehend – and though that instinct enables us to negotiate our lives in a complex and often confusing world, when it comes to our ability to understand and relate to other people, it’s more of a hindrance than a help.  It creates our tendency to assign labels to each other (and to ourselves) that superficially define who we are – and make it easy to separate ourselves from those who wear a different label than our own.

In the new documentary “Between the Shades,” director Jill Salvino undertakes an examination of the effect of labels – both negative and positive – and the way that they intersect among LGBTQI people, stripping away preconceived ideas about labels and the people behind them and revealing the ways that labels can be as empowering as they are divisive.  This discussion serves as a springboard into a detailed portrait of the community itself, deep-diving into an exploration of the things that make the individuals within it who they are.

The director has said that her intention was to make a film “which explores the various degrees of ‘gay‘ that exist in our society and frames up a conversation about the spectrum of LGBTQI and the strands of acceptance that bind us all.”  To that end, she has enlisted the aid of as many points on that spectrum as possible.

For nearly 90 minutes, Salvino fills the screen with the faces and voices of a widely diverse cross-section of the community.  The participants include young and old, male and female, white and people of color.  They are gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender (MTF and FTM), intersex, gender fluid, gender queer, and yes, even straight allies.  Some are coupled, some in search of love, some proudly single.  Throughout the film, in a loose but logical progression of themes, they discuss a variety of topics – how they identify, growing up and coming out, family, relationships, love.  What emerges eventually shapes itself not into a conversation, but into a sort of monologue that, in expressing the vast differences in experience between each of the speakers, tells a universal story of the things that make them the same.

One might expect an entire film of “talking heads”, without additional footage interspersed between them, to grow stale after a while.  That’s not the case with Salvino’s movie.  Save for the insertion of one relatively brief video clip (of a flash mob proposal that led to the marriage of two of the participants, actor Yuval David and Mark McDermott), she includes no “real world” scenes to break up the visual monotony of her interwoven interviews, and it doesn’t matter at all.  The speakers are engaged, passionate, proud of who they are and the journeys they have made – and the honesty of their truth-telling, coupled with the director’s skilled shaping of their group narrative, keeps our interest riveted throughout.

In addition to David (probably most familiar from his recurring role on “Madam Secretary”), there are some other relatively famous faces among the crowd of contributors.  Perhaps the best known among them belongs to actress Kathy Najimy, but the group also includes Beth Malone (one of the stars of Broadway’s “Fun Home”) and Democratic National Committee treasurer Andrew Tobias.  In addition, Los Angeles locals might recognize Madonna Cacciatore (director of special events for the LGBT Center and newly-named executive director of Christopher Street West) and her now-wife, Robin McWilliams.

All of these “celebrities” get a lot of screen time – but so do most of the others, and no one voice seems to emerge as more significant than anyone else’s.  It’s a truly egalitarian – and inclusive – representation of diverse individual expression within a shared community identity.

The press release for “Between the Shades” expresses the film’s intention “to put faces to the letters that make up LGBTQI and how those letters have evolved and expanded over time.”  In addition, it makes the claim that “the film examines the immense power of labels and the transcendence of love.”  For many movies, statements like this run the risk of being hyperbolic – but in this case, they are not an overstatement.

Salvino’s film will have its LA premiere screening on Monday, June 11 at 5 p.m, as part of the Dances With Films festival at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.  This heartwarming documentary about the LGBTQI community is a perfect way to wrap up your Pride weekend, so buy your tickets now here.

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Television

‘Jeopardy!’ champ helps 83-year-old accept Trans people

Schneider recognized the challenges that come with being an openly Trans woman on national TV, but noted: “I thought it would be worse”

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Amy Schneider (Courtesy of Sony Television & Pictures Corp.)

OAKLAND – Trans “Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider, the most winning woman in the show’s history, opened up in a recent interview about learning that her TV presence helped an 83-year-old man learn to accept Trans people. 

In an interview with NPR, Schneider recognized the challenges that come with being an openly Trans woman on national TV, but noted: “I thought it would be worse.”

Though Schneider has dealt with her fair share of transphobic comments on the internet, she told NPR’s Ari Shapiro that she stays out of the comment sections because it’s better for her mental health. 

However, she did recall receiving one Twitter post that highlighted the positive impact of her visibility. 

“After two to three years of conversation, you being on “Jeopardy!” every night has taught my dad to be accepting of Trans people,” the post said, according to Schneider. “You’re the first person he’s used correct pronouns with, an 83-year-old man saying, this isn’t too hard. Thanks for your message of love.” 

“That is just one of the best things I could hear,” Schneider said. “And that I’ve been able to do that, give people that experience – and if I’m helping them, that’s what I want to do most of all.”

On Friday, Schneider won her 33rd straight game, the third-longest winning streak in “Jeopardy!” history, amassing $1,111,800 in winnings.

Recently, the history-making contestant returned to Twitter after a brief hiatus sparked by being robbed at gunpoint over the New Year’s weekend. 

“Hi all! So, first off: I’m fine. But I got robbed yesterday, lost my ID, credit cards, and phone,” she said, adding: “So, I doubt I’ll even start writing tonight’s game thread today, and if I keep winning, it may take a bit for me to get caught up. Thanks for your patience!”

Schneider, an engineering manager from Oakland, has been an inspiration to many during her historic run on the show. 

“Seeing Trans people anywhere in society that you haven’t seen them before is so valuable for the kids right now that are seeing it,” she told ABC affiliate KGO-TV in November, adding: “I’m so grateful that I am giving some nerdy little Trans kid somewhere the realization that this is something they could do, too.”

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Online Culture

Tom Daley: Bad Dad Jokes!

Terrible jokes, but I love them! Not sure if Lance does…

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Los Angeles Blade Screenshot via YouTube

LONDON – British Olympian and gold medalist diver Tom Daley along with his husband D. Lance Black pass along some really terrible ‘Dad’ jokes.

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Celebrity News

Out Trans Munroe Bergdorf is covergirl as Cosmopolitan UK celebrates 50

“I believe the people want trans inclusion, racial equality, to end misogyny so women and girls feel safe walking home at night”

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Courtesy of Cosmopolitan UK

LONDON – Starting this upcoming Friday, January 21, customers standing in the queue at checkout tills and newsstands across the United Kingdom will be greeted by the sight of model and Out Trans activist Munroe Bergdof smiling back at them from the cover of the 50th anniversary special edition issue of Cosmopolitan UK.

In the cover story interview conducted by PinkNewsUK gender and identity journalist Vic Parsons, Salvadoran-American filmmaker, actor, model, and intersex rights activist River Gallo, along with writer, stylist and consultant Aja Barber, Bergdof discusses career, climate change and global warming, cancel culture, pronouns and the future of Trans rights.

“I hope there’s a young trans girl looking at this cover thinking: ‘I can do it too and who I am is not going to hold me back,’” she says.

Bergdorf adds: “I believe the people want trans inclusion, racial equality, to end misogyny so women and girls feel safe walking home at night.”

“I don’t think we have ever been as enlightened as a people as we are now, even if there is a lot of misinformation around. I do feel like the spark has been lit. Less people are passively accepting what they have been presented with and that’s an incredible thing.”

In a commentary piece written for London-based fashion and cultural media outlet Grazia in February 2018, Bergdorf noted;

A woman is more than a vagina, than her ability to bear children, the gender she was assigned at birth, a socio-economic class, marital status or sexual history – yet every one of these points has been used to define and control a woman’s place in society. This is why feminism must serve as an inclusive tool of liberation for all female identities and experiences, not just some. This is where so many women are still getting it wrong.”

[…]

I long to see more cisgender women in positions of influence standing up for trans women, making people aware of issues that may not affect all of us, but that we should all care about deeply.

[…]

We must learn to see all women’s experiences as worthy of being listened to within feminist discourse. Because the fact is not all women possess a functioning reproductive system, not all women have a vagina, not all women’s vaginas are pink. So, when ‘pink pussies’ are used as imagery intended to unify all women, what they are actually doing is excluding a large amount of women from feeling like they have a voice within feminism.”

Bergdof deleted her Twitter account due to the torrent of transphobic abuse she received on the social media platform PinkNewsUK reported.

“Tired of being a punching bag. Twitter is not a safe app for transgender people,” she wrote.

The activist called on social media platforms take more action to combat the abuse directed at transgender people and women online.

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