1. Viv Schiller and Germana Bello, Brazilian screenwriters, co-creators and producers of the excellent lesbian Web series RED (2014-). I read several interviews with you two about the series and what you wished to accomplish with it. I don't wish you repeat the same story again and again, however some of our readers do not know the story. Can you please tell us what the four seasons of the RED are about, what is it between Liz Malmo (Ana Paula Lima) and Mel Béart (Luciana Bollina) that is so appealing to lesbian and bisexual women all around the world: it seems like you followed a certain story-and love-telling structure: in first season there was an attraction between Liz and Mel, then there was desire for each other, after that was fulfillment of the desire and in fourth it was about trust and fidelity while acknowledging and engaging into a long-term relationship? Where the main idea for the the first lesbian-themed Brazilian story came from?
Germana: Yes, that’s basically how the story unfolds throughout the seasons. Additionally, I would say that Mel and Liz’s story is not just about love but also about self-exploration. It’s about being in a relationship that confronts you with questions about yourself, about who you are and what you really want from life. It’s been a long journey for both of them since Season 1 not only as a couple but also as individuals. So, even when they are going through that journey side by side, there’s the solitary aspect of it, and both of them have changed a lot.
Viv: It came from the idea of telling a love story that is genuine and, at the same time, realistic - one that other women could relate to.
2. What I found especially intriguing, engaging and with added value is that each component of the series, script, directing, scenography, music has an added value in itself: first there is a great love story, actresses have an incredible chemistry and their acting provide with the plausibility of their love story, visuals are highly artistic (through use of the paintings in the first season, through use of the occasional blurred picture in the second and the third season), music seems to tell or add another layer to the story, like an additional line of the script, directing is brilliant in a way that organize all components in a good composed unity and we get a highly artistic product. In this sense your series truly stands out and we rarely see it nowadays: how come you decided for such a highly artistic product for a webseries and most importantly lesbian webseries?
Viv: That only goes to show that we can have a low-budget series that is as creative as a high-budget one, regarless of its genre or content. But, mainly, we wanted to deliver a good story with the best quality possible - technical-wise. Also, the talent of everyone involved is something quite relevant and I am very proud of our team.
Germana: RED, like any other cinema or TV content, is a co-creation, and we were lucky enough to have so many talented people reunited to bring it to life from the start. Everyone in this collaborative process adds some kind of value to what we are creating and plays a part in what we have as a final product. As for the aesthetics and the artistic quality of the series, I have to acknowledge Fernando’s work. His sensibility as a director and as a cinematographer has a major role in what we have accomplished.
3. Do you think that sexual orientation of the screenwriter(s) or film director matter in a lesbian and/or bisexual-storyline, if yes why?
Viv: I think so, yes. Not only because it helps develop a more genuine story, but also because the process of creating the characters comes from a place of understanding.
Germana: Yes, I think it does. But, mostly, because LGBTQ+ stories have been told by straight creators for so long and I think it’s time for us LGBTQ+ creators own our narratives. On the other hand, as creators, I don’t think we should limit our stories to our own experiences. Understanding can also come from putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and empathize with what they go through being who they are. That said, I still believe it’s possible for straight creators telling good LGBTQ+ themed stories.
4. Do you think film art should be progressive and portray certain values and attitudes (i.e. portraying more diverse, inclusive, free, democratic relationships and world)? For instance, philosopher Walter Benjamin thought that art should be politically and culturally engaged; for philosopher Alan Badiou art is a production of infinite subjective series and experiences (which should aim toward creating peace), for Jean Beaudrillard art is nothing more then simulation, however. What do you think?
Viv: I think art has to be relatable. Doesn't necessarily has to portray values. It just has to be as relatable as possible.
Germana: I think art should be anything the artist wants it to be. If it comes from a genuine place, if it has some truth within it, it will have something valuable to state and add to people’s lives.
5. What are your experiences and impressions from Clexa-Con Even in April this year, you were the only international crew that attended it, how was meeting your fans? Why do you think you have such a wide range of fans from all over the world and how do you feel about it?
Germana: It was amazing and a pretty intense experience. We were very happy to, finally, being able to meet and really talk to so many people that have been supporting us. Also, ClexaCon is such a safe place for our community. You can feel the love and camaraderie all around. It’s really inspirational.
Viv: I wasn't there myself, but REDlovers are so supportive of our show I'm just glad that we have them by our side. We have more supporters than I could ever consider having. They're such sweethearts!
6. Can you tell us what comes next for Liz and Mel in the fifth season?
Viv: Can't. Sorry. Mel and Liz won't let me. :)
Germana: So, I guess I’ll be the one to spill some beans… Without giving to much away, I would say the journey in Season 5 will be more like a soul searching for both Liz and Mel. They will be trying to come to terms with who they are now after everything they have gone through together.
7. What are your biggest inspirations (film or not film career wise) and what are your plans for the future projects?
Viv: Tough question. But I really like realistic stories. I like scandinavian films, and I am a big admirer of people who are awfully good with words. I love writers. Best artistic category ever. :)
Germana: It was amazing and a pretty intense experience. We were very happy to, finally, being able to meet and really talk to so many people that have been supporting us. Also, ClexaCon is such a safe place for our community. You can feel the love and camaraderie all around. It’s really inspirational. As for the international feedback, we’ve always meant to create something that could resonate with people worldwide so I’m glad we've succeed.
Kelly Manoudi, you are project coordinator and youth worker specialized in human rights education in Euphoria Youth Organization, Greece. Can you tell me more about your work and how it is connected to work with LGBTI people?
Dear Katarina, first of all I would like to thank you for your invitation. Its a pleasure to talk with activists and open-minded people like you. My approach to LGBT people started long-time ago, it was during my high school years. Actually the first time I heard the term homosexual was after the death of Freddie Mercury and the same time I heard so much hate speech about him and for homosexuals.
Although I didn't have any gay people (as far as I know) in my family environment, I had some basic knowledge what homosexuality was about and I couldn't understand why gay and trans people should face such discrimination for being different. I noticed that inside my classmates there were people that did not match to the stereotype girl or boy. I started talking closely to them and slowly they reveal their secret. From that moment I realized that I wanted to stand by them and support them in the point that I could.
The years went by and taking part to several European projects together with the feeling of an active citizen I was directed to youth work and project management of European and international projects.
Being a youth worker means that you work with and for young people. You have to listen, understand, support and empower them to their way from childhood to adult life.
Among the many young people that I have met during my work, there were also LGBTI people. Most of them, specially the teenagers, do not have the courage to express themselves openly, so they hide their ID. In these cases I try to make them feel comfortable, to trust me and then to see how I can help them.
You have concluded a two year European project Facing Homophobia For an Inclusive Job: what the project was about, who were your project partners and how did you choose them, what each partner contributed and how? Where do you plan to disseminate your results?
The project 'Facing Homophobia For an Inclusive Job' was a biannual project which aimed to fight the discriminations at workplace against LGBTI people. We organized several events like trainings, debates and networks at local, national and international level.
My project partners were Giolli cooperative from Italy (which was the applicant organization) and PiNA organization from Slovenia. Giolli aims in creating a more peaceful, fair and democratic world using mainly Boal's theatre method, Paulo Freire's pedagogical approach, Active no-violence and Community Development Approach. Pina association for culture and education is based in Koper, Slovenia is an organization for social development and they contribute to the project by making the final video and teaching the method 'Loesje'. From my side I was responsible for the coordination of the trainings held in Greece and for the editing of the handbook.
The final, lets say, products of this project is a handbook and a video which promote the LGBTI’s inclusion in the labour market. The video is already online, you can find it on YouTube and the handbook will be realized very soon in English, Italian, Greek, Spanish, French and Slovenian language.
One of the project results is also a handbook for LGBTI inclusion in the labour market. Whom this handbook is for and how can it be used?
This handbook is useful for each person working in the field of anti-discrimination towards LGBTI people, both professionals and activists, trainers, educators, adult education providers, Center for Employment officers, decision makers, responsible of Public Institutions related to the topic, etc. because it provides tools to organize training in companies, trade-unions, LGBTI associations in order to strengthen the skills to tackle discrimination. Even if the focus is about “discrimination against LGBTI people in the labour market” most of the activities can be used in several contexts about different topics.
Do you think that sexual orientation and/or sexual identity with such projects comes at handy or it does not matter at all?
From my personal involvement in projects which promotes the issue of sexual identity I can tell you that the results are very positive. It is a big opportunity to talk in public about it, to inform, to educate and finally to break stereotypes. With the project FHOFIJ I had the change to approach people from LGBTI community, to interact and learn from them, to make friendships, even to participate for the first time in a Pride parade in Greece!
Greece is one of the countries that sexual education in public and some private schools does not exists. The results of this absence are not only negative for LGBT pupils because of bullying but also unwanted pregnancy for teenage girls. Even gender-based crimes have roots in bad or not haveing any sexual education in school.
What are your other important projects you would like to tell us about?
One project that I was coordinating last year was about gender issues called “Fighting Gender Inequality through Youth Work”. The goal of this capacity building project was to promote gender equal society by strengthening competencies of CSO's representatives coming from participating organizations to tackle roots of gender inequality and effectively respond on them. The objectives were reached through mobility and capacity building activities including kick of meeting, seminar, training courses, study visits, job shadowing, local training and evaluation meeting. Key project activities were based on non-formal learning and target group of these activities were youth workers interested in gender.
What inspires you most in your work and in your personal life, where your inspiration comes?
I love working with young people specially teenagers because they are our hope for a better future. I want to empower them so that they can get to know themselves and not be afraid to take initiatives in order to improve their lives. Personally, what I enjoy most is travelling and meeting interesting people. My inspiration is my family and my close friends, I want to make a better world for them, at least I want to try.
At last but not least, what are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?
This year and for the next one I am working on a project called 'Generation Europe - Young Democracy in Action'. During this project 30 youth work organizations from 15 European countries are working together in trilateral partnerships with the aim, to excite youths from different backgrounds, especially those with fewer opportunities,for political activity on a local and European level. The main topic of GenE is Active European Citizenship (AEC). A central focus will be on problems identified by youths on local levels, which are then worked on with democratic methods on the European level. By working on specific problems related to their life world politics should be shown to be more than parliamentarian's and involvement with political parties. However, the connection between the local and European level is especially important for the project. Through continuous exchange in European groups (digitally via a platform and personal meetings in youth exchanges) the youths should reflect their local situation and recognize the European dimension of the problem. Europe thus becomes tangible and connected to their life world.
My future plans is to organize mobilities for young people further than Europe, to Asia and Africa.
I hope that youth will be better as adults as we are now.
Everybody has their own taste – AND THAT IS OKAY
Kamala Katarina Gjorgijevska you really live a fulfilled life. Since you came from Macedonia, you had a partner in Ljubljana for many years, you are culinary artist, chef and author of creative recipes, you participated in various shows, documentaries and even reality shows, such as The Farm – A Fresh Start and in MasterChef Slovenia 2016, can you tell me a little more about yourself? When and why did you come to Ljubljana, what do you do at the moment?
I came to Slovenia in 2005, to the Hare Krishna Center in Ljubljana. I am an adventurer, and there have been a dozen years of exploration of myself and my tastes in Ljubljana. I am a person who likes to explore and research new tastes in life. I believe that if you do not spice life on your own, your life will be spiced by the others. I like to try things which nurture and nourish my soul and are primarily connected to personal growth and my achievements. What I am capable of and what I can do? I do not compete with the others, but with myself. Achieved dreams have the sweetest taste for me. At the moment, I focus on tasting another dream, namely, to meet Ellen Degeneres: I presented her three ideas for which I need a video production she does. This is for the moment what I want from her. About everything else in the future we will talk later.
Kamala, when we started to talk about doing this interview, you told me that you do not wish to be labeled as a lesbian, and that you want to explain why 'Kamala, a lesbian, says she is not a lesbian'?
Indeed, it's true. I'm not a lesbian. Like I am not a vegan, but in both cases, I prefer to have plumes than sausages. What I am looking in life is taste. It is not a man or a woman, but it is about energy. Is it or is it not? I do not limit and define my sexuality to and by the word. Energy is free, unlimited. The labels confine me in my (re)search about what I like. That does not mean I am BI. I would like to say that we are in this body on our journey as souls.
As far as I know, you published a wonderful cooking card book Taste your dreams together with your former partner, Katarina Čuk. On 48 cards you can find more than 88 creative simple vegetarian-vegan recipes. In addition, cards of the dishes also complements 48 positive thoughts. Can you give us a little more insight into these cards and what does it mean saying 'that each one has its own taste': it must be a special challenge for you knowing there are so many tastes as people and how can you satisfy many?
Cards are the fruits of my imagination. I believed in them and Katarina (ex-partner) supported me. These cards were my long-standing wish. I talked to my friends about my wish. Every time we met, they asked me how my cookbook was going, and I always told them: I was gona do it. A few years passed by and I suddenly realized that if I did not roll up my sleeves, wrote recipes and cooked what I said, I would be hungry. Only the desire to cook something could not satisfy me. And so, the cards were created, and they teach you to take lessons in the kitchen as an opportunity for growth in life. They are encouragement for all people who have a dream and would like to taste them, but they do not know how. I share my recipe of how to taste my dreams and, in the case of recipes, I allow every individual to eat the dishes in their own taste.
And given that I mention that everyone has their own taste all the time, I realized that I could not satisfy every individual with my food. However, I can surely offer new adventures in culinary arts and prepare the usual things in a creative way. We all eat but we have not yet thought that we can cook it in this or that way. So it's not about what, but how.
In my documentary Attraction of Gender, you performed with Katarina Čuk as partners: can you say more about what attracted you to take part in my documentary and if you would like to share a word or two about why you broke up with her after 10 years of relationship?
I feel attracted to be in the open and not hiding anything, I am what I am, no matter where and who I am. I am person who likes freedom and freedom of speech is of great importance to me. I and Katarina were active in many projects. We were revolutionaries and we had our own ways: we responded to things we perceived as interesting and useful to our planet. The Attraction of the gender was a great project to complement our mission FullBlissLiving for all!
I and Katarina share our history. She's my family. She is the person who will always remain part of me because of the the things we went through and not many people wouldn't survive that: during this time we both have personally grown so much that we no longer wanted to lie that everything was cool and that it was a dream relationship that we both wanted. We like each other and we continue to work. I am bound by our two cats, Luna and Simha. We have two kids. We must continue to cooperate.
Together you have an entrepreneurial project FullBlissLiving. You two already published the recipe cards book, opened the YouTube channel, and designed mobile application 'Taste Your Dream', which intent to "add stories with culinary content and personal growth from around the world". How does the application run and is it successful?
The app is ready and is waiting for a great presentation at The Ellen Show.
I joke a bit, but not all of it. You know, every thing needs time to cook. But in order for the thing to cook, we need a powerful fire. In order to make the dish even more tasty, it sometimes need cooking for a longer time on a "quieter" fire. It works as if nothing is happening at the time, but it is precisely at that time that dish is about ready to be served.
You also participated as one of the competitors in the reality show The Farm – A Fresh Start? What attracted you to participate in such a show and what are your impressions? Could you feel any latent bias towards homo-and bisexuality as well as latent homophobia?
In that time, I was totally engaged in creating our YouTube video channel FullBlissLiving, therefore I spent a lot of time in front of the camera creating video clips that inspired me to do more and better work. I wanted to improve my performance in front of the camera, and after 100 recorded videos, I got the desire to test myself in a large media production. I was interested in the show business. I came to learn. Every experience counts and because of such courageous steps I become even more courageous for the new big steps in life.
There would be no homophobia if it was not promoted in the media, and because it is so strongly present in the media and in the newspapers, it is happening. Otherwise, the world is beautiful. We all want to be accepted and in this context I would like to connect to the above question 'why am I not a lesbian'? Because labels, such as Muslim, Hindi, Bosnian, German, gay and lesbian separate, instead converge.
You were also one of the 16 contestants of The MasterChef Slovenia 2016 (2nd season). What was that experience compared to the Farm – A Fresh Start, or could you even compare them?
My performance in second MasterChef's Slovenia is the biggest achievement of all my performances so far. I had a great show. Of the 16 competitors in MasterChef Slovenia, I came among the top 5. I was doing what pleased me. I studied and progressed. I am glad that I said YES to many things and that I responded to this invitation, it was the best decision in my life. I had a great time. Wherever I go around the world, MasterChef apron with my name opens the door for me.
I have read that you include in your new projects your former teammates from The MasterChef show, how and why did you decide that?
I like to connect with people. Miha Kačič and Kristina Mohorič were the first two. You can watch them in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6luwNpQc2A and here:
Was your blog KamalaSutra the result of those experiences and youtube project? Namely, blog KamalaSutra aims at having artistic erotic cooking show, in which cooks involved would decorate their creations not on the plates but on the bodies of the most beautiful Slovenian celebrities. I find this really interesting and daring idea. Probably, it is going to be made for all sexual orientations?
That is right! KamalaSutra 1001 night is my culinary show, which I'm currently completely focused on. What, how and why? When I find the right video production, I will tell you everything about it. For now, I can definitely say that it will be for everyone who wants to explore and play in a creative way. A man with a man. A woman with a woman and a man with a woman or a woman with a man. Anyway. Each will be able to choose according to her/his own taste. Delicious dishes and ideas of how your lovers or long-term partners could spice up dinners and breakfasts in bed. Does it appeal to you?
I find it very interesting that you wish to meet Ellen. Sometimes I look at her show, and laugh from her heart, but sometimes I remember her breakthrough, revolutionary beginnings in comedy Ellen: at that time it was truly revolutionary, that through various subtexts she revealed lesbianism on television. How do you look at her show and what you would like to offer her or why you want to meet her?
Ellen is a legend. On the other hand, she is 'my sister from another mister'. I wish to meet her because I would like to present her the KamalaSutra idea and she can introduce me to some of her Hollywood friends. For my another idea, I need actors, and Ellen could help me here as well. The third wish is related to the cats and because Ellen is a cat lover. I know that when Ellen will hear all these ideas, she will be enthusiastic and supportive. Does anybody know her? Contact me, please.
What does it mean to you that you are a vlogger? Is this the way you want to make people aware of everything you are and more: what vlog offers better or other from the book or a show?
Vloggin to me personally means a chance for self-acceptance. By shooting video I watch myself, my performance, my presence. I see who I am. I can look at myself from another perspective. I saw what I was. I can say that vlogging is a great mirror which shows you who you are, where you are and where you could go if you do not give up.
Where do you take your optimism, courage, openness and inspiration from?
From my failures, successes, joys and sorrows ... from having to accept first of all that life is like that. That is the way it always is and will be. Otherwise, it's not easy for me. I always have to find the strength, and I find it. If we do not give up, we become stronger and you also realize that if you lose one battlefield it does not mean that you completely lost the whole battle. In this sense, I tell everyone about my dreams to everyone, and this drives me to reach them. If no one knows what you want, and if you do not achieve that, there is no panic because nobody knows about your wishes. Well, I wish others to know. Kamala goes to The Ellen Show. When? Tomorrow.
What are your plans for the future? Do you have a new love?
There is a lot of love and I have a lot of plans too. Ideas are coming and coming. You can watch my latest work at www.kamalasutra.com.
Leticia De Bortoli, you are Canadian writer, producer and film director who made a very good TV mini series Queering this year. Where did you get the idea for the story? Namely, having an older woman (Val) coming out at 60 years old and posting coming out on youtube is really unique idea we haven't seen before in any other LB-films and TV-or Web-series. It is also refreshing to see an older woman so ful of life, energetic and open to embrace new ideas, new life-style and accepting dating.
Just a small correction am I actually Brazillian.
The core conflicts of Queering came from my relationship with my mother. She didn’t necessarily came out as bi, but I started to see her trying to discover herself, try new things way later in life and I though that situation of women of her generation was very interesting. Have lived their “younger years” with a lot restriction and 1/10 of the freedom we have and now later in life have more space for their own whishes and desires.
In Queering series you tackle another stereotype or the same stereotype you also tackle through Val, namely regarding bisexuality. Bisexuality as a stereotypical label in LGTIQ-community has been present through the whole series. Why did you decide to present it in the series? I also like how Val's daughter Harper expresses the same prejudices towards bisexuality as many other LGTIQ-members and how she finally comes to terms that her mother is bisexual.
A lot comes from my personal life. I’m a lesbian woman and often displayed Harper’s behavior in the past. Maybe to try to affirm myself, or to follow what other where doing. But as an adult, with many bisexual friends and started to think about why we replicate this microaggressions towards bisexuals even though we know how hurtful it is.
You currently work on writing and producing second season, can you tell us a bit about what or how is going to unfold, maybe Val getting a girlfriend, will Harper finally got over her former girlfriend of 10 years?
Yes! Harper will have some sort of closure with her ex. And Val will experience life past the “coming out” phase, which quiet often if the harder thing to handle. We also have a lot of knew characthers joining!
Do you think that sexual orientation of the writer, director and actresses is important while doing LB films and series? I mean, I wouldn't say that it is at utmost importance, however I would think that it can contribute to a better understanding of the topic written, directed and played, is that correct? It is interesting how we hear today straight actresses saying they can play LB-roles as good as LB-actresses.
Honestly, I think it is important. We had our stories told by the “straight lens” for so long, and ends up being empty and not as close to reality. We all have different experiences as Queer people, but also very universal ones that we can all relate. I don’t think you must be queer to write/direct queer content, but I would for sure partner or consult with someone who actually lived those experiences.
You also made short films: in 2015 you co-produced and wrote Ada. A young woman struggles to set free from the mental and physical harm of an abusive relationship and another film, A beauty shot about a young woman tries to find peace with her self image using a controversial and disturbing product. What made you wish to do these two short films and where did you get inspiration from? Is there any lesson in these two stories you wish to convey?
Both Ada and Beauty Shot come as very natural ideas. Domestic violence is an issue close to home for me and that deeply disturbs me. That pressure of beauty and how that affects women is probably close to home for all of us. So whatever I think about it a lot, ends up on the page. I don’t think I ever attempt to convey a lesson, I guess I just hope to promote some reflection.
It is also intersting you made a short film Meu Nome é Clint (2014). A day in life of a man whose idol is Clint Eastwood. Unfortunately, not everyone in the real world understands this man with no name. This is interesting, where did you get an idea for film and why exactly Clint Eastwood and not some other famous Hollywood name?
I directed this piece, but the story was created by the lead actor Mario Luiz. Who’s a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. He invited me to direct, and I got really excited and joined him.
What is your biggest inspiration and where do you get your inspiration from the most?
I think my biggest inspiration is other people’s work. From friends to huge famous filmmakers. When I watch something amazing, I get inspired to work. I don’t think I have a source of inspiration, everything I write is about things that I can’t stop thinking about. And those are unpredictable.
What are you plans for the future projects?
I want to keep investing in Queering, but I also have a feature script about being queer in rural Brazil that I hope to produce in 2019. And also an new webseries idea, some queer Sci-Fi.
Iva van Hoek, student at Faculty of Arts, a Dutch teacher and LGBT-activist in Association DIH – Equal Under the Rainbow. What brought you to Slovenia and what do you do and what activities do you do at DIH?
I moved to Slovenia primarily because of my studies, and I later found out that this was an excellent decision for many more reasons. I study psychology, I teach Dutch and I volunteer for the associations DIH and Legebitra. At DIH I facilitate the Lezbofé and I am coordinator of the volunteers.
You told me that this season you will lead monthly meetings for women only from LGBT+-community. What are the goals and activities of these meetings? What results do you expect?
It's called Lezbofé, it's intended as a safe space for women of the LBTQIA+ community to share about their experiences. Each meeting we have a different topic, sometimes preceded with a short opening activity and sometimes just in the form of a moderated talk. The aim is to offer queer women a space to meet and discuss topics that are relevant to them with individuals who can relate to their experiences. At the end of each meeting the participants are invited to suggest the topic for the next one, so the topics stay relevant to the community.
You were volunteer at Ljubljana Pride 2018. What inspired you to be a volunteer and what tasks did you have as a volunteer?
I had participated to many Pride parades before, but never as part of the organisation. I wanted to experience the parade from this side, and I also felt that this was something I really wanted to be part of. The Pride parade always meant a lot to me as the most visible event of our community and I want to do what I can to support it. It was my first time volunteering for the parade and I did not have a specific role, I helped out with various technicalities (repairing last year's signs, making badges, selling merchandise and similar) and I lead one LGBT tour of Ljubljana for a study visit group, but even this small involvement made the difference. I felt that the Parade was truly mine.
You were the Slovene group leader of several Erasmus+projects, Rainbow Summer Camp, Slovakia, Youth in Activism, Netherlands, and Queer Lab Europe, Italy. You obviously like to travel and exchange experiences, knowledge and information, why is it so – is this a personal or also part of your psychology profession?
It's difficult to say where my personal interests end and my professional interests begin. My initial interest in Erasmus+ youth projects connected to the LGBTQIA+ spectrum started as a personal initiative, I had never before been in a space that was meant specifically for queer people and after my first project I realised that there were many aspects about my sexual orientation that I did not yet fully value or even accept. It inspired me to become more actively involved in my community and this summer I decided to take the role of group leader in three projects connected to the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and activism, this time with more professional motivation. The experiences supported me immensely in my activist work, but also professionaly as a psychology student there are numerous skills and knowledges I acquired during these projects that will support me in my career.
Do you think that society and youth needs more education about LGBT-topics or sharing knowledge and experience about it, if yes, why?
Of course, people need to have knowledge about topics in order to understand them. Nowadays it seems that many people adopt this "we are not that discriminated anymore" mindset which leads to less conversations and silencing of our experiences – it's absolutely wonderful that many of us do not fear physical violence from outside in comparison to decades ago, but growing up queer without any conversations about LGBTQIA+ topics, without any knowledge at all and without anyone in our close groups talking about it, can still make us feel terribly lonely and like there is something wrong with us. And it takes years and years of processing to get from there to a point where we can celebrate our own differences.
And last but not least, what inspires you the most and what are your future projects?
What inspires me the most is the work of other activists in Slovenia. I am delighted about the amount of effort all the LGBT-related associations are putting into creating safe spaces, building community, raising awareness, educating, discussing, organizing and caring for each other. There is still a lot of work to do, things to celebrate as well as to fight for. My future projects for now are the coordination of DIH's volunteers, which means I will support them in developing their ideas and putting them into action, I am also part of an informal activist group that does not operate under any association, with which we do various street actions and produce educational videos, and I plan to get more involved with non-formal education and activism through study visits and Erasmus+ projects.
Monika Kropej, you are employed at Unesco chair on Open Technologies for Open Educational Resources and Open Learning (at Institute “Jožef Štefan”, Ljubljana). Do you meet homosexual researchers and scientists at your work, especially lesbians and bisexual women, if yes, in which way?
Our project on open education resources is one of our first projects that directly focuses on marginal groups among which we collaborate with the LGBT-community and therefore LGBT-researches. Apart from that, our previous (research) work was mainly oriented towards dissemination and organization on topics, where we did not focus on the social perspective- (e.g. artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensors etc. and the dissemination activities, workshops/conference organizations). And of course, in these research fields the LGBT-researches were also involved. They are regularly included in the research activities as colleagues, co-workers as all other project participants. I haven't noticed any specific issues regarding their sexual orientation.
Do you think that sexual orientation and/or sexual identity has any influence on educational, scientific-research work?
I believe that within my field of work the sexual orientation or gender identity of my colleagues or co-workers does not play a role. However, I can only report for the work, where I am directly involved and I cannot with certainty state that the same holds true for every field of research. To my knowledge, I have not witnessed any discrimination or systemic inequalities within my research community.
Have Unesco chair on Open Technologies for Open Educational Resources and Open Learning had any project that dealt with LGBT-people, if yes, how lesbians have been involved – how are your work experiences with them, how they have contributed to the project?
As already mentioned so far our work on open education resources is first project where we collaborate with this community. I can only compliment on their work so far, they are dedicated, very open to new ideas and collaborative.
Your diploma and Ph.D. deals with the meaning and influence of graphiti and symbols on politics, national identity, music and also feminism and LGBT-issues. Can you tell us more about that with emphasis on women and lesbians?
Within my primary research field, cultural studies, I have come across many feminist and LGBT-graffiti and street art. I have noticed that this community is very active in these fields, which I see as very encouraging. What I discovered, is the graffiti and street art or guerrilla actions are very innovative and subversive. I also study graffiti and the so-called graffiti wars and I can say that in Slovenia there have been many humorous and politically subversive actions. My work is closely connected to libertarian/autonomous activism and, therefore, with various feminist as well as LGBT-groups. I am a feminist myself and fully support the actions they are involved in., Nowadays, when the world is faced with fascism that is invading our everyday life in a very subtle way I believe the struggle for equality is again of great importance. There is a need for all to actively participate in the struggle for a more inclusive and equal community and such groups are an important contribution to the fight for a better world. Or to conclude with Emma Goldman's quote: »Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.«
What are your plans for the future – include among others working with LB-researchers and scientists? Would you be interested in such work and if yes, why?
I am open to collaborate with LGBT-researchers, however I believe the sexual orientation does not define the researchers or their work.
Hanna Szentpeteri, film director and (screen)writer, you grew up between New York, Slovenia, and Hungary. You also made a film in Tel Aviv, Israel and studied in London, UK. How was growing up in so many different languages and culturally diverse environments? How did all that contribute to your art?
I think it was the best possible way to grow up. As a diplomat's kid, you get to move every four years, so you have to be open to people, you have to be talkative and polite, otherwise you end up alone. Growing up in this way has made me very extroverted and has taught me many important social skills. Every place you live for a prolonged period leaves it's mark on you, of course. It's always hard to leave, and you never quite know where home is. But that's such a small price to pay for all the amazing experiences you get along the way.
You had a youth theatre group in London, for which you also wrote and directed plays. It's called Act Your Stage. What was the main goal and mission of the theatre group and why did you found it in the first place since you are a film director - how does theatre differ from film?
I founded AYS because I wanted to make plays that were for and about young people. I'm a little obsessed with coming of age films, books and plays, so I wanted to create a space where young people can tell their stories about growing up. Even though I make movies now, my background is in theater originally. I wrote my first play at the HB Playwrights Foundation in New York City when I was 14 years old, before I made any films. I originally thought I wanted to work in theater, because of it's spontaneity and accessibility. You can easily make and put on a play for free, but films require a lot of funding. So it was simply an easier way to get started and get young people involved. Now that I am finishing my masters, I have access to funding so I can make movies too, but I will always love doing both film and play directing.
Recently you made a documentary Band vs Brand (2018) with another non-straight director, Simona Jerala about Slovenian female music managers Eva Kristina Filipčič and Maša Pavoković. What is the message or the main point of the documentary? Is the title itself meaningful to you?
Simona and I made this film to shed light on the music management profession in Slovenia. It's always fascinated me how bands need to be "on brand" and have this pressure to produce authentic content. Managers play a very important role in that and while they help bands thrive, not every band is ready for the commitment that takes, as you can see in the film. Simona and I also related to the fact that Maša and Eva are working in a male-dominated profession like us, so we wanted to explore that.
Your Bachelors short film Sonny and the Lost Room (2015) is about a boy who creates a special place for his deceased brother and all the things he lost. The short film was also screened in Cannes Short Film Corner. Can you tell me where did you get the idea and why it was important for you to share with the others?
When I was in high school, my grandfather passed away when I was 15. It was the first family death that I had experienced. I remember getting upset about this phrase "sorry for your loss" that people say to you when someone dies. I was like "I didn't lose him, he's not going to appear under the couch one day." The phrase really troubled me. So I got the idea then, for this "lost room" where everything you've ever lost ends up- people and objects alike. But I didn't really have the guts to make a movie about it until many years later, when my uncle passed away while I was doing my BA in London. I just thought: This is what my diploma film is going to be about. It's time.
Your short film Marushka (2017) is about a growing teenager who builds her popularity through a web of lies. Why did you choose this topic and what did you wish to achieve in the audience?Marushka is about my experience of being the new kid at the film academy (AGRFT). Marushka is about my experience of being the new kid at the film academy (AGRFT), in a way. As you know, I had been the new kid many times before, but I didn't expect it to be a difficult transition as an adult. Coming to Ljubljana from London was harder than I thought. As an extrovert, I attended a bunch of Academy events in my first year, hoping to make connections, but I felt like I was tapping on a window- I could see everyone, but I couldn't really break the glass between us. (Thankfully, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote a song about exactly this called "Waving Through a Window" for the musical Dear Evan Hansen.) But because films are not real life, Marushka does break the metaphorical window pretty forcefully. She lies to everyone to become popular. I think high school is a weird time in life because you're doing all these adult things, maybe for the first time - like drinking or engaging in relationships, but you're still a kid living with your parents. Marushka circumvents this social barrier the only way she knows how - by making up some adulthood that will probably eventually actually happen. It's an exciting time though because Marushka just got accepted to the Scout Film Festival in Vermont, USA.
Your masters film, Iva, 24 is about a girl finishing college with no prospects for a good future. Is this something that concerns your generation?
Certainly. In the film, Iva works at a fast food bar alongside college, which she hates. She is suffering from depression in the film and feels that even if she fumbles through her degree and manages to finish, her life will not change for the better once she obtains it. But that isn't my brilliant idea, it's a based on a beautiful short story of Alja Debeljak. I just wanted to shine a light on depression among young people, because I think awareness and education is the first step towards ending the stigma around depression and mental illness in general.
However, it is worth mentioning that I was accepted to the film academy with a short film about two lesbians who wish to have a baby. That was supposed to be my masters film. We workshopped it for 1 year at the Academy and I handed in a new edit of the script every week. Regardless, my script was too ambitious for a short film, so I made Iva, 24 instead. I still hope to realise a topic like this into a feature film someday
Do you think film art should be progressive and portray certain values and attitudes (i.e. portraying more diverse, inclusive, free, democratic relationships and world)?
Of course. Representation of minority groups has been a serious problem since the media was invented. But I’m happy to say that the awareness about this issue is growing, so I hope to see more LGBTQ+ characters in movies, commercials and TV shows soon that have their own agency and don’t die in the end.
Do you think that sexual orientation of the film director matters in a lesbian and/or bisexual-storyline the same as it matters that transgender actors play in or transgender directors direct transgender story lines?
I think that more LGBTQ+ people should be making media content, that’s for sure. I would actually love to teach a film class specifically for the LGBTQ+ community, to encourage them to tell their authentic stories, so that we won’t only have straight cis people representing us in the media. Having said that, I’m proud that the history of Slovenian Cinema has two feature length fiction films about LGBTQ+ characters and I wouldn’t give that up, even though both directors, Maja Weiss and Nejc Gazvoda, are straight as far as we know. We need fair and respectful representation in the media, and we need it now. If you’re LGBTQ+ and have a story to tell, please write it and make it. Please apply to film schools, get out there, and let’s make diverse content together.
What is your biggest inspiration (film or not film career wise) and what are your plans for the future projects?
My biggest inspiration is Miranda July, hands down. She makes amazing films, art installations, plays and writes books. She just really figured out how to use every medium of art to be perpetuating the same distinct vision - most of her work is about trying to figure out who you are, which is very similar to my favorite topic - coming of age.
I am currently writing my first feature film, which is of course also about coming of age, which I hope to workshop this year
Jenna Laurenzo, you are screenwriter, director, producer. You made a debut with the short film Girl Night Stand. What inspired you to make this sweet story about one night stand which revealed to one of the protagonist that she could be at least bisexual?Girl Night Stand was inspired, because I wanted to make a prequel to Lez Bomb, along with something I could use to pitch a TV series. With Girl Night Stand, in particular, I was interested in exploring the character moving through her sexual identity and discovering something new along the way.
You also wrote, Lez bomb movie. Could you tell us what Lez bomb movie is about and what message do you try to send to the audience?Lez Bomb is a comedy about a still closeted young woman who brings her girlfriend home for Thanksgiving, only to have her coming out efforts thwarted by the unexpected arrival of her male roommate. The protagonist in the film comes to realize the acceptance she is fighting for is her own, and the theme I was most interested in exploring through Lez Bomb was self acceptance, not just with the main character, but with all the characters that make up the family and ensemble.
Your feature and short movies belong to comedy genre. There are quite some lesbian comedies but your really tend to be 'light' – what do you try to accomplish by using comedy as genre in lesbian storytelling and in lesbian audience in particular, since Aristotle defined comedy as portraying people who have some character flaws (and thus he defined them as 'ugly'). Namely, Aristotle defined comedy as an imitation of men worse than the average. However, „the characters portrayed in comedies were not worse than average in every way, only insofar as they are Ridiculous, which is a species of the Ugly.“ This definition is rather odd today and with time it lost its meaning and comedy became only as something to provoke laughter. Romantic comedy which is a very popular genre which depicts romance in humorous terms also focuses on the foibles of those who are falling in love. Do you think your stories coincide with these definitions and if not, why?Yes, I am a fan of Aristotle, though I think his breakdown of storytelling in relation to comedy is representative of the time he lived in. Personally, when it comes to quotes about comedy, I tend to think on Robin Williams quote "Comedy is acting out optimism." I once had a spiritual teacher tell me that laughter was the distance between what we expected to happen, and what happens. I think tragedy is when we hold too tightly to how we wanted life to go, instead of embracing reality. A little distance between our personal struggles allows us to look back through a comedic lens. In life, very often even the greatest of tragedies have comedic moments. I love comedy. I love to laugh. And I love when an audience comes together and shares laughter. In approaching this subject matter through a comedy lens, I hope to tap into the universality of the subject matter, particularly with the family dynamics. I believe comedy provides an amazing access point into subject matters that are often tackled with heaviness through drama. Comedy has the power to invite the audience into the journey, without being heavy handed, hopefully uniting an audience through laughter.
Do you think it is important that lesbian films convey certain values and attitudes, even when it comes to comedy?
You also play in your movies, what is the difference among playing, screenwriting and directing and what do you like or prefer most?Acting, screenwriting and directing all provide an amazing opportunity to dive into storytelling and explore themes, characters and ideas. I don't have a preference, I love them all.
Where/if any do you see similarities and differences in lesbian storytelling in American and European lesbian films?I think every movie is different, continent aside. We tell stories through the lens in which we see the world. Someone making a film in Europe or America is going to tell a story through the lens of growing up wherever they grew up. Maybe if I grew up in California vs. New Jersey my projects would have a different shade! But all films in general are touched by the individual who's telling the story, and hopefully their voice comes through in the most authentic way possible.
What are your plans for the future; you also produce besides directing and playing, which films have you produced yet and why?I am currently developing another feature film and television project. Yes, I have produced, and love that process of bringing people together and collaborating and look forward to continuing to do that!
Thank you so much for your time and for reaching out,
Here is my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jennalaurenzo/
Here's the movie's facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lezbombmovie/?ref=bookmarks
Zehavit Sabag, Israeli film director, (screen)writer and producer. You made a short film Yes and No which was accepted at The Barcelona International LGBT-film festival this July and in this year's anniversary programme of the 30th Paris International Lesbian and Feminist Film Festival in October. What inspired you to write, produce and direct this short film with a contradictory title?
What inspired me in this specific story is interesting because it’s the first experimental short I ever did or write and the original script was even more artistic than the final result. I think the main inspiration is my trying to bring fantasia and realty together, and the conflict that love has for good and bad in both worlds.
Two years ago you made short film "She and I" with the same actresses and it was also screened at The Barcelona International LGBT-film festival. It is a really nice idea of how to present what happens when we have been in love (how mind, body and heart differently react to love). What inspired you to make that short film?
I wrote that script when I was dealing with broken heart and was in the healing process. and that short was my closer with that love.
Do you think that sexual orientation of the actres(ess) matter(s) in lesbian-storylines the same as it matters that transgender actors/actresses play in transgender
I think that it matters and not as matter. There is a thing when an actor or actress comes out, suddenly they get only gay parts in movies and television and I don't like the fact that just because they come out as gay they should only play LGBTQ roles. I think that actors should play a diversity of characters with the right and authentic direction and connection to the character.
How is a lesbian scene in Israel, we all assume Israel is pretty liberal when it comes to LGBT-rights and Pride is held each year in Tel Aviv; how is the actual climate regarding LGBT-people in Israel and also making LGBT-films: are LGBT-people accepted or tolerated, are there many lesbian-gay bars, discos, LGBT-film festivals and events or there is a shortage of them? What regarding equality marriage, adoption of children and just in general LGBT-rights as humans rights?
Yes. we have an amazing pride parade in Tel Aviv and it’s getting bigger and bigger each year. I think that we have a lot of indie LGBTQ short and feature films here and every year we have the TLVFEST INTERNATIONAL LGBT FILM FESTIVAL that helds place in Tel aviv. Freedom, justice and tolerance should be the pillars of any society. We believe Israel must guarantee full social and political equality to all, regardless of religion, race, sex or sexual orientation.
As committed members of the Israeli LGBT community, we struggle for equality and respect by creating a serious, often controversial discourse through the medium of queer cinema. The Tel Aviv International LGBT film festival is the manifestation of this struggle.
The only LGBT film festival in the Middle East, TLVFest is a fixture of Tel Aviv pride week. MovieMaker Magazine chooses TLVFest to one of the 25 Coolest 2018 Film Festivals in the World. Selected twice (2014 & 2015) by INDIEWIRE as one of the 10 LGBT film festivals not to be missed, the festival offers a fascinating look into international and Israeli queer cinematic art. It is also an industry hub of activity. We take pride in the many collaborations and creative work that evolved from TLVFest meet-ups, seminars and workshops over the past decade.
What is it with Jewish lesbian-love stories in connection with Orthodox religion? In 2007 we watched an excellent lesbian-themed film The Secrets (Ha-Sodot) and last year Disobedience both dealing with lesbians and their love stories in oppressive orthodox Jewish community. What is your perspective on these two stories? How do you see religion in (dis)connection to lesbian love in nowadays Israel?
Both of them are very good films with a strong impact. I think it’s important to show the minority communities inside a community, especially when it comes to religion. It’s two thing that are connected to each other and people aren't talking about it enough, therefrom when a movie like this comes out it makes such a big impact. We need more such stories so people can relate to and understand better and to realize that love is love, and love has no boundaries or one god or rules. love is love, simple as that.
Do you think that lesbian love story and its main characters should portray certain important values, such as goodness, fairness, honesty, truthfulness and story to have either moral, political, philosophical message and/or background?
Yes but not only. lesbian, gay, straight, trans, non-binary etc... have all types of feelings and dark sides. It’s more than important to show characters and not only the important values, such as goodness and honesty ...
What is your next film project and most importantly what is your inspiration, where do you get your stories?
My next project is a story about a mother-daughter relationship, and the process that they are going through together as they both dealing with the daughter’s coming out. I’m also working on a Youtube channel named PUSSTHEMA which contains all women-all feminist-lesbian-bi-queer content, written and directed by and for women so I’m looking forward to it as well.
My inspiration is my everyday life, my life experience, I’m looking for stories in the little details in life.
I first noticed your article on AE about “9 Tips for Straight Actresses Who Want to Play Gay” and there is a similar article “Here’s How TV Can Win Gay and Lesbian Viewers’ Trust.” I have watched really a lot of lesbian films and TV shows and I couldn't agree more with all you wrote. What inspired you to write it?
I have a three-fold purpose with my articles: to influence, educate, and inform. Pieces like “Here’s How TV Can Win Gay and Lesbian Viewers’ Trust” are intended to influence the entertainment industry to have more LGBT representation. In essence, these articles seek to use compelling data and evidence to persuade Hollywood that there’s an easily reachable market for LGBT content, and then provide a roadmap for content makers showing them how to reach that market. Pieces like “9 Tips for Straight Actresses…” are intended to educate people within the entertainment industry about the LGBT community: what makes it unique, how to interact with it, etc. And then of course, the informational aspect of articles crosses multiple areas, whether it’s to alert readers to new shows that have good representation or some new trend that’s happening in the pop culture world. Over the last two and a half years, I’ve been purposely building a library of articles that is intended to act as an easy reference for people in the entertainment industry who want to educate themselves more about LGBT issues but wouldn’t even necessarily know what questions to ask or where to find their answers.
Specifically regarding the “9 Tips” piece, I’ve found there’s a tendency among heterosexual actresses to take an LGBT role without doing adequate—or in fact any—study of the LGBT community. I often hear actresses say things like, “Gay and straight people are no different; love is love.” I, personally, would argue that’s an oversimplification on their part that misunderstands and minimizes the uniqueness of the LGBT experience. One of the things about being LGBT that I don’t think is well understood by straight people is that it can be a primary identity for LGBT individuals. For heterosexuals, sexual orientation is like being right-handed: something so natural and common that they don’t think about it as a facet of their identity. But that’s not the case for most LGBT individuals. The LGBT community is a minority community that has a very specific set of experiences and worldviews that merit exploration and preparation the same way that an able-bodied actor would do background research on playing someone with a disability.
I really love how you frequently use statistics in your articles to point out the important facts, recently in the article 'Latin American Markets are the Future of Lesbian TV Characters'. This article is a nice example of how to fight with stereotypes and prejudices regarding female homosexuality in certain parts of the world. Can you tell us why you frequently use statistics to write articles on lesbian representation and what do you wish to achieve with it, do you think article contain stronger message when there are figures behind?
Several years ago, in a movie called “Moneyball,” there was a scene in which a group of old men sit at a table discussing baseball players that they’re considering recruiting for a professional baseball team. The men are using subjective and often flawed ideas on which to base their decisions, things like, “His girlfriend is ugly, so he must have low self-esteem. He won’t do well as a professional baseball player.” Then the young man in the room, who has studied statistics, presents a rigorous statistical analysis for each player, arguing that the recruiters need to base their decisions on data in order to get the best results. The team moves from using subjective feelings to objective information, and as a result the team starts to perform very, very well. This is a true story, by the way, of the Oakland Athletics baseball team in 2002. The point is: numbers can sometimes tell us a truth that is otherwise hidden.
Before 2016, many of us in the LGBT community recognized that lesbian and bisexual characters were consistently being killed off of TV shows, but it wasn’t until someone put together charts and figures proving that the actual number was around 25-30% of all characters ever on American TV, and that this rate was five times higher than the rate at which heterosexual characters were being killed, that Hollywood actually paid attention to the problem. Numbers have tremendous power because they move the conversation from the realm of qualitative (“feelings”) to quantitative (“evidence”). The Latin American markets piece was absolutely about using numbers to tell a story that was otherwise invisible, and in that case numbers were able to tell an immensely more persuasive story than would otherwise have been told using words alone. So I have a great affinity for statistics and metrics because I believe they add a lot of weight to arguments.
Lastly, the other reason that I use numbers so frequently in my articles is because numbers are the language of the entertainment industry. For example, the producers of a TV show might not be moved by the argument that adding a lesbian or bisexual character is a morally commendable and socially progressive thing to do, but if I can prove that having these types of characters will have a measurable impact on the show’s viewership numbers, which equates to profit for the company, that’s when Hollywood starts to listen. And I use “Hollywood” as a metonym for the entertainment industry in general. This same argument can be applied in the UK, Argentina, India, or wherever.
I myself 'strongly vote' for the happy ending lesbian storylines and wrote an article about the importance of happy lesbian love stories by using knowledge about (mostly philosophical) concepts of love through Western history... therefore I also love your articles on Happy Ending Project where it is shown your extensive knowledge on portrayal of lesbians in soap operas throughout the world. Do you think there are differences in lesbian story telling in American, European, Australian and Latin American films, TV-shows and soap operas regarding happy lesbian love stories and in general regarding contents, form and media representation, if yes how?
I would say that in my opinion there isn’t a difference in how stories are told around the world. In this sense, love and love stories are universal, and that’s why “Romeo and Juliet” is performed time and again the world over. Nor is there even much difference in the presentation, given that much of the world takes its inspiration from how Hollywood frames its storytelling. What has surprised me, on the other hand, is how many non-Anglo (US, UK, Canada) storylines have had happy endings, and I think that is a reflection of efforts by content makers in these countries, specifically in Latin America, to shape the reactions of their audiences to homosexuality to be more accepting and positive.
In which ways representation of lesbians in films and TV-series changed in the course of four decades and have we achieved goal of the equal representation of straight and lesbian characters yet? Can you give us five examples of positive change in films, TV and soap operas and explain why they can serve as good examples? What do you think still needs to be done?
Obviously, representation in the United States has changed dramatically in the last four decades, and the entertainment industry is doing much better by all measures both qualitative and quantitative. In the 1990s, one might have seen just three lesbian characters on all of American TV in a single year and one character in a movie. There was almost no representation at all. Then as more lesbian and bisexual characters—most of whom were on TV—were introduced, we started to see the “evil/crazy bisexual woman” trope. Hollywood moved away from that trope within a few years—I’d like to believe in large part due to websites like AfterEllen highlighting how toxic the trope was—and instituted in its place the “lesbians have sad endings” trope. Now we’re at a point where TV shows are adding so many more LGBT characters that it can be hard to keep track of them all, a situation that twenty years before would have been unfathomable.
On the other hand, American movies have a long way to go to catch up. Progress has largely remained stagnant in terms of the numbers of LGBT characters introduced each year despite pushes by groups like GLAAD and websites like AfterEllen and Autostraddle for increased representation. Of course, for both movies and TV we can’t talk about parity between straight and lesbian characters; it’s just not there. The amount of screen time, the amount of physical intimacy, these are tangible metrics that can easily be used to prove the inequality. But the first step for all of this is more characters in general. US TV may be doing better, but what about Canadian TV or German movies? We’re a global community, and progress can’t be limited to just a few Western countries. Progress must happen everywhere.
The five examples that I would highlight showing progress on LGBT representation would be:
Do you think it is important that lesbian actresses play lesbian roles the same as it is important that transgender roles are played by transgender actors/actresses?
I think that’s a very difficult question. LGBT actors are constantly being discriminated against, whether overtly or covertly, and that needs to change, first and foremost. To me personally, the problem is not casting someone who is cisgender to play someone who is transgender or casting a straight woman to play a lesbian, the problem is never casting the transgender or lesbian actors to play anything. To deny minorities the chance to represent even themselves on screen and have the majority take those and all other roles is the height of privilege. As a result, in the case of transgender actors, so long as Hollywood won’t cast them in cisgender parts, then I think absolutely they should have priority on transgender parts. For lesbians, I think it’s perhaps slightly less essential to give priority on lesbian parts because they’ve had some success at winning heterosexual roles. But ultimately, the real need here is for LGBT actors to have an equal chance to get any role, whether that role is cis-, trans-, straight, or gay.
What is it in lesbian community with so called 'lipstick or feminine lesbians'? I have noticed a lot of prejudices and stereotypes regarding them. Do you think that we 'need' to associate them predominantly with heterosexuality and male gaze?
I can only answer that question as it relates to representation on screen. Hollywood does an awful job of showing the great diversity of gender expression that we have in the LGBT community. In Hollywood, 98% of lesbian characters are high femme/lipstick lesbians and the remaining 2% fall somewhere further long the butch scale. That said, this is really just a reflection of Hollywood’s perpetual objectification of all women, regardless of sexual orientation. Hollywood seems to think that the only women worth putting on screen are the ones in mascara, lipstick, and dresses. I do think this limited view of what is “feminine” caters to male viewers—the male gaze—and it unfairly cheats female viewers of all orientations of a realistic depiction of who they are.
What is your next project: what do you hope to achieve with it and what inspires you the most?
My current pet project and future article is looking at the voices of influence in the LGBT pop culture community. Who are our thought leaders? Who drive analysis of trends in a way that has real impact? If I’d been trained as a data scientist, I would have done social network analysis and come up with more concretely backed data, but since I don’t have that training and knowledge, I’m asking pop culture commentators whom I know for their opinions and trying to use that anecdotally-based evidence to reach a conclusion. Mapping out this sort of understanding of our community is important to me to help me understand the intellectual parameters of our community. I often view what happens in pop culture as a barometer for the health of a community, so if I can find what voices have impact, I hope to be able to track what issues are affecting us most and where we see ourselves going. I like to stay busy and always have several projects on which I’m working, so I’m also finishing writing part two of a young adult fantasy fiction duology. Growing up, there weren’t many books that featured queer female protagonists, much less young adult protagonists in the fantasy genre, so it’s important to me to contribute to the community, so that young women today will be able to read stories that speak to their own experience and give them role models to follow.
Ultimately, I’m inspired—or a better word would be “driven”—by the desire to make change. I’ve always been a believer in the LGBT community and in the need to make the world better for my community, however possible. Everything I write is an effort to improve things in one way or another, pushing at the margins and trying to create incremental change that could one day have much greater effects. Although it’s very, very hard to see the impact of what I write, I keep faith that in some way, I’m making life better for the people around me.