“Queer City” delves into the lives of New York City’s lesbian and bi women

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When you think about the LGBT movement in North America, one city is a clear standout—New York. More specifically, the Stonewall riots of 1969 in Greenwich Village come to mind. I recently visited New York and essentially made a pilgrimage to the neighborhood out of a sense of curiosity and a feeling of duty. And yet I found, as I’m sure many others have, that it wasn’t the bustling gayborhood I was expecting. This poses the obvious question: who makes up New York’s LGBT community today, and where are they? The new documentary Queer City explores these themes and more.

11391735_853517528073900_3784429736098527197_nAll photos via Showdog productions

More than four decades have gone by since the Stonewall riots and some of the differences between then and now are obvious. Today, more people are out than ever before because of legal protections and changing mentalities (although a lot of work is still needed on the gender identity front). Many same-sex couples have children, and as of 2011 they’ve been able to legally get married. But who are these people, and what are their stories? Taking a small diverse group of men and women, Queer City tries to reflect the new New York.

Some of the most intriguing subjects in the film are the perfectly butch Tee, moms Sarah and Kris, female gay porn director mr. Pam, and trans man Eric. You definitely won’t be watching the usual suspects.

Tee’s a character. Everyone knew she was a lesbian since the age of seven, and she had it absolutely confirmed by 13 when she kissed a boy and hated it. After lying about her age and landing her first girlfriend at 17, she’s been a serial monogamist involved in one long-term relationship after another. But it’s not been all fun for Tee. She’s been in abusive relationships, had troubles with drugs, spent time in jail, and, despite coming from a big Latino family, she doesn’t really have a family life anymore. She’s lost five sisters to HIV, a brother to cancer, her father to a heart attack, and her mother to, in Tee’s opinion, a broken heart. These days Tee lives alone, but her warm personality has kept good friends in her life.

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Tee’s Queens’ working class lifestyle is drastically different from Sarah and Kris’ life in Brooklyn. The two met while they were undergrads at Yale, and today a good chunk of their daily schedule consists of driving their twins around in a Toyota Sienna minivan. What the movie does that’s really interesting is turn the camera on the kids, Lia and Gabriel, for one-on-one interviews. They’re pretty open when it comes to talking about what they believe are the advantages and disadvantages of having two moms. They’re a poster family for same-sex parenting–they’re just so damn normal and adorable!

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In her own way, mr. Pam is adorable, too. The fact that she’s bisexual is the least interesting thing about her. In case you’re wondering, she assumed the pseudonym mr. Pam because of worries that a woman wouldn’t know what makes for hot gay male porn. Even though she’s now widely known in her field, the name has stuck. Yet the most surprising thing we learn is that she’s considering having a child with her main partner, a top actor in gay adult film, despite not supporting monogamy. That’ll certainly be a twist on your traditional nuclear family.

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But this isn’t a film about the traditional or about those who adhere to the “norm.” This is a film that highlights individuals like Eric, who lived in Coney Island with his Haitian family during his transition. While his mother had come to accept him as a lesbian before, his decision to live his life as his true self stretched that support to its limits.

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Quite the crowd, right? By also featuring two gay men (one of whom is in his eighties), Queer City gets points for trying to show the diverse reality that is New York City. And while the artsy transition scenes were a bit overbearing at times and some scenes went on for too long, overall this was a well-made movie. That’s not to say this is a revolutionary film by any means. Instead, what it shows is that members of the LGBT community are spilled out across the city, and that many of them are enjoying happy, ordinary lives. Sometimes it just feels good to hear about those stories too.

Queer City is playing at Reel Affirmations in Washington, D.C. on August 29. Visit the movie’s Facebook page for future screening news, or check in with your local LGBT film festival to find out when it’ll be playing near you.

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