Friday, January 28, 2011

Know Your LGBT History - Two looks at transgender characters in films

For my first Know Your LGBT history segment, I featured an episode of the long-running sitcom The Jeffersons in which one of the main characters deals with his friend's sexual reassignment surgery.

It was a groundbreaking episode in both subject and sensitivity. The motion picture industry during that time also dealt with members of the transgender community, but not with as much humor and definitely with little dignity.

And Justice For All (1979) is a popular movie in which Al Pacino plays a lawyer up against an insane legal system. It garnered several awards and is chiefly remembered for Pacino's out-of-control outburst at the end.

And why did Pacino's character freak out? Mostly because of how the judicial system treated his clients, like the transgender woman Ralph Agee (portrayed by Robert Christian). Homophobia leads Agee to be manipulated into committing a small crime and she is deathly afraid of going to jail. The following scene (which was hard for me to watch and even more difficult for me to post) demonstrates why. Agee comes on screen at 3:20. All I can say that it's not a pretty scene:

I might as well reveal what happens to Agee. Pacino's character promises her that she will not serve any jail time, but because of an emergency, calls on another lawyer to defend her. The lawyer screws everything up and Agee is sentenced to jail. Agee then commits suicide.

Fast forward to 2003 where, while things may not be how we want them, they are certainly better for lgbts. And an excellent HBO film demonstrates why.

Normal stars two-time Academy Award nominee and Emmy-award winning actor Tom Wilkinson who, on the night of his 25th anniversary, tells his wife (played by Jessica Lange - no slouch herself in the award department with two Oscars and an Emmy) that he is planning to transition into a woman.

This movie doesn't insult the audience as it tells the story of a man struggling to make changes in his life and his wife trying to support him while both are dealing with how their family and community handles it all. Again, folks are going to get mad at me for giving away the ending but I am happy to report that the family survives:

Normal received several awards including an Emmy for Best Make up as well as nominations for Wilkinson and Lange.

Past Know Your LGBT History Posts:

Know Your LGBT History - Flawless

Know Your LGBT History - Mahogany

Know Your LGBT History - Beverly Hills Cop

Know Your LGBT History - Some Like It Hot

Know Your LGBT History - Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia 

Know Your LGBT History - Dirty Laundry

Know Your LGBT History - The Willie Witch Project

Know Your LGBT History - Spartacus

Know Your LGBT History - Caged

Know Your LGBT History - The Birdcage

Know Your LGBT History - Maude

Know Your LGBT History - That Certain Summer

Know Your LGBT History - Boat Trip

Know Your LGBT History - Staircase

Know Your LGBT History - Beautiful Thing

Know Your LGBT History - Armed and Dangerous

Know Your LGBT History - The Proud Family

Know Your LGBT History - Suddenly Last Summer

Know Your LGBT History - Gay TV Now

Know Your LGBT History - Stewardess School

Know Your LGBT History - Up the Academy

Know Your LGBT History - Don't be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood

Know Your LGBT History - A Different Story

Know Your LGBT History - Victim

Know Your LGBT History - The Color Purple

Know Your LGBT History - Making Love

Know Your LGBT History - A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge

Know Your LGBT History - Noah's Arc

Know Your LGBT History - Ode to Billy Joe

Know Your LGBT History - Adorable Adrian Adonis

Know Your LGBT History - The Night Strangler

Know Your LGBT History - All in the Family

Know Your LGBT History - Tongues Untied

Know Your LGBT History - The Celluloid Closet

Know Your LGBT History - Querelle

Know Your LGBT History - Theatre of Blood

Know Your LGBT History - Strange Fruit

Know Your LGBT History - Designing Women

Know Your LGBT History - The Children's Hour

Know Your LGBT History - Sylvester

Know Your LGBT History - Once Bitten

Know Your LGBT History - The Boys in the Band

Know Your LGBT History - Christopher Morley, the crossdressing assassin

Know Your LGBT History - Midnight Cowboy

Know Your LGBT History - Dracula's Daughter

Know Your LGBT History - Blacula

Know Your LGBT History - 3 Strikes

Know Your LGBT History - Paris Is Burning

Know Your LGBT History - The Women

Know your LGBT History - Soul Plane

Know Your LGBT History - The Player's Club

Special Know Your LGBT History - Fame

Know Your LGBT History - Welcome Home, Bobby

Know Your LGBT History - Barney Miller

Know your lgbt history - The Jerry Springer Show

Know your lgbt history - Martin Lawrence and that 'gay guy' on his show

Know your lgbt history - The Ricki Lake Show

Know your lgbt history - Which Way Is Up

Know your lgbt history - Gays in Primetime Soaps

Know your lgbt history - Boys Beware

Know your lgbt history - The Boondocks

Know your lgbt history - Mannequin

Know your lgbt history - The Warriors

Know Your LGBT History - New York Undercover

Know Your LGBT History - Low Down Dirty Shame

Know Your LGBT History - Fortune and Men's Eyes

Know your lgbt history - California Suite

Know your lgbt history - Taxi (Elaine's Strange Triangle)

Know your lgbt history - Come Back Charleston Blue

Know your lgbt history - James Bond goes gay

Know your lgbt history - Windows

Know your lgbt history - To Wong Foo and Priscilla

Know your lgbt history - Blazing Saddles

Know your lgbt history - Sanford and Son

Know your lgbt history - In Living Color

Know your lgbt history - Cleopatra Jones and her lesbian drug lords

Know your lgbt history - Norman, Is That You?

Know your lgbt history - The 'Exotic' Adrian Street

Know your lgbt history - The Choirboys

Know your lgbt history - Eddie Murphy

Know your lgbt history - The Killing of Sister George

Know your lgbt history - Hanna-Barbera cartoons pushes the 'gay agenda

'Know your lgbt history - Cruising

Know your lgbt history - Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones

Know your lgbt history - I Got Da Hook Up

Know your lgbt history - Fright Night

Know your lgbt history - Flowers of Evil

The Jeffersons and the transgender community

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Homophobes try to disturb David Kato's funeral and other Friday midday news briefs

Violence Erupts at Kato Funeral - Oh Good God! Even after his murder, they try to take away Kato's dignity. They didn't succeed.

Brian Brown: 'I haven't actually seen the film, but...' - Who cares if Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage hasn't really seen the movie he dares to criticize. As long as the lgbt characters in it aren't pitiful self-hating creatures who die before the final scene, then the movie is awful, right?

9 Stupid Myths About Bisexuals Debunked - An article which is sorely needed.

Hysteria and hyperbole – the response to homosexuality in black churches - Handle your business, my brother.

The GOP's quiet evolution on gay rights - Next, tell me the one about the Easter Bunny.

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Homophobic murder in Uganda is not about DOMA or ENDA

The reverberations is still being felt after the assassination of Ugandan lgbt activist David Kato.

The following is a clip of an interview with Kato in which he expressed fear for his life because of the homophobic climate in Uganda:

And now a short message to my lgbt brothers and sisters in America. Some of us have reacted negatively to President Obama's statement condemning Kato's murder. Some have called his statement useless.

Others have said that if the Obama Administration really believed the words in the statement, it would stop defending DOMA in court or push for ENDA.

Folks, this isn't the time for that. This is not about lgbts in America. This is not about DOMA and ENDA. To bring them up is highly insensitive in that it highjacks the issue, which should be about lgbts facing persecution in Uganda.

Whether or not we like President Obama's actions in regards to lgbt rights, this is a time in which we are going to have to push whatever anger we have to the background and stand with him in condemning Kato's murder and the continued dehumanization of lgbts in Uganda.

This doesn't mean that we should remain silent. And we shouldn't. You see it's OUR job to make sure people don't forget Kato nor other lgbts in Uganda. It's our job to make people never forget the simple fact that homophobia is not good - religion based or otherwise.

Homophobia is hate, pure and simple.

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