'The Out List': Neil Patrick Harris and more discuss homosexuality in stirring HBO documentary
There's a moment in "The Out List" when Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Milk," says, "My hope is that we win this fight much faster than many think we can. I want to be out of the business of civil rights fighting as soon as possible." It's a sentiment many in the LGBTQ community (this reviewer included) share, to be sure, but it suffers from a strange bit of timing.
The HBO Films documentary, comprised of intimate interviews with notable members of the LGBTQ community, had the rare misfortune of airing on Thursday (June 27) -- just a day after the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Prop 8, rendering them both unconstitutional. Wednesday was a monumental day in the continued struggle for equal rights, and it's unfortunate that the film airs on the heels of the advancement as it can't help but feel incomplete without comments on the news.
That bit of uncontrollable timing aside, "The Out List" is a touching look at the disparate voices in America's homosexual community. There are the big names you'd expect to hear from (Neil Patrick Harris, Wanda Sykes, Ellen Degeneres), but it's the films inclusion of lesser-known individuals that provide its heft.
There's the sobering moment when writer/activist Janet Mock, who happens to be a transgendered woman, reminds us that she and others like her are often ignored in the quest for gay rights. "We've had many, many victories and celebrations for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters, but we can't ignore the fact that transgendered people are casualties in this fight," she says. "The federal government does not protect us from discrimination when we're trying to apply for a job or keep our job."
There's the moment when Lupe Valdez, the openly gay, Democrat Sheriff of Dallas County, Texas, recounts her near-impossible win in the 2004 election. There's Wazina Zondon, an openly gay Muslim Afghani-American teacher, who recounts her struggle with the tradition-based shame her coming out placed upon her father.
These are moments that give the film its power. These are the human moments that pull away from the celebrity and remind that this fight for equality affects us all. Cynthia Nixon, who closes the film, perhaps says it best: "This is what the gay rights movement is about -- saying that I as a gay person am part of 'we.' It can't be 'us and them' anymore. We have to understand we're all 'us.'"
"The Out List" comes from filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who has previously created "The Black List: Volumes 1, 2 and 3" and "The Latino List: Volume 1" for the cable network, setting precedent for a follow-up. With such monumental news begging to be commented on, here's hoping "The Out List: Volume 2" isn't far off.
What did you think of "The Out List"?