Embracing Queerness & Authenticity Through Film - Diana's Story (Part One)
Being different never scared me. I thought being different was mostly a good thing.
Even in childhood, I was not afraid to march to the beat of my own drum. I dressed uniquely, made jokes that went over my peers' heads, dyed my hair, and always held my own opinions confidently. As I got older though, I realized that there were social consequences to being too different. I had inklings of queerness my whole life, but felt far too self-conscious and uncertain about it to give it much thought, and distracted myself from those thoughts with my filmmaking and art.
I’ve been passionate about the art of storytelling for as long as I can remember, and pursuing film always seemed like the right move to those who knew me. Even though I felt self-assured in the things I was pursuing, there was an awareness within my personal identity, and I could feel I was missing something palpable. Looking back, both my artistry and my personal life lacked some authenticity in my early twenties, because I was trying to fit into an unfittable box, afraid to be different.
Being gay was not a concept I knew existed at all until age 11, so it was out of my periphery entirely. By the time I understood what it was to be gay, I perceived it was something that would only make my life harder if I acknowledged it. I always thought (and hoped) I was simply very empathetic to the experience of not fitting in, or feeling different. I did not mind being different, but I feared being hated. I didn’t know any gay people as a kid, and when they’d make their way into the media I watched, it was almost never a kind portrayal, much less relatable. As I got a bit older and I started to see more queer-coded characters, and even explicitly gay characters, I’d find them much more relatable.
While countless experiences and lessons have helped me advance as a filmmaker throughout these last ten years or so, I think the most important element in my improvement as an artist and human being really was, just… being out of the closet. Merely existing as lesbian in my mid and late 20s has helped build my confidence– because I now live authentically, and the art I create feels true to me now more than ever.
In my early 20s I discovered the Wachowski sisters’ first film, Bound, which I can only describe as a dark comedy/gangster-thriller about two gay women, set almost entirely in two Chicago apartment units. The film primarily focuses on the emotional connection and chemistry of the two leads, and I believe the reason it really stuck out to me was because it’s not a film about queer misery and suffering. The cool and confident leads made me want to craft stories and characters in that vein, and at that point in my life, I hadn’t seen a lot of that representation.
It can be exhausting when it seems the majority of movies about gay people, or any minority, are reduced to being social-problem films only. While there’s tremendous value in movies that show discrimination and suffering, it’s also important that people be exposed to art and media that explores queer freedom, confidence, and joy. While Bound wasn’t the first movie I had seen with lesbian characters, it had never really occurred to me to make stories like that myself until I saw it. By the time I had seen the movie, I was out as queer, but I was still almost exclusively exploring straight relationship dynamics and characters in my films at that point.
Now that I’m a bit older and have a much better awareness of who I am, I know exactly the kind of films I want to be making, the stories I want to be telling. In late 2022, I wrote and directed an experimental LGBTQ horror short starring women called The Static Syndrome, which is currently in post-production. It was a complete departure from anything I had ever done, and it was such a great experience working with a lot of talented queer folks and women to bring the project to life. The next feature film I’ve been writing is a mockumentary about musical theatre and true crime. It’s been a special opportunity to explore some nuances of LGBTQ life and my own personal connections in that project. I’ve made an effort to explore facets of queerness that I have not yet personally seen portrayed in movies before, and I really look forward to sharing these things I currently have in progress. The goal for me has always been to make art that resonates with other people, creates connection, and brings something different to the table. I hope someday my little stories might just make other folks, queer or not, want to pursue art and tell their stories as well, because sharing authenticity is the best and most powerful thing about storytelling.
Written by: Diana Peters, one of our video producers at Lightswitch Video as part one of a two-part series.