When I came out to my parents in 1990, there were precious little resources to offer them. In fact, all I could find was a dour book called Now That You Know.
I wish I had had a copy of Alden Peters’ new documentary Coming Out. It’s a personal film in which a gay boy decides to videotape his big announcements to all his family members. Turns out they were used to him videotaping everything anyway, so the tiny cameras pointed at them were no surprise. His actual announcement was a mild surprise, but no shock. All the members of his family embraced him and accepted him. This is both Coming Out’s strength and weakness. It’s a positive portrayal, but I got the feeling that a lot of turgid footage was left on the cutting room floor.
“There were definitely people who responded not super well,” explained Peters by phone. “That didn’t make it into the film because only the ones who were supportive wanted to be in the film.” Which is to say, many people did not sign release forms so he could use the footage. So the film is a bit of a glowing portrait, maybe a tad unrealistic, but nonetheless heartwarming.
“The challenge was how to articulate that internal struggle about coming out,” he told me. “My Go Pro was on the dashboard, making for a one-person crew. I could set up one little camera and have an intimate conversation. I was always filming something, but this one was a little more intense than shooting holidays and vacations. Sometimes the footage quality didn’t get it right, or the conversation strayed from the one cohesive narrative we were trying to tell.”
The most tension comes from telling his father, an outdoorsy macho dude. “I had no idea how my father would respond. None of us did.” And yet the scene, in which he offers his son unconditional love, brought tears to my eyes. It helps that “we’re from Seattle, a much more liberal part of the United States.”
Peters made the film not only for himself, but for “LGBT youth and their families. It challenges the thinking that it’s okay to disown your child.” It wasn’t an easy task. It took Peters five years to shoot and edit the film, which he made while he was still quite young. I can’t help but wonder what he looks like now.
“Things have been great. I’m living in New York City now,” he told me, no doubt planning his next feature. I hope we won’t have to wait five years to see it.
Coming Out is available on all the usual platforms, and is also available for rent at 7/24 Video at 584 Church Street.