Just in time for National Coming Out Day on Tuesday, October 11, Coming Out is a feature-length It Gets Better video. Everyone's coming out process is different, and everyone's is similar in that it is a process, it usually takes time, and it is often scary. Filmmaker Alden Peters was wrestling with coming out and decided,
I think I'll feel less vulnerable if I film everything. It'll give me the extra push.
So Peters takes his camera and sets out to ambush his family and friends and record their reaction to his big announcement. First up is his big brother who isn't surprised and is nothing but supportive. Of course, he's aware he's being filmed. His friends claim to be surprised and attempt to be comedic by asking if he's ever going to develop those "weird flamboyant mannerisms and high-pitched voice." They reassure him that "You're still the same douchebag filmmaker" but mostly they are absorbed with their cell phones.
His father, presented as the epitome of self-reliant machismo, shrugs and tells the camera, "I thought he was going to tell me something terrible." His younger sister offers to share her Barbies, and his younger brother cracks jokes but is basically non-plussed other than annoyance at being the last to be told. It is all very reassuring and heartwarming but, alas, dramatically inert.
Peters' mother is supportive and her curiosity gives the film its best line, "Does it hurt in the butt?" Unfortunately Peters replies, "We're not going to talk about that," and an opportunity for an intense, interesting discussion is lost. This echoes an earlier scene where Peters searches online for information on being gay and then for gay hookups. He does titillate his friends by bragging that he has had anonymous sexual liaisons through Craigslist, but then drops any hint of sexuality or emotion or danger, preferring to have "gay" be an abstract harmless concept.
Peters attends his first gay pride parade and it is the most concerning portion of the film. The footage of gyrating shirtless men and genderbending dragsters is underscored by ominious music, disdainful narration and no explanation of his rather effeminate but fun and exuberant date for the event. Peters is interviewed afterwards, for the first time looking disheveled and well, gay, clad in a t-shirt with a plunging neckline that reveals a hint of chest hair. He says, "Just because I like men, doesn't mean I'm part of this community," and we realize that the person Peters needs to come out to the most is himself, the rest of his world doesn't really care.
And that could be a dramatically compelling journey - it's one that most of us are constantly on as we confront our internalized homophobia and prejudices - but Peters has more important things on his mind: "It's one thing to tell your friends or your family but when it's Facebook, it's official." Is Coming Out a satire on how disconnected the most connected-ever generation is?
Peters includes YouTube videos of other people's coming out stories and some are dramatic, heartbreaking or inspiring. It also unfortunately emphasizes just what a place of privilege that Peters is coming from. Then he is rescued by a YouTuber who says, "I remember thinking then, that it's such a big deal. Now it's, 'I came out, whatever.' But I forget that there is nothing more terrifying in that moment."
Peters ends the film with a passive-aggressive apology,
That's my story. Sorry it's not rife with strife or tribulation.
During my coming out it would have been great to have had a warm, fuzzy reassuring film, an It Gets Better primer, so Coming Out fills a need. And with Peters touring gay film festivals with Coming Out, his next film (and there is sure to be a next, Coming Out is well-produced and financed by crowdfunding, no small feat) should dig a little deeper as Peters finishes his process of coming out.
Coming Out will be released via Wolfe Video on October 4th on DVD/VOD, across all digital platforms including iTunes, Vimeo On Demand, and WolfeOnDemand.com