Ellen DeGeneres Wednesday night tweeted her support about a powerful gay rights video by Ryan James Yezak that has gone viral — even before the mention from the superstar. The video, titled, “The Gay Rights Movement,” is a compilation of clips that starts with a 1960′s CBS News documentary that blares, “most Americans are repelled by the notion of homosexuality,” and walks the viewer through almost seven minutes of gay rights history — and anti-gay hate — including a few moments of Ms. Degeneres discussing the tragic murder of gay teen Larry King. The video, embedded in sites from Towleroad to Good, has gotten almost 1.2 million hits on YouTube since being uploaded just two days ago.
Degeneres wrote, via Twitter, “I hope you’ll watch this powerful video about equal rights. I’m proud to have been included.”
Unfortunately, some in the gay community have some concerns about who’s not included in the video.
Daniel Villarreal, writing at MetroWeekly’s Poliglot, did some extensive research on Yezak’s video — the first of five the fledgling filmmaker has promised — and wrote that it “captured the attention of LGBT bloggers Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend and Karen Ocamb of LGBT POV, who criticized Yezak’s video for excluding lesbians, transgender people and people of color in his presentation of ‘the gay rights movement’.”
An ambitious chart in Villarreal’s article diagrams the representation of known gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, also sorted by race, in Yezak’s short film, which is a documentary within a larger project Yezak calls “Second Class Citizens.”
“The concern — expressed by Spaulding, Ocamb and others — is that his final documentary will convey LGBT issues as mainly concerning gay white men as opposed to the many races, genders and gender identities fighting inequality throughout the LGBT community,” Villarreal reports. “And, though hardly the first to do so, bloggers and others appear to be more directly raising the question of whether that is the correct path now.”
Noting that she “hope[s] to see more from the talented Yezak,” Spaulding writes that her “quibble with the piece is about the decisions revolving around what is and isn’t included.”
Aside from clips of Ellen DeGeneres talking about the murder of Lawrence King (and a blink-of-an-eye clip of her coming out on her sitcom), you’d think lesbians are practically non-existent in the movement. And it’s definitely “gay rights” only – don’t expect anything related to trans folk here either. If gays and lesbians are second-class citizens, you have to wonder what society considers transgender citizens if we render them invisible from the movement (as bis already are).
And people of color? Well, aside from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (an opportunity to show gay activist and organizer of the March on Washington, from which the clip is taken, Bayard Rustin, was missed), one unmistakable landmark event in gay rights history is Lawrence v. Texas, which revolved around an interracial couple, John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner. Not in the clips. Note: if Dan Choi hadn’t been in the DADT-related clips, then the vid would have been a complete whitewash. It’s kind of sad.
Karen Ocamb, writing at LGBT|POV, adds,
If the LGBT movement for civil rights is constantly portrayed and perceived as rich, white and highly sexualized younger gay men – what about the rest of us second class citizens who don’t fit that mold? We’re part of LGBT history and the movement, too, and have long struggled against invisibility both inside and outside the movement.
But aside from that easily correctable concern, Ryan James Yezak has indeed created a powerful first look. I cringed when I heard Mike Wallace and the other creeps talking about the ugly shame of homosexuality. This is what so many of us heard and internalized – voices that lead some like myself to consider suicide instead of bearing the shame of this unshakable “evil perversion.”
But for now, however, Yezak is off to a successful start. He’s more than doubled his fundraising goal of $50,000, and done it not in the two months allotted on Kickstart, a fundraising site, but in about a week. And, all criticism aside, he’s created a moving film.
$100,000, a viral video, and a tweet from Ellen Degeneres, all in a matter of days. Chances are that whatever criticisms of the video some may have, Ryan James Yezak is smiling — all the way to the bank. Hopefully, Yezak will take all the criticism to heart — and in stride — and make more moving films.
Editor’s note: Yezak did not respond to repeated requests from The New Civil Rights Movement for comment.
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