“Mum, I’m gay.”
For those outside of the LGBTQ+ community, the weight of these three words (or their counterparts; “I’m bisexual”/“I’m transgender”, etc) can be difficult to comprehend. Many well-meaning people even question the necessity of such a declaration, blissfully unaware of the continued assumption that everyone is cisgender and heterosexual. For LGBTQ+ individuals, however, ‘coming out’ is often an intrinsic part of our personal development; the reaction of family and friends to one’s true self has ruined as many lives as it has made. Within this community, the majority of us have our own story – whether that story be tragic or comic, neat or messy, drawn-out or quickly resolved— and it is the broadcasting of these tales that Denis Parrot’s documentary Out concerns itself with.
The film takes clips of individuals either informing their relatives of their sexuality/gender or reflecting on their coming out stories, and presents these videos in a clear manner void of all context bar the name of the person, their location, and the time of recording. Largely – though not entirely – from the perspective of young people, these intimate moments are captured and memorialised. Assembled roughly within Parrot’s film, the viewer is exposed to the full range of experiences, from the breathtaking relief of loving acceptance, to the despair of violent rejection.
All too often, regardless of the result of their coming out, there is an almost unbearable sense of panic as these teenagers talk to their distanced viewers, explaining how they have been putting this off for so long. Such a threatening secret hangs palpably in the air: every time a young person exposes their deepest vulnerabilities, there is a chance they could be disowned, beaten, or even killed. For many, of course, this is not the case, and in these moments, Out is as heartwarming as it is devastating. When a father firmly instructs his pre-pubescent gay son that he will never stop loving him, the overwhelming rush of joy is striking; perhaps, if all heterosexual parents were like this, we would not need to worry about the welfare of our youth.
Out refuses to underplay the reality of homophobia, however. One twenty year old man appears to physically fight off his parents as he explains that his sexuality is not a choice, whilst a young lesbian struggles to explain to her mother that no, she will not eventually find the right man. The rigidity of mainstream thought appears even more heartbreaking when paired with the relaxed, loving nature of many responses – this acceptance was the simple pleasure that each rejected youth was hoping for.
With an unapologetic emotional core, this is a documentary that quietly reflects on a uniquely LGBTQ+ experience. Presenting the evidence before its audience fragment by fragment, story by story, response by response, Out makes no arguments, instead asking the viewer to simply empathise with the human on screen.
‘Out’ will be showing at Fragments Festival at Genesis Cinema, London on Sunday 9th June. Book your tickets here.