If anyone knows the hardships of being queer, it’s Vivek Shraya. The Toronto artist has documented his struggles with homophobia and coming to terms with his sexual identity for more than a decade through film, literature and music.
But in Shraya’s latest short film, What I Love About Being Queer, the tables have turned.
Aptly named, the film – an independently produced feature making its way through Canadian film festivals this summer – poses a simple question: what do you love about being queer? The result is a hopeful 18-minute foray into the minds of 34 ordinary queers that speaks volumes, one that counters the “hate” culture of homosexuality as presented in Shraya’s former works.
“It’s a question we don’t ask ourselves, or generally get asked,” Shraya says. “But it’s an important one.”
The film features a diverse range of faces and identities, from the likes of musician Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sara), TV personality Alex Brown (of 1 Girl, 5 Gays) and Canadian novelist Farzana Doctor, though no subjects are explicitly named on screen.
It’s a way, Shraya says, for the audience to engage with and relate to “everyday” queer faces.
And these queers bare all. From post-practice gym-shower encounters with other men to fantasies of being part of a “secret gay society,” the cast never shies away from the nitty-gritty. All the while, Shraya follows up this “raunch humour” with commentary on serious matters, touching on both the stigma of HIV/AIDS in queer communities and the ongoing fight for equal civil rights.
The film is heavily influenced by Shraya’s own interactions with queer youth struggling to come to terms with their sexual and gender identities in his day job as an educator at Toronto’s George Brown College. However, unlike other “forward-thinking” film projects, like Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, What I Love About Being Queer strives to embrace the perks of being queer in the present. It’s a step away from the “tragic” culture of queer youth suicides; rather, Shraya says, it examines “what happens when [queers] live.”
“So many youth view queerness as a negative part of their identity,” he says. “This film is filled with reasons to love this part of themselves.”
Filmed entirely in Shraya’s Toronto apartment in October 2011, What I Love About Being Queer is a candid and raw look at queerness. In some scenes, the hum of Shraya’s refrigerator or soft giggling can be heard off in the distance. It all makes for an honest yet familiar account of being queer.
At best, Shraya’s intimate yet humorous approach is a welcome change of pace. It is a much-needed piece in the puzzle that is Shraya’s own identity and artwork.
It is a step forward.
For screening dates and more info about the film, visit vivekshraya.com.