Movies for Militant Queers

It’s the first Pride Month since Covid has been defanged and I feel like going to the fucking movies. The only problem is that in 2022 all the movies fucking suck and what few Queer flicks that make it to the marquee are no exception to the rule. Every Hollywood asshole’s idea of diversity essentially amounts to giving some poor unfortunate niche another reboot hand-me-down of something that already sucked to begin with, as if an all-genderqueer version of Police Academy or Ghost Birthing Person starring Leslie Jones is some kind of great leap forward for progress rather than just another shallow, quota-checking, excuse for starlet raping producers to give themselves a rim-job for being nice to weird people between cocktails.

Even the streaming platforms that roll out the rainbow flag like a slip-n-slide to getting mugged by premium services don’t fucking get it and how could they? Corporate breeders seem to see Pride Month as an excuse to proliferate an ever-expanding network of increasingly Disneyfied drag show competitions. I like RuPaul as much as the next dyke willing to ignore the fact that she essentially plagiarized her whole persona from the decidedly less PC Vaginal Davis, but reality TV is reality TV, and this isn’t what Pride is about. Pride Month is a holiday to commemorate a fucking riot. A street fight with the NYPD where a pack of furious fairies and belligerent bulldaggers drew the line and beat the holy fucking Christ out of any breeder in blue dumb enough to cross it. We torched fucking cop cars and literally sent those pigs running for their lives for fucking with a seedy little Queer autonomous zone called the Stonewall Inn.

So where are all the scary Queers now? Where are all the movies about faggots with guns and trannies who kick ass? Well, they’re right here, dearest motherfuckers. As always, when I get mad, and I get pissed, I do as L7 instructed me, and write up a list, this time of movies for Queers like me who throw bricks. This is a list of movies about sexual mavericks and gender outlaws who are a force to be reckoned with. Freaks who bash back. And as always, it’s a weird and decidedly upsetting hodge-podge of foreign films, indie flicks, and badly misunderstood movies that not everyone is gonna like. But this is my blog and until the government finally takes it away and drags me off to Gitmo, it will always be a safe space for me to piss you off. However, if you’re like me and you feel like kicking (or fucking) a little ass every June then you might want to check these flicks out.

The Handmaiden (2016) by Park Chan-wook– I knew I was a lesbian before I even knew I was trans and this brilliantly mind-bending masterpiece by the undisputed Jesus Christ of Korean cinema, Park Chan-wook, is without a shadow of a doubt my absolute favorite lesbian flick. It’s the story of a Korean pickpocket and a Japanese heiress who get exploited into a scam to rip-off the abused heiress and fuck over the penniless pickpocket sent to manipulate her out of her fortune only for the two damsels in distress to fall in love and turn the tables against all the male masterminds trying to use these women like pawns in their sexist little game. It also has the most beautifully shot lesbian sex scenes ever directed by a breeder. The moral of the story is that those who underestimate Queer women do so at their own risk because we’ve all been forced to become dangerous to survive the games powerful cis-men play.

Monster (2003) by Patty Jenkins– Even Queer people don’t want to think about women like Aileen Wuornos, whose tragically short existence serves as the basis for Monster, during Pride Month. But Pride Month is precisely the time when we should remember women like Aileen Wuornos, not just because even the monsters are our people too but because these are the Queer people who the Pride Parade left behind. Wuornos wasn’t born a serial killer. She became one after years of abuse and survival sex. A rap sheet that is still despicably common to the Queer experience. By some strange miracle that monster was able to find an equally lost girl who could see the humanity behind her scars, and she literally killed to keep that girl safe because it was the only way she knew how to survive. We don’t just owe it to Aileen Wuornos to remember that we still live in a society where our own people are disposable if they aren’t pretty enough to be props for liberal do-gooders to virtue signal with, we owe it to ourselves.

Fight Club (1999) by David Fincher– It might seem ironic that the film that essentially predicted the rise of incels and Proud Boys is also the most homoerotic thing Hollywood ever tried to pull the plug on but it’s really not. Chuck Palahniuk, the brilliant Queer novelist who penned the story this cult classic was based on, was trying to warn us of what happens when you try to domesticate a gender identity. While women and other gender outlaws used the tools of feminism to pick the locks on our cages, stubborn cis-men became prisoners of a shrinking binary prison designed by the patriarchy that supposedly served them. Stuffed into monkey suits and office towers with their emotions on mute, they became ticking time bombs waiting to explode. The result was a lot of really pissed off bros willing to beat each other to a bloody pulp half-naked in sweaty basements just to be able to find some kind of intimacy within their own locker room without being labeled a fag. Mainstream society should be careful when they judge the fall out of toxic masculinity because mainstream society produced it. Fight Club just tried to warn you. You should have listened instead of shooting the messenger.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999) by Kimberly Peirce– There is no point in denying that Boys Don’t Cry is a tragic story. After all, it’s a movie that ends with a brutal hate crime. But it is a massive mistake to simply pass Brandon Teena, the transman this film is based on, off as a victim, because Brandon was a fucking outlaw, a man in black in the tradition of Leslie Feinberg and Johnny Cash. Brandon found himself a drifter on the wrong side of the law because he refused to play by any man’s rules but his own and even after being outed by the wanna-be tough guys who envied his unique bravado, he refused to leave town with his head low. You see, Brandon Teena didn’t die just because he was trans. Brandon Teena died because he was a man. He was at least twice the man as those cowards who had to put a bullet in his head and a knife in his heart just to keep him down. You can choose to remember the way Brandon died but make no mistake that this is a movie about the way Brandon lived.

Set It Off (1996) by F. Gary Gray– While this criminally underrated classic about four Black women from the hood who rob banks to get on the right side of capitalism’s rigged game isn’t strictly a Queer film, Queen Latifah’s powerhouse performance as the badass buck Cleo Sims is about the finest display of the delicate balance that is feminine masculinity that you’ll ever find in a modern crime film. After seeing this movie for the first time, I wanted to be Cleo Sims when I grew up. She was a gangster who I could finally relate to. That’s because what made Cleo such a bad motherfucker wasn’t just the fact that she could out-swear, out-shoot, and out-fuck Nino Brown any day of the week, it was the fact that her strength came from a distinctly feminine place. It came from a place of deep empathy. The way she lights up one last cigarette and puts her Impala up high on its hydraulics before driving directly into a hail of police bullets to save her sisters in crime makes me cry every fucking time. We should all grow up to be like Cleo.

Shortbus (2006) by John Cameron Mitchell– Once upon a time there was a place called DUMBA. To your average garden-variety straight person, it was just another shitty Brooklyn warehouse under a bridge but to a select few lonely horny faggots and trannies it was home, a lusty loft away from the prying eyes of Guiliani’s Stop-and-Frisk and Dubya’s Patriot Act, where the Queer revolution still roared red hot, and Stonewall never ended. John Cameron Mitchell knows because he was there. This boldly pornographic masterpiece plays like a love letter to what may have been Gotham’s last pre-gentrified Queer sanctuary, and it is a glorious send off, resplendent with romance and comedy and fucking, so much glorious fucking. Because sometimes the only thing louder than a brick through a police station window is a throbbing cock clutched like a microphone.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) by Jonathan Demme– I know I’m going to get so much shit for this one but just hear me out. The character known as Buffalo Bill aka Jame Gumb is a heinously transphobic trope that plays into every awful stereotype ever hurled at my people by the likes of Hollywood, a deranged and perverted sissy who murders innocent cis-women just so “he” can skin them like game and wear their flesh like pelts. If this thing didn’t exist, the GOP would have to shoot it themselves for the mid-terms. But what if we fucking owned it? What if we decided to reclaim Jame Gumb like an old slur and wear her like a woman-suit to spook the breeders? Where has being polite and respectable to these people ever gotten us? We send them camera candy like Caitlyn Jenner, and they still paint us as perverted monsters. So why not just fucking own it? Jame Gumb only started skinning his humps after being denied life-saving treatment by several elite universities full of cisgender medical gatekeepers who decided that she was too damaged to deserve to be made whole. The biggest tragedy here is that Billie didn’t go around eviscerating those doctors instead of fat chicks who have almost always been our straightest allies. But straight men still fear Buffalo Bill. They still shiver when they hear “Goodbye Horses.” Good. I say we take this Queer panic and weaponize it against the dicks who terrorize our children with their schools and their laws. Let’s reclaim Jame Gumb and make her our patron boogeyman. Let’s teach them what real pain is.

Paris is Burning (1990) by Jennie Livingston– Like Shortbus, Paris is Burning is a movie about a time and place that feels like my community has been robbed of by gentrification and Disneyfication. Jennie Livingston’s brilliant documentary catches New York’s Ball Culture at the height of its underground glory, where a vibrant tapestry of runaways and throwaways of every color found themselves and each other in the heady haze of street theatre and intentional families more intimate than blood. They’re all gone now. All those beautiful people, lost to a plague that Anthony Fauci had to be harassed into taking seriously and sexually frustrated straight men who had to murder angels like Venus Xtravaganza because their unique beauty was too bold for their simple minds to comprehend. But that’s the thing about the Balls and DUMBA. These were never really places to begin with. They were communities too rare and wild to last long enough for some asshole to ever assimilate them into the straight world. They were what the late Queer anarchist Hakim Bey called Temporary Autonomous Zones, roaming utopias that travel like magic dust storms, and as long as there are proud freaks willing to bleed to be free these moments of glorious temporary insanity will continue to be inevitable.

The Doom Generation (1995) by Gregg Araki– My absolute favorite movie on this list is naturally the meanest and most brazenly politically incorrect thing to lurk from the smoke of the New Queer Cinema movement in the nineties. Gregg Araki never played by the rules. Just being unapologetically bisexual in that supposedly open scene made him a pariah, but fabulous freaks like Gregg make their own goddamn rules just so they can have fun breaking those too. The Doom Generation was his masterpiece, a psychedelic post-apocalyptic road film about a couple of nihilistic teens and the bisexual drifter who completes their menage, attempting to escape the ultraviolence of suburbia that just won’t let them go without a fight. It is a gigantic obnoxious belch in the face of pink washed LGBTQ(TM) respectability and it’s better than the drugs Gregg took to make it. But it’s Rose McGowan in her first leading role who makes this thing burn like a fucking road flare by the side of a five-car pile-up, as the foul-mouthed slut, Amy Blue, telling the straight world to “Eat my fuck!” After seeing that punk rock porcelain doll hack a pack of skinheads to death with a pair of garden sheers, I knew I had to be a girl even if I had to kill someone.

Let the Right One In (2008) by Tomas Alfredson– While not often seen as a Queer film, too many people overlook the fact that this moody blood-soaked Swedish romance isn’t actually about a lonely little boy who falls in love with the new girl in town who turns out to be an ancient vampire, it’s about a lonely little boy who falls in love with the new girl in town who turns out to not only be an ancient vampire but a castrated boy forced to adopt her gender performance in order to survive as a creature society deems monstrous. But at its bleeding heart, Let the Right One In is about outcasts learning to stand up for themselves. It takes a century old Queer survivalist like Ell to empower Oskar to take on his bullies and this is exactly what Stonewall was really about and why it should matter to everyone.

Being Queer is about being proud to be a freak and beating the shit out of anyone who tries to push you back into that closet, whether they’re a 12-year-old-bully or a role-crazy cop. When we bash back, we make everyone stronger, not just the people in our tribe but every girl who’s ever made herself sick to be some man’s version of pretty, every redneck who’s ever been ripped on for growing up poor in a doublewide, every scrawny boy who’s been called a faggot for not meeting some jock’s expectations for masculinity, and every fucking outcast who doesn’t want to fit in to stand tall. The first brick at Stonewall was thrown for all of us and this brick is thrown for you.

In June, every freak is a member of my family, dearest motherfuckers, and every bully gets their ear split open with our flagpole. Stonewall was a fucking riot, and that riot isn’t over until we all get free.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.