Archive | Queer Matters

The Courage of Intimacy: ‘Carol’

Walking out of “Carol,” director Todd Haynes’s newest film, I had to laugh about our need to sneer at the past no matter how much we fetishize it. Progress is elliptical, not linear, though the LGBT community can be forgiven for temporarily forgetting this fact. This year alone we’ve achieved civil rights inconceivable only decades before–when AIDS patients were treated by the government as if they’d earned their fate, and simply being gay could deny us of our legal right to work, live, find shelter, and, of course, love.

Amid this unprecedented groundswell of mainstream acceptance comes Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 eponymous novel about a love affair between the titular married socialite and Therese, a shopgirl twenty years her junior. Originally published under a pseudonym and with a different title, the book not only reflects the obstacles facing a lesbian couple in the mid-twentieth century but the holistic confusion facing any woman coming of age – when the world claims her body and sexuality before she’s grown comfortable with them herself. Students of queer and feminist literature have long prized the novel’s precision and defiant optimism, and for good reason. It is a quiet tour de force that remains radical today. Continue Reading →

Retro/gressive: ‘The New Girlfriend’

As far back as his 1996 short, “A Summer Dress,” in which a gay man has sex with a woman and enjoys wearing her clothes, French writer-director François Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “8 Women”) has explored gender and sexual fluidity in his films. So it’s not a surprise to find him examining transgenderism in his latest, “The New Girlfriend.” What is surprising is his mealy-mouthed approach, which may stem from the antecedent material, a chilly 1985 Edgar Award-winning short story by British mystery writer Ruth Rendell. The LGBT movement has made almost incalculable progress in the last thirty years and, in her writing, Rendell (who died last spring) was hardly awash in sympathy for her fellow humans even when they did cleave to convention. Still, Ozon’s flair for melodrama – an out-of-fashion genre that doesn’t receive its due – as well as his careful treatment of the complexity of female friendship saves this from being a purely nasty piece of work. Continue Reading →

My Trans-Everything Cousin

Pictured here is my amazing cousin Martine, as featured in a lengthy New York Magazine profile. Ironically, though she shares my suspicion of DNA bonds, she’s a new millennium incarnation of our outlaw grandmother Masha Rubenfire. A Polish Jewish immigrant who ran a successful Salem, Mass, brothel, Rubenfire made it all happen when her schnorrer husband ditched her with two small kids and no language skills. Martine–who looks more like Rubenfire than anyone else in our family does–has constructed a gender reality, a financial reality, a relationship reality, a technological reality, and a spiritual reality not only for herself but for others, including me. Say what we will but the blood is fierce in our line. Rubenfire helps from beyond the grave.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy