Coming Out is the personal story of young filmmaker Alden Peters. The film follows his coming out process as he tells his parents, friends and siblings how he has repressed his sexuality for a number of years. In using a homemade video style of filming, Coming Out gives us an insight into not only Peters’ journey but into his mindset as he starts to immerse himself into the 2016 LGBTQ lifestyle.
His coming out process could have been dogged by LGBTQ politics but he puts this aside to focus on the all-round importance of why coming out is so difficult but vital. Urged by a string of suicides by LGBTQ teens, Peters draws attention as to why teens must confront their fears over coming out without patronising or preaching to perhaps vulnerable viewers.
The first half of Coming Out focuses heavily on Peters’ confrontation with his own sexuality. Fearful to come out to his friends, who have previously used gay slurs, and his gun-toting fireman father, Peters’ apprehension is very relatable, but thankfully misplaced as he is only met with positive reactions.
Every coming out process is unique and Peters represents this by continuously filming each member of his family. His mother reacts by asking him about gay sex and his siblings almost refuse to believe him. The documentary excellently represents the almost everyday process of coming out for LGBTQ people in combining Peters’ journey with YouTube videos of other young people coming out to their parents.
As Peters starts to consider his place in this new community, Coming Out incorporates larger aspects of LGBTQ discourse by talking to LGBT authors, journalists and a developmental psychologist. Important issues such as why LGBTQ people face bullying and discrimination as well as how the internet has influenced the coming out process are focused on. This arc is particularly integrated well as Alden relates these larger issues to everyday LGBTQ lives, and if there is anything we could have done with more focus on these voices.
The structure of Coming Out is very simplistic, but it works in its favour. It starts off microscopically with Peters‘ story and then zooms out to encompass LGBTQ culture, identity and pride. Peters is a likeable leading voice here but it’s his interaction with friends, family and LGBTQ leaders which drives the documentary, as these interactions demonstrate how LGBTQ people feature in society.
There is definitely an amateurish approach to filming, owing to the handheld video, the varying sound quality and change in colour balance, but if anything this look is refreshing and youthful; exactly what the documentary is trying to be as well as who it’s targeting. Sometimes the change of camera quality from YouTube videos can be jarring but this technique also represents how Peters has shared this crowdfunded documentary with struggling queer teens across the world.
Coming Out is a credit to LGBTQ culture
So much of queer culture is sexualised; done so by the porn industry and the torrent of LGBTQ B-movies that fetishize the ‘gay best friends’ or LGBTQ relationships. Even with Coming Out being a documentary, rather than a feature film, it follows the likes of The Kids Are Alright, Milk and The Normal Heart in not fetishizing LGBTQ lives and issues.
Coming Out discusses real issues affecting LGBTQ lives, from the pain of concealing a huge part of your identity, to attending your first pride. It’s an incredible investigation into the modern lives of queer people and how the dynamic between queer and straight still exists. Alden Peters has created a documentary of great influence here, because he voices the tiny issues swirling around the heads of queer teens and does so in a beautifully warm and heartfelt way.
Coming Out is an important and necessary documentary. In a society where LGBTQ people are still being persecuted for their identities, this informative and honest documentary is needed to show queer and straight people alike what it is truly like to come out and live a queer life.
What do you think are some of the best LGBTQ films and documentaries, and why? Comment below!
Coming Out is available on iTunes, Vimeo On Demand and DVD now. All international release dates are here.