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Asheville Qfest celebrates LGBTQ history month

by Noor Al-Sibai – Staff Writer – [email protected]
“Keep Asheville Queer” is not just a slogan anymore.
Last week, the Fine Arts Theatre hosted Asheville QFest, the region’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer film festival. The festival featured films that ran the gamut from the romantic dramas and festival favorites I Want Your Love and Mosquita y Mari, to the documentaries Mississippi, I Am, which chronicles the lives of out celebrities such as N*SYNC’s Lance Bass, and I Stand Corrected, which shows the life of jazz bassist Jennifer Leitham, who is a transwoman.
Sponsored by organizations such as Hip Replacements Boutique, 98.1 The River and O. Henry’s gay bar, the festival was held from Oct. 7 through last Sunday, with additional screenings of spotlight films, such as the critically-acclaimed film Keep The Lights On and I Do this week.
The event coincided with October as LGBT History Month and International Coming Out Day last Thursday, an internationally-recognized “holiday” aimed at raising awareness and visibility for queer people, particularly those coming out of the closet.
Although the events were synchronized, some within the local queer community feel they are aimed toward different demographics.
Kate Williams, a 24-year-old sociology student and active member of the Asheville queer scene said there is a disconnect between the more established “mainstream” LGBT community and the younger queer movement.
“I understand that it’s hard being young,” Williams said. “I sometimes think that they don’t remember what it’s like.”
Williams, originally from Efland, said the crusade for gay marriage purported by the older, more financially stable LGBT community is more assimilationist and focuses less on issues such as homelessness and mental health issues among queer youth.
“I think that the age gap between the older and younger generations is a problem,” Williams said.
Both Williams and Cass Boehm, another sociology student, agree the use of the term “queer” for the festival and to describe those who it caters to might be problematic.
“Queer is anti-assimilationist at it’s core,” said Boehm, 22. “There’s a big schism between the ‘gay’ community and the ‘queer’ community, between the age differences and the differences in identity.”
Boehm and Williams defined assimilationist as focusing on assimilating into straight culture and acquiring legal marriage, rather than resisting a system that attempts to disenfranchise people who are not privileged.
William defined her queer, sexual and gender identities as essential to her life.
“Queer, to me, is about anti-assimilation,” Williams said. “It’s saying ‘I see these structural, holistic problems with heteronormative (straight-privileged) culture, and I’m not OK with them.’”
Despite their criticism of the gap between older and younger members of the queer movement, Boehm said QFest is important for visibility within the greater Asheville community, and hopefully within society as a whole.
On the topic of International Coming Out Day and LGBT history month, Boehm, who spoke on the Coming Out panel last week on campus, said there is political value in having a distinguished day and month for LGBTQ people.
“I think it’s awesome, and it’s amazing that it exists,” Boehm said, “but I worry that it simplifies the idea of coming out in the minds of people who don’t have to. It’s not like you just come out and you’re done with it.”
Boehm used the metaphor of a revolving door to explain their experience with coming out.
They  described the analogy as a person going in and out of the closet, with other people occasionally trying to push them back in or all the way out, and it is a continuous, difficult process.
Williams agreed International Coming Out Day and LGBTQ history month are problematic because those events engage in the process of “othering,” which is a product of an us versus them mentality.
“Having our own month and day is very insulting,” Williams said. “Traditionally, giving a history month to minorities or marginalized groups is a way to excuse the non-incorporation of their history into ‘normal’ history.”
“You never really leave the closet behind,” Williams said. “That’s a problem with society, not with us.”
Both Boehm and Williams said that, despite the issue of ignorance surrounding LGBTQ issues other than marriage equality, Asheville is a uniquely safe space for queer people.
“You get the sense that there are a ton of non-queer, non-LGBTQ organizations propping up queer communities and making their organizations safe spaces for queer people,” Boehm said. “While that’s great, it gives us the sense that there’s not that much left to do, and there is.”
Boehm cited issues such as limited and minimal access to hormone therapy and other medical resources for trans individuals as one of the biggest problems left to tackle within queer communities.
“There’s so much left to do,” Boehm said. “I’m glad that events like QFest and International Coming Out Day exist as a step in the right direction.

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    Mchael SheldonMay 21, 2013 at 3:41 am

    It has taken almost a year for me to feel safe to reply to the sting of this article but as I approach my 47th birthday I am ready, armed, ancient and just about pissed of enough to to so.
    My name is Michael Sheldon and I am not only a Queer National I am one of the founders of Asheville Qfest. Kate Williams, you stupid little cunt, you need to read up on your Queerstpry dear. I am one of those middle ages white gay males you have such a Goddessdamned Problem with and I am also one of the first people who gave you the word QUEER. QUEER NATION, read up on it darling because if you are gonna try to spout off your fucked up I-AMcentric view of the world you at least need some facts. Queer Nation was a movement born of Gay men AND lesbaiens (and trannys and a few Bi folk) during the AIDS Crisis of the 1980’s that you so luckily missed by being born a few years later. QUEER is a term WE took back, a term we fought for, protested for, gave our lives for. In 1984, years before you were probably born, I was walking the streets of Asheville as a trans hooker, not getting money from my parents to attend UNCA but being who I was at whatever cost it took. I was a Queer a GenderFuck QUEER before you were born,
    Just do me a favor, look up Quuer Nation . . . Know your History,
    But on to Asheville Qfest. In our two years, of which I know you have not been to a single screening (see, a thing which comes with age is you know people in a small city if you are someone like me, and I know who you are, you came to bar several times, I was nice to you. It was before I knew you were a stupid CUNT, and by the way, we QUEER NATIONALS took back that word as well , , , before you were born) we have shown NEW, IMPORTANT, films made by Gay Lesbian, BI and TRANS people from ALL OVER THE WORLD. Films that have won critical acclaim, films I am sure you have never heard of. We do not have an agenda at Asheville QFest, if a film is good we show it, Bi, Trans, Gay, Lesbian. You would not know this because the stupid cunt author of this piece of shit article never contacted us BUT we actually seek out films by BI or Trans filmmakers because they are not represented at the larger festivals, If you had the energy to get up off your cunt you would see from our website that Asheville QFest seeks to be a voice for the New, Young Voice of LGBTQ filmmaking, In our first year more than Half of our films were from first time directors. But That would just bog you down with facts you stupid fucking slut.
    You want Asheville Q(and proudly Q! QQQQQ you fucking bitch!) to be more what you want it to be? Make a fucking Movie! Make it good enough to be screened, make it local and really make it but don’t fucking bitch about a something you have not even dipped your foot into.
    You stupid fucking Cunt!
    Michael Sheldon