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March 30, 2020
Hi, I’m Moe.
When I was ten years old, I thought I was the last person who could identify as part of the LGBT2Q+ community because I never saw anyone who looked like me, whether that be on TV or online. As I got older, and started questioning my own sexuality, I felt isolated and confused, searching all corners of the internet looking for an ‘in’ to LGBT2Q+ communities.
It was around this time that I found out about Out On Screen’s Troublemakers project and their search for ten queer youth to tell the stories of ten LGBT2Q+ seniors. I felt like something clicked in place. I remember rushing to my computer and applying right away, thinking “wow, this is perfect for me”.
Walking into the Troublemakers room for the first time, the worried voice that was echoing in the back of my head softened, as I was met with warm smiles from other queer youth. But, the person who left the biggest impression on me was Jen Sung, a rad, queer, East Asian woman, filmmaker and facilitator.
I had been denying my sexuality as a queer Asian youth because I couldn’t see myself reflected in the communities around me, and meeting Jen was transformational. She helped me feel a sense of belonging and acceptance I didn’t find anywhere else. I remember heading home after the first day and crying because of how good it felt to feel safe, accepted, and seen. To this day, that experience is the reason why I believe representation both on screen, and behind the screen matters.
Meeting the elders from the community for the first time I realized how important it was to document the stories of our community members, because they are the ones who fought for the rights I am protected by today. The legacies of stonewall and the AIDS crisis are still alive among the survivors and in the hearts of youth. The elder I worked with to tell his story was John Dub. I learnt that John was diagnosed with HIV at 29, and hearing his story for the first time and witnessing his resilience, I truly felt that life is worth fighting for. I wanted to share that same sense of hope I felt with the audience through my film.
To my surprise, at the opening screening of Troublemakers at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, my friends filled up an entire row to see the film I made on screen. It felt surreal. For the first time, my dreams of becoming a filmmaker felt tangible, and in a really meaningful way. I had just come out to my family and now all my friends, and I was shocked and grateful for how supported, and most importantly, uplifted, I felt. After the screening, speaking with the audience reminded me how powerful and important storytelling can be.
After my film was selected to be a part of Reel Youth’s VIFF program, John’s story made its way to Toronto and then to Prague before I’d even had the chance to visit either of those cities!
Out On Screen and the Troublemakers project didn’t just give me the community I needed so desperately, it also allowed me to hone and discover new skills and tools, giving me a foundation to help others share their stories and become a mentor for other queer youth. I went on to become a mentor at a GSA forum leading workshops in photography and on my last day, I received a letter from a fellow queer Asian youth that thanked me for helping her learn to be comfortable with her identity.
Even though I’m only 19 now, I still vividly remember what it was like to walk through the confusion and isolation of discovering your identity alone. That message took me back to when I was fifteen, back when I couldn’t even imagine a life after high school and how my first day at Troublemakers catalyzed the change in my perspective.
Today I see a future for myself where I am a full-time filmmaker sharing the stories of my community through film. One year ago, when I brought my girlfriend to the Out On Screen ‘Out for Brunch’ event, it was the first time I ever had a plus one. The morning of, I was extremely nervous, but knew that it was going to be safe because it was going to be in a room full of people from our communities. All of these experiences wouldn’t have been possible without people like you who make Out On Screen’s magic happen.
Today I ask that you continue to support Out On Screen’s mission, and donate to uplift LGBT2Q+ youth, artists, and communities. Together we can create an inclusive future for all.