The media we engage in shapes our culture and perception of the world around us. Despite an increase in positive representation of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community primarily due to commercial interest, queer folks are still underrepresented in the media. As an audience, we are subjected to queer baiting (the practice of hinting at or mimicking queerness without genuine representation), or queer coded characters who are far-too-often cis and/or white, without broader, authentic representation. The pervasiveness of heteronormativity and cisnormativity on and behind the screen reinforces and exacerbates harmful misconceptions. Authentic visibility however, validates and empowers sexual and gender minorities. 

The work done by the award-winning Out In Schools program empowers the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, particularly young people, through visibility and positive representation on screen. Film is a powerful educational tool that teaches us that we have the power to shape our stories. Out In Schools Program Coordinator Danny Laybbet (he/they) says, “by interacting with queer film, they get to see themselves reflected. They get to see possibilities for what they can be.” Program Coordinator, Avery Shannon (they/them), acknowledges that, students today know far more about queer issues than youth in previous generations. Thus, the team strives to meet the audience where they are. Working with Out In Schools since 2014, Education Director Gavin Somers (they/them) has firsthand experience of the impact having conversations about queer issues earlier on has for youth. After presenting to an engaged high school, a group of youth spoke to Gavin to say they attended an Out In Schools presentation a few years previous and, as a result, the youth knew queer lexicon and even spoke up to share their own stories. Reaching youth early and often is key to the program’s success. “You don’t have to do that unlearning [later in life],” says Gavin, when asked about what difference reaching younger audiences makes. “Because you’re provided access to tools and representation early on.”

Out In Schools presentations start with the opening question, “how would your story change the world?” before sharing films that showcase authentic queer representation. For many kids, it is the first time seeing themselves on screen. The presentation is structured to be relatable and geared to the audience, such as not showing films with too much jargon or complicated plots. Films selected for each presentation are age and grade appropriate, to enhance relatability and understanding. The team also factors in who is presenting. For example, if all facilitators are cis, they will showcase trans stories because the facilitators themselves will have an opportunity to share their own experiences alongside the films. Out In Schools also presents at corporate offices where the conversation is based around supporting adults as they unlearn misconceptions about the 2SLGBTQIA+ community perpetuated by the media and learn to step into allyship both in the office and in their wider communities. 

As a youth, I never had a chance to see an Out In School presentation. Instead, a man spoke at my school about conversion therapy. As a queer teen, this interaction reinforced shame, which is why the work done by Out In Schools is integral for transforming lives by showing that queerness is worth celebrating. In addition, the power of visibility allows students to see that they are not alone. The films reaffirm that their presence in the world matters; they matter.  Even more important, presenters and films show the power of exploring queer joy as contagious and transformative mediums. Danny shares that “more recently I’ve been really loving the celebration rather than tolerance aspect of life. We’re past the point of just needing to accept. Well, like, yeah, you need to accept trans people. But also that being trans is good.Each of us can carve a space for ourselves and shape our world. 

Discussions about 2SLGBTQIA+ issues are now a part of the BC curriculum however, the Out In Schools program is unique by showcasing films that uplift the lived queer experience. Out In Schools presentations are a continuously flowing conversation, where questions and discussions lead to films, and films spark new questions and audience engagements. These experiences  are empowering for youth, educators, and employees, and they move participants to action. The goal is that they continue to have conversations and promote safer, more inclusive spaces after Out In Schools departs. Allies develop empathy and learn how to use their visibility and power to conduct deliberate allyship. Meanwhile, queer folks gain a sense of belonging to a community. The films that are especially meaningful for Out In School’s staff are Meet the Transgender NCAA Swimmer from Harvard (Schuyler Bailar), Kapaemahu, Wendy’s Story aka The Healer, and Ur Aska.

Book a presentation with Out In Schools and empower queer folks in your community. For an extensive list of educational resources, access the Out In Schools website.

On August 15, during the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, we are collaborating with Out In Schools to deliver a presentation so attendees can witness the work done by the program firsthand. The Out In Schools team will share short films, present content, and engage viewers in a discussion about queer representation in media and allyship. Register for the presentation today and check out the rest of the Festival programme online!

Join us on October 15th at 7pm for our next VQFF Watch Party. We’ll be gathering together virtually to enjoy ‘The Half of It’. Register for your FREE ticket here.

About the film

When smart but cash-strapped teen Ellie Chu agrees to write a love letter for Paul, a goofball jock, she doesn’t expect to become his friend — or fall for his crush, Aster. It’s the queer rom-com spin on Cyrano de Bergerac you never knew you needed!

Directed by Alice Wu (Saving Face, 2005), this sweetly sincere comedy perfectly captures the budding realization of a first time queer crush, and how it feels to be an outsider in a small town. The Half Of It is sure to charm you– and we all need something sweet to lift our spirits right now.

This film is youth rated.

To join our Watch Party simply sign in to your Netflix account and play the film from the link we’ll provide you with on Thursday October 15th by 6:30pm. We’re using the newly created ‘Netflix Party’ Google Chrome extension that allows users to synchronize viewing with friends and chat while watching together. You will need to use the Google Chrome browser.  Follow our step by step guide here.

Please join us after the screening on Instagram live (@queerfilmfest) where, inspired by The Half Of It, we will be sharing some stories of queer love in the time of quarantine, and the ways in which our connections and intimacy have become more creative. Interested in sharing your story? Email nya@outonscreen for more info!

Join us for the fourth ‘All Our Stories’ event on December 3rd!

‘All Our Stories’ is an opportunity for youth to connect, and explore queer film and literature with Out In Schools and Vancouver Public Library. This year we’re hosting the event in collaboration with VPL’s Britannia branch at the Canucks Family Education Centre from 4PM-6.30PM.

The event is free and all content is youth-rated. Attendees will also be provided with snacks and drinks.

If you’re a student, parent, or educator please share this event with your community. Our Out In Schools team are happy to answer any questions you have about All Our Stories, get in touch with us on 604 844 1615.

We’re less than two weeks away from this year’s Fall Gala, the fabulous art auction and cocktail party supporting Out In Schools and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. This year’s fundraising auction will feature works from local artists Jaik Puppyteeth, Christopher Tamas Kovacs, Michela Sorrentino, Ann Goldberg, and David Burdeny – do you have your tickets yet?

The 2018 Fall Gala is presented by TD Bank Group as part of a new three-year sponsorship of Out On Screen. The fundraiser will also feature performances by drag sensations Shay Dior, Maiden China, and Karmella Barr.

“Our Fall Gala represents the best of LGBT2Q+ communities, auctioning art to raise funds so we can showcase the finest in queer film,” says Executive Director Stephanie Goodwin. “It’s a contested time for queer, trans, and two-spirit communities across BC and globally. Art is a key medium for communicating not only the joy and celebration in LGBT2Q+ lives, but also for expressing political commentary.”

Political commentary is centred in many of the works in this year’s art auction, including the brilliantly evocative “In Gay We Trust” by New York-based, Montreal-born Nadine Faraj. The piece is a hallmark of Faraj’s lush, daring watercolour figurative work that reinterprets identity for an age when gender and sexuality is part of a more expansive and colourful spectrum. Alongside Faraj’s work, two smartly sassy comic illustrations by Jaik Puppyteeth, a social satirist with a LGBTQ comical and camp bent to his work, will be featured in addition to key pieces by David Burdeny, Anda Kubis, and Ann Goldberg. Regular contributor Stev’nn Hall, a Hamilton-based artist with a big solo show opening next month in Boston, has also donated a gorgeous waterlily mixed media piece to support the fundraiser to benefit Out In Schools.

“We’re facing unprecedented demand for our programming,” says Gavin Somers, Out In Schools’ Program Coordinator. Out In Schools is booked solid through to December 2018 and is already fielding requests for presentations and tours beyond the Lower Mainland into 2019. “We’re aiming to visit new school districts this year and the money raised at the Fall Gala will help us support those young people.”

Tickets for the November 3 event are just $50, but VIP tickets are available for $100. Premium ticket holders get early access to the venue for an intimate reception and the opportunity to set the opening bid for their choice pieces. Tickets are available online – get yours today!

Our 30th Festival celebrates our communities’ journeys over the past 30 years. For many queer people, 1985 was a significant milestone in our personal and collective political journey, marking the first time President Ronald Reagan publicly acknowledged AIDS. It is during this milestone year that director Yen Tan sets his fifth feature film, assembling an outstanding cast to bring his critically-observed period piece to life.

Adrian (Cory Michael Smith, The Riddler on Gotham) returns to his small Texan hometown to spend the Christmas holidays with his working-class Christian family. His homecoming is marked by a silent anguish with his father (Michael Chiklis), a wounded attachment to his mother (Virginia Madsen), and a broken relationship with his high school best friend (Jamie Chung). Under Tan’s poignant direction, 1985’s characters bring tension and a strained tenderness into each and every scene. Tan’s unique choice to shoot in black-and-white 16mm film further illustrates the atmosphere of uncomfortable intimacy.

Director in Attendance

Director Yen Tan joins us for our Opening Gala on Thursday, August 9 to introduce his film! Audiences will be able to enjoy a Q&A with Tan following an intimate repeat screening on Friday, August 10.

Be sure to join us in the Queen Elizabeth Plaza following the Opening Gala for our Opening Night Party! Inspired by the film, attendees are encouraged to dress in black and white finery.

Out On Screen is turning 30 and you’re invited!

Come celebrate at our 30th birthday party Saturday, June 2. Everyone is invited…it’s a party for us and for you, our community.

Join us in looking back to pay tribute to the last 3 decades of uplifting queer stories at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. We’re getting nostalgic and will be turning back time to dance the night away to hits from the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s and enjoy performances inspired by each decade from talented local artists including Shay Dior, Maiden China and Indigenous burlesque troupe Virago Nation.

Thank you for being with us on this queer journey… we’ve gone to the moon and back. We can’t wait to clink glasses, eat some birthday cake, and take off into the next 30 years.

Dressing up in the decade of your choice is highly encouraged!

This event is FREE, but requires RSVP. Get your tickets here on Eventbrite and follow us here on Facebook to stay up today with the latest news.

Your RSVP and registration upon entrance will enter you into a draw to win 1 of 3 6-pack tickets to the 2018 Vancouver Queer Film Festival!