If you grew up in the 1980s and were gay, there weren’t really any TV shows you could relate to.  All in the Family featured the first gay character on a sitcom in 1971, but it took awhile before gay characters had major roles or storylines. Liss Platt wanted to do something about that.

“When I was in school, you didn’t have Will and Grace, you didn’t have the L Word,” said Platt, an artist and a professor in the multimedia program here at Mac. “Not that these representations do us any favours, but there was just so little – especially representations of lesbians. I really wanted to make work that provided something else to identify with.”

One of Platt’s films, You Can’t Get There From Here, was recently featured in an exhibit at Brock University and describes what it was like for her to be 16, gay, and trying to figure out what that meant. “We see a lot of coming-of-age stories and I love them, but they’re tidy, and I don’t think coming of age is very tidy,” said Platt. Her story is anything but tidy – her sister was dying, the girl she loved liked guys, and everything just felt so intense. What describes being 16 better than the feeling of not knowing what’s important but still thinking everything is.

“A lot of my work is about trying to engage with the everyday and assumptions that we make that we don’t think about,” said Platt. Consider the purse, for example, which is the focus of a surreal film by Platt. At one point in the piece a tuft of hair appears in a purse that a lady is carrying, only to be franticly shoved into the bag’s depths. Purses appear totally harmless, but it’s kind of weird how much we associate them with being feminine without thinking about it. “Purses can emasculate butches; they’re like a threat to female masculinity,” said Platt, half joking and half serious.

Another one of her films, Long Time Coming, subverts the everyday (although, given the strike, it’s not really anymore) pillar of masculinity that hockey appears to be. One of the scenes replays a guy wiping down the Stanley cup, over and over. “That’s just rude, on purpose,” laughed Platt. “I love hockey, but it is so physical, and the men are on top of each other, writhing around. It was ripe for the picking, as they say.”

Sure, mocking hockey is funny, but there is a point – to ask why we think it’s okay for straight guys to be all over each other on ice, but in real life, not so much. “We have gendered notions of appropriate behaviour, and they’re limiting for everyone,” said Platt. “Queer culture has always been about not trying to just bring queer people into what’s normal, but to loosen up what normal means.”

In honour of Mac’s pride week, we present an ANDY that’s (mostly) full of articles about gender and sexuality.  Hopefully we’ve managed to loosen up normal at least a little.

By: Nolan Matthews

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