Word Is Out: A Queer Film Classic


Made by a collective of six filmmakers, the landmark 1977 documentary Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives is a group portrait of more than twenty lesbians and gay men who recount their experiences being gay in the United States. The film found a wide audience theatrically and, perhaps more significantly, had an unprecedented national PBS broadcast through which it reached thousands of isolated gay people with its affirming message. The film played a significant role in the struggle for gay rights in the late 1970s. It premiered six months after Anita Bryant’s infamous "Save Our Children" campaign led to the repeal of a gay rights ordinance in Florida, and just as other antigay activists were beginning to copy her tactics elsewhere. With its affirming representation of gay people, the film offered an important counterpoint to the homophobic rhetoric that Bryant and others were spreading.

Word Is Out: A Queer Film Classic draws on extensive archival research as well as new interviews to provide a fresh account of the historical, political, and aesthetic significance of the film. The book includes an investigation of the backstory of the film's making, from the relationships among its six filmmakers to the more than 140 video pre-interviews they conducted in their search for the perfect cast. The book also explores the film's contribution to the rise of a gay national imaginary and the consolidation of gay liberalism, and it contrasts the film with queer media projects of the era that took different aesthetic forms and had conflicting political aims.

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The book is part of Arsenal Pulp Press's Queer Film Classics series edited by Thomas Waugh and Matthew Hays. Copies can be purchased from the publisher as well as from most booksellers.

The 30th Anniversary DVD of Word Is Out is available here.

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See the "Non-Academic" writing section for two short pieces I wrote about the film and the book.

The six filmmakers. Tede deconstructs gender. Sally is asked about separatism.