• Festivals

The OutFronts and the Persistence of Queer Joy

Outfest’s television festival, The OutFronts, opened on Friday, June 3, at the gorgeous 1920s movie palace of the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. While the security of the event was kept to high standards and every guest was asked to go through a metal detector, once inside a colorful scene revealed itself in jubilee.

The bold, sexy outfits were unique, abiding by no trends, expressing a momentary desire rather than making fashion statements. Double-bun hairstyles, flower-patterned suits, rainbow-colored platforms, and tulle and sequins on slender, petite, or larger-than-life bodies – bodies combining the masculine with the feminine and vice-versa – all made for an astounding array of diversity, one that only an artist like Toulouse-Lautrec could do justice to.

Lingering in the air was a sense of enthusiasm for being back after two years of the pandemic, for having survived, for returning to life. For knowing that the sky is the limit.

In the nearly full room, Executive Director Damien Navarro invited Creator/Exec. Producer Stephen Dunn and Exec. Producer/Writer Jaclyn Moore to the stage to present the world premiere of their new show, Queer as Folk, based on the groundbreaking British TV drama.

The new series is set in New Orleans amidst a small community of queer friends who deal with the aftermath of a mass shooting in a gay club. “We would like to take a moment to say that our hearts go out to the people of Uvalde and to Tulsa, Buffalo, and too many other cities to name,” said Dunn. “But our show is not just about hate crime. Our show is about community and resilience and hope.”

The receptive audience cheered each cast member in the order of appearance on the screen. Even more passionate applause accompanied the crew and cast members as they took their seats on the stage for a Q&A session moderated by queer icon Zackary Drucker, a trans woman dressed in bright pink. She mentioned that, when she was in high school and already identifying as a queer person, she was “dismayed that the [original] show didn’t express any multiplicity of queer identity.” Twenty-plus years later, to witness the first fully diverse trans and queer cast on television felt “vindicating” and “incredible.”



Nevertheless, for the creator, the original show was extremely influential. He used to watch it in his basement as a high schooler, with the volume as low as possible so that his mom would not hear. This time, though, mom was right there, in the audience – a testament to his newfound fortitude and his community’s assertion in the world.

Moore added that the new series was “an opportunity to put the camera on stories that don’t often get told, in particular [on] complicated queer characters.” She lamented the fact that queer and trans people are often “relegated to being a best friend of the beautiful straight sis.”

She proceeded to make an eloquent observation about representation: because queer stories are still predominantly told from the heterosexual point of view, there is fear of “getting in trouble,” of making the politically wrong moves. Subsequently, there’s the overcompensation of creating ideal, saintly LGBTQ characters. “I think our humanity is beyond debate. Therefore, I am much more fascinated in showing queer trans people be complicated and messy, and broken, and lie to each other, and betray … Trans and queer folks should be allowed to be messy and still hold the center of the frame.”

The theme of being allowed to be “out” fully – not just through the use of the right labels or pronouns, but through the expression of one’s multi-faceted personality – was a recurring theme in this Q&A.

“You play an archetypal chaotic trans woman,” Drucker addressed Jesse James Keitel, whose character grapples with having to adjust to family life with her lesbian partner. “I mean, what’s more chic than a chaotic transsexual?” replied Keitel, eliciting laughter from the audience. “It’s my first dream of a project,” she went on, “allowing a trans person to just be human. Find me a person in this room who is not horribly flawed. So, getting the chance to play a trans person who is deeply flawed and tragically trying her best is a blast!”



Devin Way, who plays Brodie, the handsome protagonist, said that what he took away from this role is the realization that “it doesn’t matter where you are in your queer journey, your journey to self-acceptance… You are [still] loved”.

Johnny Sibilly, who plays Brodie’s ex-lover, also validated the general sentiment: “It was just so nice to have these creators take the time to flesh out our stories and for me to feel, for the first time as an actor, that I could explore all these facets of being a human being… and also get railed on TV!”


The series reaches beyond the queer community in one very significant way: the story is propelled forward by a single traumatic incident that affects all characters, overtly or subliminally. “I hate that the show is as relevant as it is right now,” said Dunn, his voice breaking with emotion. “It’s heartbreaking to hear these stories over and over without any action being taken to prevent them.”

Although the pivotal scene in Queer as Folk is inspired by the Orlando shooting in a gay club six years ago, as well as by the community rebuilding that followed, neither the filmmakers nor the audience could ignore the sad fact that gun violence has repeated itself just a couple of weeks ago, in Uvalde, Texas.

“Our show is about the unstoppable resilience that people have to learn in order to survive in this country,” Dunn declared. For the queer community, resilience means the “radical persistence of joy.”

Here’s how Jaclyn Moore capped it: “Queer joy comes out of queer drama. It’s impossible to be queer or trans in America in 2022 – all the way back in time – and not go through drama. And yet, we find joy, we find each other, we find love, we find moments of hope.”