I used to find queer documentaries unnerving to watch, but thankfully years of feeling invisible and without voice helped rehabilitate my proclivities. It wasn't a “shame” thing. I just never developed a taste for the “objectivity in filmmaking” kool-aid. You're seeing the sides of the story and the points of view the director and/or subjects want you to see. That's gotta be like, the second or third definition for “subjective”, if not the textbook definition. When I took a documentaries class in college, I frustratedly conveyed to the instructor that the hardest part of the job was reconciling the 20 hours of unused footage with my conscience. The instructor chuckled, looked both ways, and murmured that if they had heard that from anyone else in the class, they'd have accused them of half-assing their project.

20 hours of footage for a 10 minute film about drunken kickball was considered “being stingy”. The idea you can remain objective while simultaneously culling over 95 percent of your footage is simply recockulous. Fuck, I gotta make a detour here. If I keep going down this road I'm going to re-gift my complex back to myself.

Having come to know the real nature of documentaries, and even growing to enjoy the art of manipulation and sleight of hand to forge a story from hours of nonsense, I find them quite comforting, even relaxing. That, a soda and practicing my origami or tying my knots helps give me the edge to compress a week's worth of stress and worry in two hours. I did it, Papa. I slayed the Multitasking Dragon.

A couple of days ago I received a copy of Small Town Gay Bar, which is exactly what it says on the tin, from Netflix. I invited my friend and collaborator-in-arms Terry over, made some lunch and popped open a web article on how to fold a penguin. I'd had a hard week. I could really use the heart warming story promised me on the synopsis section of the Netflix sleeve. Initial signs were promising. Footage of a small town shot from the window of a moving vehicle. A soundtrack with Ween and Electric Six. Drag queens with southern accents. This film was winning me over in a big way. And that penguin was as good as folded.

And that's when Fred Phelps arrived at the scene.

If your anus didn't tighten a bit, go google that name and come back to me. Yeah, THAT FUCKING GUY. On my television. And he's quoting the bible and showing off the first poster he ever made for his crusade against “the f-gs and f-g enablers”. I'm in the middle of a squash fold, can you see if I sat on the remote by mistake? Wait, why isn't he on a street corner tending his flock of troglodytes. Why is he...he's sitting down! And he's talking in an indoor voice...IS HE BEING INTERVIEWED BY THE FILMMAKER?! GET HIM AWAY FROM MY HEART WARMING STORY OF COMMUNITY, HE'S TALKING TO IT AND MAKING IT QUESTION ITS IDENTITY.

Fuck, I made a tear in my penguin. This day is ruined.

Now, I won't argue the logic behind interviewing Phelps and some other anti-gay personalities for this documentary. It sets the tone for the premise of the film, that being “the struggles of community expression in small rural towns where conservatism holds hella sway”. I get that. Not to harp on the one college project I'm proud of, but my thesis was a faux-sermon drag revue performed in the suburbs of Arizona. Find me someone who better grasps the necessity for acknowledging and giving visibility to the opposition and lo many a steel cage death match shall be had. Still, I have to question the necessity or appropriateness of including the Voldemort of the anti-gay movement on a documentary about small town LGBT communities. For your convenience, I have numbered my complaints/arguments, as I realize sometimes my point gets lost in all my yadayadablahblah. I ask only that your comments and or hate mail have corresponding numerals. Or letters. Fuck it man, fight the system.

1.The most obvious reason, I guess, for Fred Phelps to be included in the film is that he shares a hometown with Crossroads, which was once a thriving “anything goes” gay bar. Such is an interesting observation, until you take into account the staggering number of other conservative socio-political figures in this country who share hometowns or living space with gay bars.

2.Fred Phelps has plenty of space, a gaggle of public venues and mediums, for him to preach his message. When he's not all over my youtube or blogosphere, he's across the street, making it hard to listen to the Lady Gaga albums on my iPod (anachronism: I wasn't listening to Lady Gaga around the time I attended the counter protest in Scottsdale, but trust me, dude, you wouldn't have heard of any of the bands I was listening to then). To feature him “in action” from the point of a counter protest is one thing, but to let him sit down and share, without interruption or response, his views on the LGBT community, to me feels like an invasion of our space. But that's just me. All of this is probably just me.

3.The frequency with which personalities like Fred Phelps and the AFA are featured in news reports, films, and other media representations of the LGBT community seem to suggest, if inadvertently, that there is no community outside of the need to huddle together in the face of ignorance, or that somehow people like Phelps are vital to the queer culture and experience in the United States, rather than an obstruction. I realize, with the remaining clarity at my disposal, that such is not this or any film's intent, yet I must insist that the complexity of our individual and combined struggles with identity and fitting in are interesting enough on their own. The LGBT community is more than just a reaction to the cis hetero world's disapproval, and it is possible to document our lives without giving conservative pundits a forum to be poppin' off that good shit.

4.Phelps is a fucking Lich whose power rises with every iota of attention paid him. He is a professional shit starter, and I remain unconvinced that there is not at least some of his horde who are not attracted to that element of the church's activity. We're only encouraging them. Why can't erasure work both ways?

5.His voice sounds like he's always on the verge of shitting his pants. I can take the suspense no longer.

What I lack for in clarity (or fucking sense) in my ideas I make up for with enthusiasm and delight in arguing and being told I'm wrong. No need to RSVP to that party.

You might deduce, from my incoherent list of gripes, that I did not enjoy the film. False. I gave it four stars on Netflix. I'll even go so far as to recommend it to everyone reading this. Certified doubleplusgood. My beef is not with the filmmaker, but with the LGBT media institution.

This isn't little league baseball. You don't have to let everyone play. As our community continues to grow at this exponential rate, people like Fred Phelps will comprise an equally exponential diminished part of our experience, and once some or most of us are integrated in society and we look back on these old home movies of when we were younger and “special/unique/alternative/counterculture” we're going to wish we had spent those extra five or ten minutes here and there on baby steps and first words instead. I'm speaking metaphorically, of course. I think.

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