Celebrating Pride 2016 with LGBTQ DVDs: Toronto Public Library Supports the Rainbow Couch Potato

June 27, 2016 | Bill V.

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You likely know Toronto Public Library has a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Collection at the Yorkville Branch including books, magazines and DVDs. LGBT materials can also be found at all 100 TPL branches or brought to your local branch via our holds system. TPL annually compiles a recommended reading list and offers programs city wide, including a Pride Family StorytimeShe Writes, A Proud Voice Event and youth programs.

Yorkville Branch Wrapped in Rainbow for World Pride 2014

 Yorkville Branch (2014) Toronto Public Library front columns wrapped in rainbows


For many years in the 1990s and early 2000s the Library had a table at Pride where myself and many others gamely, albeit somewhat naively, tried to give out book lists and promote the collection. But, as more than one person said ..."Do you see pockets on this outfit?"

Subsequently, Toronto Public Library, the staff Pride Alliance and our union Local CUPE 4948 started marching together in the parade. This was not just more fun, but our bookmobile and witty pun based signage proved a hit.


Toronto Public Library Pride Alliance at the 2015 Pride MarchToronto Public Library Pride Alliance at the 2015 Pride March


Twoaussiesincanada wordpress 2013 Toronto Public Library march in Pride Parade

Toronto Public Library and CUPE Local 4948 march in Pride Parade 2013. copyright Two Aussies in Canada blog


And, in a mildly nerdish way, we even have a YouTube video from 2013 showing the TPL bookmobile as our "float". We're at minute 1.00 and going forward. We've had 74 views so far, so we're no threat to Madonna (hi Ab).



So, following the parade, the party and the after party etc we would like to suggest you go to your local library branch (there are 100 locations) or bookmobile stop and borrow some of the following DVDs (recommended by various Library staff and in no particular order - yes that is shockingly cavalier and random). Then sit yourself down on your couch, put your feet up for a well deserved rest and some enjoyable viewing.


Brenda recommended Cloudburst with Olympia Dukakis as a sweet, funny and raucous lesbian road trip movie. If you're interested in true life stories of what life used to be like for lesbians in Canada in the 1950s / 60s you may also enjoy Forbidden love the unashamed stories of lesbian lives. I'm also reminded of Ruthie and Connie about two Jewish lesbians who leave their husbands and go on to fight for marriage rights in the New York City.

Cloudburst DVD

Cloudbust: "Stella and Dot have been together for 31 years and have faithfully accompanied one another through life's ups and downs. Now in their seventies, Stella is hard of hearing and Dot is legally blind. Dotty's prudish granddaughter, Molly, decides the best place for Dot is a nursing home that will provide all the necessities. This forces Stella and Dot to make a bold decision: they will leave their hometown in Maine and make their way to Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal."


And speaking of older lesbians the following DVD really takes us back into history with The Oldest Lesbian in the World.

The Oldest Lesbian in the World DVDThe Oldest Lesbian in the World: "Nearing 100 years old, a national treasure, Bobby Staff whimsically exposes a rare and revealing insight into the romantic life of a butch lesbian born in 1913. Accompanied by her long time friend, Sweet Baby J'ai, Bobbie takes us on a trip down a very steamy memory lane, through photographs and vivid memories of many decades living her life as an out lesbian in New York City and Los Angeles."


Something a bit edgier comes from MK who suggested filmmaker Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin. I recall seeing Araki's The Living End in 1992 when it came to the Carelton Cinema in the midst of the AIDS crisis. A sort of gay Thelma & Louise (funny how any road trip movie is now Thelma & Louise like - but this one really is) it also involves a homicide, and two HIV positive gay lovers on the lam. It's a powerful F-you to the world in a wildly funny subversive way.

 Mysterious Skin DVD  The Living End DVD

Sephora suggested the lesbian romance When Night is Falling pointing out the lesbian lovers are not punished at the end for their love. She also liked the light comedy Jeffrey including actor Patrick Stewart from Star Trek. 

When Night is Falling DVD


Ab highly recommends Loose Cannons an Italian, English sub titled comedy that opened the Toronto Lesbian Gay Film Festival in 2011 about two brothers who both come out in a traditional /Italian family.

Loose Cannons DVD



A couple of staff, including Jennifer, recommended Tomboy. While neither gay or lesbian it does speak to the fluidity of gender roles especially among the young and the risks of gender non conformity. The documentary Growing Up Trans looks at the struggles (and joys) of transgender kids and their parents. There are many more DVDs on gender identity that you can also explore at the Library.  For an interesting take on fluid gender you might also enjoy Tilda Swinton in Virginia Woolf's Orlando.

Tomboy DVD

Tomboy: "Laure is 10 years old and a tomboy. On arrival in a new neighbourhood, she lets Lisa and her crowd believe that she is a boy. Summer becomes a big playground and Laure pretends to be Michael, a boy like the others, different enough to get the attention of Lisa, who falls in love with him. Laure takes advantage of her new identity as if the end of the summer would never reveal her unsettling secret."


Transamerica DVD  Patrick 1.5 DVD

Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, portrays a conservative transsexual who unexpectedly finds out she has a teenage son. In Patrik 1.5 a gay couple who think they are adopting a baby find themselves with a sullen, homophobic 15 year old teenage boy.



The "ex gay" movement comedy satire But I'm a Cheerleader also got a nod.

But I'm a Cheerleader DVD


Irene liked Dutch film Antonia's Line won the 1996 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the TIFF People's Choice award. Set in rural Holland post WW2 it portrays rural life with as seen through "pink" coloured glasses.  

Antonia's Line


And Amanda B. spoke highly of film maker Deepa Mehta's Fire, Earth and Water


More and more gay and lesbian films are making into the mainstream. Both cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain (with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) and 1950s New York Carol (with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) are so well known they really need no introduction.

  Brokeback Mountain DVD  Carol


At the cottage last year I watched Last Summer which was an unexpectedly sweet film about two teenagers in love in small town USA. This elegiac movie looks at their relationship not going through the angst of being gay, but rather the angst of one leaving town for university and one staying. The cinematography is especially beautiful.  My husband Richard wanted to recommend Do I Sound Gay, which includes the very funny Margaret Cho.

Last Summer DVD


More gritty and cutting edge, and not just for being filmed on a iPhone 5s smartphone, Tangerine follows transexual Sin-Dee searching for her cheating pimp fiance boyfriend. This is an eye opening film about love, friendship, prostitution, being in the closet, being out of the closet and the colors of Los Angeles. Not for the faint of heart.



If you're looking for a bit of history you might like this documentary and also this feature on Harvey Milk.

  The Times of Harvey Milk DVD documentary  Milk DVD feature film


To know one's history is to know one's roots:

  Before Stonewall The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community DVD   Coming out Under Fire WW2 DVD   Paragraph 175 DVD Historian Klaus Müller interviews survivors of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals because of the German Penal Code of 1871, Paragraph 175.

 We Were Here the AIDS years in San Francisco DVD: David Weissman's We Were Here revisits the San Francisco of the 80s and 90s, using the city's experience with AIDS to open up a conversation about both the history of the epidemic and the lessons to be learned from it. Yet the film reaches far beyond San Francisco and beyond AIDS itself as it illuminates the power of a community that comes together with love, compassion, and determination.   Stonewall Uprising DVD Explores the dramatic event that launched a worldwide rights movement. When police raided a Mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, gay men and women did something they had not done before: they fought back. As the streets of New York erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations, the collective anger announced that the gay rights movement had arrived.

And for some more specific lesbian herstory:

Forbidden Love the Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives DVD: Interviews with 10 women who paint a portrait of lesbian sexuality and survival in Canada during the 1950s and 1960s against a backdrop of tabloid headlines, book covers and dramatizations from lesbian pulp novels.

  Lesbiana a Parallel Revolution DVD   "A parallel revolution was born out of the feminist movement of the 1970's, coming to an end around 1995. Filmmaker Myriam Fougère takes us on a journey to meet the lesbian writers, philosophers and activists who were key players in creating a revolutionary sisterhood. From Montréal to Texas, by way of New York, Myriam encounters lesbians who chose to live only among women. This marginal yet international movement is brought to life through archival footage and photographs, and evocative interviews with these courageous women, many of whom are now in their seventies and eighties.   Paris was a Woman DVD Through a combination of still photos, archival film footage, and interview commentary, documents the creative community of French, English and American women, many of whom were lesbians, who gravitated to the Left Bank in Paris during the early part of the 20th century.


And though invisibility, oppression, bias and even hate are often the foundation of our history and to varying degrees our present, some communities face additional challenges based on race or religion:


Tongues United DVD In an experimental amalgam of rap music, street poetry, documentary film, and dance, a gay African-American man expresses what it is like to be gay and black in the United States.    Brother Outsider the life of Bayard Rustin DVD A documentary examining the life of Bayard Rustin, one of the first "freedom riders," an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Philip Randolph, and an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. However, Rustin was forced to play a background role in landmark civil rights events because he was homosexual. This feature-length portrait unfolds both chronologically and thematically, using interviews with others, and Rustin's own voice, taken from his writings, papers, correspondence, and recorded interviews.



Audre Lorde The Berlin Years DVD : Audre Lorde's incisive, often-angry, but always brilliant writings and speeches defined and inspired the US-American feminist, lesbian, African-American, and Women-of-Color movements of the 1970s and 1980s. Audre Lorde, the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992, documents an untold chapter of Lorde's life: her influence on the German political and cultural scene during a decade of profound social change. The film explores the importance of Lorde's legacy, as she encouraged Afro-Germans -- who, at that time, had no name or space for themselves -- to make themselves visible within a culture that until then had kept them isolated and silent. It chronicles Lorde's empowerment of Afro-German women to write and to publish, as she challenged white women to acknowledge the significance of their white privilege and to deal with difference in constructive ways. Previously unreleased archive material as well as present-day interviews explore the lasting influence of Lorde's ideas on Germany and the impact of her work and personality. For the first time, Dagmar Schultz's personal archival video- and audio-recordings reveal a significant part of the private Audre Lorde as well as her agenda -- to rouse Afro-Germans to recognize each other. 2012 marks the 20-year anniversary of Audre Lorde's passing.

  The Same Difference DVD Nneka Onuorah, Black Lesbian film maker, shines a light on the all-too-often ignored problem of homophobia and gender discrimination within the black lesbian community. Onuorah's fascinating and original documentary examines what happens when lesbians discriminate against each other over violations of the strict code that separates butches from femmes. The film examines how these behaviors reproduce the homophobic oppression and masculine privilege of the straight world, while looking for solutions in compelling discussions with community members. Self-identified studs - and the women who love them - discuss hypocrisy in terms of gender roles, performative expectations, and the silent disciplining that occurs within the community. [...] The Same Difference highlights relationships and experiences within the queer female community, intersecting race, gender and sexuality"
The Same Difference DVD by director Nneka Onuorah



Trembling Before G-d



A Jihad for Love DVD: Fourteen centuries after the revelation of the holy Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad, Islam today is the world's second largest and fastest growing religion. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma travels the many worlds of this dynamic faith, discovering the stories of its most unlikely storytellers: lesbian and gay Muslims. Produced by Sandi DuBowski (Trembling Before G-d) and Sharma, A Jihad for Love was filmed in 12 countries and 9 languages and comes from the heart of Islam. Looking beyond a hostile and war-torn present, it reclaims the Islamic concept of a greater Jihad, whose true meaning is akin to 'an inner struggle' or 'to strive in the path of God' - allowing its remarkable subjects to move beyond the narrow concept of Jihad as holy war.


This is just a sample of what we have in Toronto Public Library. Not all feature films come with subject headings so it's difficult to pull a complete list together. But if you're interested in further material, you could try these two searches: