5 LGBT Characters We Love
Jonathan Groff and Corey Stoll in C.O.G..
5 LGBT Characters We Love
Adepero Oduye in Pariah.
5 LGBT Characters We Love
Chaz Bono in Becoming Chaz.

5 LGBT Characters We Love

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It’s June, y’all – which means the LGBT and their friends, families, and allies are putting on their tank tops, taking to the streets, and waving their rainbow flags.  And though the “do we still need Pride?” debate rages on (read here and rebuttal here), it’s hard for a young-ish person like me to believe that not so long ago – and still in some parts of our country and the world – it’s NOT ok to be who you are, 365 days a year. 

We’ve made huge advancements in being recognized as an important part of our communities, and we have a lot of people to thank for that: Those who fought (sometimes literally) for our rights when we had none, those who proudly lived their lives in full view when most people didn’t want to see us, and the artists who told personal gay stories on stage and screen, without regard for their careers. 

There’s no doubt in my mind that seeing stories and characters in film and on television teaches audiences both straight and gay about what LGBT life can be like. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five of our favorite LGBT characters from Sundance-supported films:

Alike (played by Adepero Oduye) in Pariah

Seventeen-year-old Alike is torn between the conservative world she came from and the gay life she’s drawn to, with its thumping music, go-go dancers, and same-sex cruising. Most LGBT people are all too familiar with this rift, which is authentically portrayed and perfectly personified by Alike and her struggle for self-discovery. Watch it now.

Ben Cooper (played by Bradley Cooper) in Wet Hot American Summer

Just as good as Salute Your Shorts (the summer camp-set Nickelodeon series I watched on repeat for most of the ‘90s), Wet Hot American Summer is overflowing with fun characters and raging libidos. Ben is focused on producing and choreographing the greatest talent show on earth but finds time to have hilariously sexy goodtimes with his boyfriend (played by Michael Ian Black) in the sports shed. Later they have a beautiful hippie commitment ceremony in the happy ending every gay boy dreams of.  (Watch now on Netflix.)

Chaz Bono In Becoming Chaz

As difficult as I imagine it is to be in a body you don’t identify with, undergoing gender reassignment surgery must be an even more difficult decision. Chaz does just this and bravely shares her transformation with us, from hormone shots to top surgery. Intimate and nakedly honest, many LGBT people identify with the humanity and courage it takes for Chaz to ultimately embrace his true self. Watch it now.

Orlando (played by Tilda Swinton) in Orlando

Tilda Swinton plays Orlando, an ageless character who faces changing sexual identities and gender roles over the course of 400 years – from the time when women couldn’t own land to the time of equal rights. Orlando is a witty and intelligent exploration of that progress, and while it shows us how far women’s rights have come, it also makes me think of the work that is yet to be done for LGBT rights.

Curly (played by Corey Stoll) in C.O.G.

If you’re lucky enough to have seen this not-yet-released movie by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, you’re probably already laughing. C.O.G. marks the first film adaptation of David Sedaris’ brilliantly offbeat work so it should come as no surprise that the friendship between David (Jonathan Groff) and Curly left me at once amused, embarrassed, somewhat horrified, and guiltily wanting more. In a pivotal scene, we learn about Curly’s unique, um, hobby, and as one friend described his reaction to me, “I can never un-see that.” He’s right, and you won’t forget Curly either.

Check these other LGBT films available for viewing through Sundance Institute's #ArtistServices program:

Brother to Brother (2004)

Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (2011)

My Best Day (2012)