This Film Student Chronicled His Coming Out Process For One Year
"I wanted to use this as a way to tell the story of telling my story — to put that out there for everyone to see."
Coming out of the closet is a long, confusing, and often repetitive process that isn't always as simple as you plan it to be.
No one knows this better than Alden Peters, a film student at at New York University’s Tisch School.
He captured a year of his life on film as he came out to friends and family, in what turned out to be his first full-length documentary Coming Out.
It was the suicide of Tyler Clementi, in the fall of 2010, that pushed Alden to finally come out. The filmmaker told Mashable:
As I was going through [coming out], one of the things I was really looking at was YouTube videos of people coming out. I wanted to see more than that—more than just hearing somebody tell a story. I wanted to know what it was like.
Peters not only recorded his coming out to various loved ones, but he revisited them a year later for follow up interviews.
The film touches upon how the internet and cyberbullying affect people as they come out, or are forced out, of the closet.
Peters had friends read homophobic conversations taken from various social networks.
Peters spoke with BuzzFeed about his extensive project:
BuzzFeed:Did anyone react negatively to your coming out?
Alden Peters: Most of the negative reactions to my coming out had to do with the camera. The camera itself was invasive. In one case specifically, it was a disaster. The person I told was shocked that I was coming out, and was made more upset that it was being recorded. The footage was deleted on the spot, and we no longer speak, unfortunately. That one took me a while to get over, because I was the one who caused the negative reaction. Had it been a regular conversation, I think coming out would have been fine.
My friends and family were completely supportive. What you see in the film are the positive reactions, because those people were willing to be in the film.
Looking back on when you just started this project, did you ever envision this would be the final product?
AP: When I started, all I wanted to do was make the film that I wanted to watch. One of the first things I did when I was thinking about coming out was watch coming out stories on YouTube. It was helpful, but I still wanted more. I wanted to see it. If I had seen something like this film when I was 13 or 14, maybe I would have come out to myself sooner.
The analysis of how social media and our digital lives affect being in the closet, coming out, and finding community—the framework around my personal story—all came later. It wasn't planned, but it quickly became obvious that there was a huge digital component to the experience, so we looked into that. It's more than just coming out on Facebook, which you see in the trailer. There's more to it than that.
Do you have any advice for people coming out to their family/friends?
AP: It's impossible to give general advice, especially about such a personal process. Everyone's situation is so unique I'd have to know him or her before putting in my two cents. Though, I would tell people to realize that everyone has a different opinion or piece of advice, and you have to decide yourself how and when and whether to come out. You're the expert on your own life.