Why do some members of the lesbian community police, regulate and discriminate against one another?
This is a question that filmmaker Nneka Onuorah tackles in her new documentary "The Same Difference," a project that examines the complicated and nuanced dynamics among women who sleep with women. The film aims to ignite a conversation about what Onuorah views as hypocrisy in the lesbian community in terms of gender roles and performative expectations.
In order to better understand "The Same Difference," The Huffington Post chatted with Onuorah this week about her work, her goals for this project and the misconceptions she is trying to dispel about the lesbian community as a whole.
The Huffington Post: Why is this documentary important?
Nneka Onuorah: "The Same Difference" documentary is important because it is something that is needed in the community. There are people who are suppressing who they really are to fit in, in fear of being jumped, outcaste and ostracized. It also isn’t a topic that is ever brought to light so it is an ongoing negative thing. This documentary is going to start a conversation and hopefully have people be more open-minded to being accepting of people who have different ways of doing things. Not just in the lesbian community but people in general. Who would have thought that there would be hatred amongst a community from the inside that already gets it from the outside.
What types of misconceptions are you trying to be dispelled through this work?
One of the misconceptions I am trying to dispel through this documentary is the belief that there are rules to being who you are. In the lesbian community, for example, if you’re a butch lesbian you can’t do anything girly. You can’t be too beautiful, your pants can’t be too tight, if you get your hair straight that’s wrong and getting pregnant isn’t right. It's almost like being a part of a gang. People don’t want to beat you or make you feel bad if you do something that’s out of the “norm” but we are gay we are already out of the norm. I also want people to see the true title of what “The Same Difference” means. We always judge others for things that they do, but we don’t see how the things we judge people for parallel with things we do that might not be right. It’s the Same Difference. Just like how there are some people who are a part of the heterosexual community that protest against us and think what we are doing isn’t right we are taking those same attitudes and putting them onto each other.
What does this inner-community policing of gender roles do to the lesbian community?
The inner-community policing of gender roles segregates the lesbian community. It makes it hypocritical. It causes seclusion. It makes people not have a place to feel comfortable. It also causes people to have to hide the some of the most beautiful parts of themselves. It limits the success of people as well. One of the women in my documentary from HBO’s “The Wire,” Felicia Snoop Pearson, began the film having doubts about auditioning for movie roles where she had to play a “girly” character because girls in community would see her in girly clothing and say “ewww you're straight now? You like boys again? Your not a real 'dyke.'" Luckily she was strong enough to say 'I’m going to be me regardless and wear what I want. But some people don’t ultimately also causing people not to pursue their true dreams.'
What do you hope viewers take away from this film?
I hope viewers will take away from this film the confidence to be true to themselves and not to feel like when they come out as a lesbian they have to be all the way butch or all the way fem, or they can only wear certain hairstyles and clothing. I also want people to walk away less close-minded. I hope people in the film will be more open to hearing and understanding where people come from and why they are the way they are. Oftentimes we don’t like to admit where we are wrong or ignorant but we all have those moments where we judge or we don’t like something without even knowing much about it. I just hope for it to build a stronger community and that in generations to come they can watch this doc and love themselves and still be a part of the community.
"The Same Difference" is currently engaged in a Kickstarter in order to fully fund the project. Head here for more information.
(Editor's note: This post was originally published on SDGLN media partner HuffPost Gay Voices.)