Moonlight punched me in the gut the first time around, because I’d never seen anything close to my own coming-of-age on screen before. I'm so accustomed to not seeing myself in the media I consume, I never really questioned the absence — growing up, I can't remember watching any characters who came anywhere close to mirroring my experience. It was just a fact of life as a second-generation immigrant living in a country where heterosexual, white experience is the default context in which stories are told. I was never one to turn down a viewing party for Dawson's Creek or Clueless, and owe much of my personality to Aaron Spelling, but unlike my mostly white female friends in grade school, I didn't see anyone like me reflected in the media we consumed. I always held even my favorite characters at a distance; not only was their world make-believe, they were nothing like me. I may not have been born into a family or neighborhood like Chiron’s, but his journey — running from ridicule into the arms of a mentor, and eventually leaving the whole town behind — traces a path that so many young queer people, including myself, have followed. The color of his skin and the details of his circumstance, living with a drug addicted mother in inner city Miami, are long overdue firsts in popular narratives about LGBT characters on screen, who are so often white, privileged, and neatly wrapped in “they’re just like us” packaging.
We’re in the midst of an upswing, one that will only continue with the momentum generated by Obama’s White House, and Hollywood’s clear opposition to his successor.
The movie is one heartening sign that Obama's signature hope for an all-inclusive body politic will outlast his administration.
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