WATCH: Second Class Citizens Could Be The Most Important Documentary Ever About The LGBT Community

This is a trailer for Second Class Citizens, Ryan James Yezak’s still-in-progress documentary about the history of discrimination faced by the gay community.

The clip is both devastating—for reminding us of the abuse and degradation earlier generations faced (and many still face today)—and somewhat heartening, for showing us how far we’ve come. Yezak’s documentary will address the vast and varied arenas in which LGBTs are treated like second-class citizens: marriage, adoption, housing, employment, blood donation, religious and community organizations—do we need to go on?

On his Kickstarter page for the film, Yezak lays out why he’s investing his time and resources into the project:

The idea… was born when I first learned that California’s Proposition 8 had passed, defining marriage only between a man and woman in that state. I was angry and I wanted to do something about it. As time went by, I learned more and more about the inequalities that exist for gays, lesbians, & bisexuals in this country.

I made a friend on YouTube who revealed to me that he would be expelled from his school if they found out he was gay. I did not believe him—in what kind of reality could something like that be true? It is true.

Shortly after that, a string of natural disasters occurred and my boss asked me if I wanted to donate blood with her. I immediately got up to go with her & then stopped abruptly realizing that I couldn’t donate blood. She did not believe me, nor did she understand why. I felt like a different species. I did not feel one with the human race in that moment.

That was the moment it had a direct effect on me & my rights—that is when I decided to make this documentary…

I am not a second class citizen. You are not a second class citizen. Right now, the laws in place (and lack thereof) say that we are. Let’s change that.

Let’s, shall we?

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  • Chad

    I’ll add a comment as soon as I stop crying.

  • Zeus

    Has anyone seen the kickstarter page for this? It’s unintentionally hilarious.

  • queertypie

    Ryan James Yezak is a courageous and passionate man. I admire his passion and tenacity. I’m looking forward to the documentary. I too am outraged at the hate and bigotry directed at us. I have let my voice be known through signing petitions and voting and writing to my congressional senators and representatives. Make your voice heard too! We’ve had to fight so many battles: AIDS funding, same-sex marriage and now we have to stop the bigotry and hatred. Don’t wait for another man/woman to kill themselves. Stop hate NOW.

  • Birdy

    Ummm, yeah, except Ryan’s project isn’t for trans people. He specifically only wants to do this project for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. Check the kickstarter page. LGB, but (yet again, rather predictably from a West Hollywood white gay man) forget the T.

  • Mark

    Blech, another documentary through a white gay male lense. snooze. Read Pam House Blend about this.

  • Eric Auerbach

    @Mark: Anyone preventing you from putting together your own documentary? Or is bitching and moaning a full-time job?

  • Michael Bedwell

    I can’t fault those reasonably disappointed in what they didn’t see, but what could be “CONSTRUCTIVE criticism” has turned into knee-jerk reactionism from some that is just as cliche in its own way as the alleged failure of perspective they protest. And protest much too quickly given these few minutes be considered a kind of “first draft” or outline as it’s NOT really a “trailer” because those are made after and from COMPLETED works, and this project is just beginning.

    At the same time, I was surprised at some of what was included by someone so young, for example the clips of my late friend Leonard Matlovich filmed a few weeks before his death 24 years ago before Mr. Yesak was even born. That he looked far and wide enough to discover someone few people his age have even heard of suggests good intentions on his part. I must also note, with respect to the wonderful Karen Ocamb in reference to some of her comments at, that Leonard was but one of those touched upon in the film who were/are NOT “rich…highly sexualized younger gay men.” Criticism of Yezak’s correctable flaws are fair, but unsupportable broadbrushing by those who accuse him of broadbrushing is not.

    AMERICAblog Gay’s John Aravosis criticized him for not including the case of gay sailor Timothy McVeigh, claiming it was the only legal success to date at the time—erasing, himself, the preceding sucesses of Grete Cammermeyer, Keith Meinhold, Zoe Dunning, and Justin Elzie, as well as those pre-DADT of Leonard, Perry Watkins, Miriam Ben-Shalom, and Dusty Pruitt.

    Pam Spaulding of PamsHouseBlend chastises him for leaving out “gay activist” Bayard Rustin. Rustin’s a giant hero to me, but the also great Pam is demonstrating some of the ignorance she accuses Yezak of. For only in his last couple of years of life did Rustin come out “publicly,” and do some speaking and writing about homophobia, and lobbying for New York City’s gay rights bill. In fact, a year before he died, Rustin rejected Pam’s label himself, declining an invitation to contribute to an anthology by black gay men: “After much thought, I have decided that I must decline….I did not ‘come out of the closet’ voluntarily—circumstances forced me out. While I have no problem with being publicly identified as homosexual, it would be dishonest of me to present myself as one who was in the forefront of the struggle for gay rights. The credit for that belongs to others. They are the ones who should be in your book. While I support full equality, under the law, for homosexuals, I fundamentally consider sexual orientation to be a private matter. As such it has not be a factor which has greatly influenced my role as an activist.” – from “Lost Prophet, The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin” by John D’Emilio.

    Therefore, NOT including him in a documentary about the gay movement—versus about notable gays alone—is entirely appropriate.

    Dependent so far upon “found footage,” Metroweekly’s observation is the most reasonable I’ve seen, emphasis mine: “Considering that Yezak’s trailer used mostly television footage, the GLAAD and CAP reports add to the question of Yezak’s goals another question of what footage—and how much diversity—was AVAILABLE to him.”

    I don’t know him, but I’d like to believe he’d appreciate positive input, while, understandably, no one would appreciate the rush to judge—and crucify.

    Thank you.

  • Ryan J.

    Maybe it’ll be a good documentary but why don’t gays of all colors get more representation. I feel that we are usually forgotten about or ignored in the media.

  • Eric Auerbach

    @Ryan J.: And I feel people like you do nothing but whine. Pick up a fucking camera and make your own damn documentary.

  • Ryan J.

    BTW, why do white gays become angry when gays of color point out that we are underrepresented in the media. What we are saying is true. I know that not all white gays react this way but I do see it a lot. It’s troubling if you’re a gay latino and you live in a country where for some reason homosexuality is strongly associated with being white. That belief is inaccurate and straight people think that way because when they turn on the tv or go to a movie, they basically only see gay characters who are white. We (gays of color) point this out and gay whites get angry? I would think you would be with us because expanding the imaage of the lgbt community greatly strengthens our movements and it gives us more wide-ranging appeal. I’m not just pointing this out because I’m perturbed by my exclusion, I point it out because it’s a stragety to help us win our movement. It’s just weird that you wouldn’t be with us.

  • Ryan J.

    correction, I meant to write “movement” not “movements.” :)

  • Eric Auerbach

    @Ryan J.: You do realize that movies don’t just fall ready-made from the sky, right? Someone actually has to get up and make them. Which means that there’s a flip side to what you’re saying: If your viewpoint is under-represented in the movies, it’s because there aren’t enough people with your point of view making movies. So get up and make a damn movie. Don’t just bitch and whine about it. Bitching and whining is not how movies get made.

  • Interesting

    So, in sum, if someone say GLAAD says there should be more representation of gays on TV, they should go out to make more gay things for TV, buy a network, and put it out themselves. That’s if we are going to follow Eric’s bullshit.

    In reality, its hard to get things made. Its even hard to get them distributed. There’s no excuse for exclusion in a “touching” film that’s supposed to be about the gay experience. If you are going to exclude, you aren’t really deserving of funding.

  • Michael Bedwell


    AGAIN this is being made with “FOUND footage”—and it is not the documentarian’s fault if there is a shortage of such footage about people of color. And it’s about the gay policial movement NOT “the gay experience,” and it is a fact that very few people of color have been at the forefront of that movement. Of course, the typical charge is that that is because they were kept or driven out by whites. Even were that true—and it very rarely is—yes, that pivots back to: then create your own organization. And some people of color have, but those at the national level, such as the National Black Justice Coalition have never gotten much traction.

    There have been some black gay activists reach national prominence, e.g., Mel Boozer, Audre Lorde, and Gil Gerald, and I trust that Yezak will include some of them in the final film.

    But conflating reflecting all the colors of our proverbial rainbow with a film intended to communicate the fight against our collective suffering to nongay audiences is nonsense. Or are you suggesting that a black gay man kicked out of the military is a greater injustice than a white one? An Asian lesbian couple denied the right to marry worse than a white lesbian couple? Or Matthew Shepard less dead than Gwen Araujo?

  • Lefty

    I would love to see a documentary that encompassed as much of the LGBT struggle as possible – all classes, all colours, all countries etc – but obviously it would be HUGE and impossible to include everything in the end. I just finished watching a documentary series on cinema called The Story of Film by Mark Cousins, which was fantastic – it was 15 hours long (in 15 one-hour episodes) and mainly just Mark Cousins’ voice-over detailing his take on the history of cinema from the beginning to the present with a much broader emphasis outside the typical biography of film history, ie. it included far more about European, African, South American and Asian cinema than is usually covered – something like that would be great, I think. Yezak’s documentary looks pretty good – I hope he gets the funding he needs…

  • Isaac C

    @Michael Bedwell: “Interesting” is an anti-white troll racist who hates white gays. Ignore him/it. He holds white gays responsible for gay people of color’s “oppression.”

    BTW, I agree with your comment and Eric’s. I’m sure that if this video featured mostly gay people of color, and a white person made some race comment about there being too many people of color in it, he/she would be called out for making racist remarks. But it’s apparently OK to attack white people and holler about including minority x, y, and z when there are too many white people present. This is the double-standard in all these race discussions.

    All it is, is reverse prejudice and racism. The people who want a color-blind society, only see color (or lack thereof, apparently) in the end, and the experiences of gay whites aren’t worth anything to these militant people of color. The hypocrisy is sick.

    @Lefty: Agreed.

  • Trent


    I swear everthing here goes back to race or whether it is ok to call someone a tranny. I have an idea. Don’t worry so much about it. I know that the white gay experience is different than the black gay experience. Most of the early clips he took from were from before 1980. You were lucky to see someone of color on tv; let alone a gay person of color. I agree that it is mostly whitewashed, however; this is something to be commented on so that the person can think about it and maybe change; this is NOT a reason to put down the whole film. Also remember he is a director and it is up to him how the film goes. I can also agree there is not T information involved here; but again I go back to; maybe he has no idea about transgendered movement. I am not up on all my transgendered information and history, but I am not completely up on my GLB history either. I personally would not feel comfortable talking about the transgendered experience or trying to talk about the history of it; because Im not transgendered. I believe it is called the GAY rights movement. Maybe he will do the Transgendered rights movement next time around.

  • Halston

    @Isaac C: Now take race out of it and replace gay and straight with what you said -would you still feel that way?

  • Interesting

    @Michael Bedwell: Except that’s a lie since there is actual footage and people who were involved who were people of color.

  • Birdy

    @Trent – if you actually read the headline of Queerty’s article here, it says “about the LGBT community.” Clearly, they’re wrong and misleading in headlining this article about ryan’s doc. And, btw, most informed people that I know who now live in the 21st century actually refer to our civil rights struggle as “LGBT movement,” not the “GAY rights” movement – unless you’re taking your civics cues from Lady Gaga, I suppose.

  • MikeE

    @Birdy: and BTW, some of us who’ve been around longer than the rest, still call it “the gay rights movement” because in those days, all of us were “gay”, whether we were men who loved men, or women who loved women… it was one word that united us all.

  • pduffy

    @MikeE: ‘Course, those of us who remember the days when it wasn’t unusual getting worked over by the cops for simply kissing our boyfriends goodbye IN SAN FRANCISCO will be chastized either by not have done enough or being lazy by trying to hand off Work to younger folks and not dying in our traces so others can go Partying.
    A big reason we no longer Volunteer…

  • Alex

    I decided to kick in some cash. We need this. The USA needs this. The world needs this.

  • john

    at the end of the day, we are all gay, which mean’s no matter what race you are, as gay people we have gone through some sort of discrimination, that video just goes to show all lesbian and gay people are united and we have all gone through it, like obama said we are one

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