When out filmmaker Angela Robinson (Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, D.E.B.S.) took the podium Thursday at Los Angeles's Orpheum Theater to receive the Outfest Achievement Award, she forewent a long list of thank yous that are typical of acceptance speeches. Instead, Robinson took the opportunity "to speak to my family" about what they can do in an era when LGBT rights are under attack.
"It's important in this time to remember that queer people, we fought wars before," Robinson reminded the crowd at the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival, to cheers and applause.
Then, Robinson, 47, told the story of the first time she realized she was gay, which coincided with the first time she had seen a pink triangle. She was 17, and at the time, "I didn't know what gay was. I didn't know it was a thing. I didn't know it was an identity, or there was even a word for the feeling I had."
While doing a summer program at a university, Robinson saw a flag marked with the symbol. "I asked somebody, 'What's that? I don't get it. And they were like, Why don't you know that?' And they told me me derisively, as I remember, 'That's the flag for the gays.'"
Eventually, Robinson "came to find out this term gay was a word that describes how I loved ... and that the pink triangle was literally a badge of shame. It used to identify homosexuals who were then exterminated in the Holocaust, so I learned simultaneously, Hooray! There's other people out there who feel the same way that I do. And also that a lot of those people were rounded up by the government and executed because of who and how they love."
Robinson thought of the pink triangle recently, as alarming reports of various attacks on marginalized people flooded the news feed in her smartphone. "I don't know about you, but in this decade, I've allowed myself a certain complacency, a mirage of a post-racial, and after that, a post-queer world," Robinson admitted. "I forgot that the inverted pink triangle, what it meant. And it meant: never again."
"I'm here to remind you tonight that we queer folks are warriors," Robinson said. "Each and every person in this room is powerful. I'm here to remind you that assembly here tonight is a political act that not long ago and in many parts of the world still today, we'd be imprisoned and executed for daring to have a celebration, to remind you that the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement is to date the fastest and most successful civil rights movement in all of human history. "
"A pink triangle ... was a symbol of our extermination and we turned it into a symbol of hope, which is a radical fucking act," Robinson continued. "We took to the streets when our sisters and brothers of all kinds were being devastated by AIDS and made the world listen. And we did over and over what is still a revolutionary act: We came out."
To fight against modern-day discrimination, Robinson told the crowd to break out of their bubbles, come out again, and engage in "face-to-face" conversations with "people that don't agree with us." She also urged audience members to vote, encourage others to vote, and help register people to vote. In a sign of the times, Christopher Racster, the executive director of Outfest, had also urged the crowd to vote in his introduction to the festival.
"All our rights are on the line, so we are standing on the shoulders of queer folk who fought and died so that we could sit here together and celebrate," concluded Robinson, adding, "We are warriors. We're going to change hearts and minds with love. Let's get this shit done."
Outfest, which runs until July 22, had honored Robinson for an oeuvre in film and television that "takes us places we’ve never been before." Introduced by actress Jordana Brewster, who starred in her film D.E.B.S., Robinson has made movies including Professor Marston & the Wonder Women and Herbie: Fully Loaded. Her TV work includes True Blood, How to Get Away With Murder, The L Word, and Hung.