On This Gay Day: The film ‘My Own Private Idaho’ made its debut


In 1991 ‘My Own Private Idaho’ screened at the Venice Film Festival 

Director Gas van Sandt had got a lot of acclaim for his breakout film Drugstore Cowboy.

Drugstore Cowboy was based on the unpublished autobiographical novel by James Fogle. It followed a group of drug addicts who travelled across America robbing hospitals and pharmacies to support their addiction. The film revived the career of teen heart-throb Matt Dillon, and featured future stars Kelly Lynch and Heather Graham. Writer William S. Burroughs also appears in the film.

After the success of Drugstore Cowboy studios were eager to work with Van Sant, and his next film was one the studios had deemed too risky to make just a few years earlier. My Own Private Idaho saw River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves play hustlers Mike Walter and Scott Favor. The narrative of the film is based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V.

Upon its release the film was surrounded in controversy, people were shocked by two of Hollywood’s brightest stars appearing as male sex workers, and while it might seem surprising today, there was a lot of discussion about the film’s depictions of gay sex.

Most of the sex scenes in the film are presented as a series of ambiguous black and white photos.  The film was a critical success and loved by arthouse audiences.

When the film marked its 25th anniversary in 2016 OUTinPerth published a reflection on the film from Kyle Kash, who’d just seen it for the first time, and OUTinPerth co-editor Graeme Watson who saw it when it was first released.

In 1957 the groundbreaking Wolfenden Report was published

The Wolfenden report paved the way for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Great Britain.

The Woolfenden Committee, also known as the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, met for the first time in 1954. The group was established by the British government to examine the law and practice concerning homosexuality and prostitution.

The committee was named after its chairman, John Wolfenden, who was a British educationalist. The committee’s report, published on this day in 1957, was a significant turning point in the history LGBT rights in Britain.

The Woolfenden Committee was set up when homosexuality was still a criminal offence in Britain. The committee was formed to investigate the existing laws and their application in practice and to make recommendations for their reform. In 1954 there were 1,069 homosexual men in prison in England and Wales, with an average age of 37.

The commissioning of the report was triggered by a high-profile prosecution which saw Edward Montagu-Scott (the 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu) jailed alongside his cousin Michael Pitt-Rivers and friend Peter Wildeblood.

The committee heard evidence from a wide range of individuals and organizations, including lawyers, doctors, social workers, religious leaders, and representatives of the gay community.

The committee’s final report recommended that homosexuality between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence. The report also recommended that the age of consent for homosexual acts should be lowered from 21 to 18. The report was controversial and generated significant debate in the media and in Parliament.

The Woolfenden Committee’s report had a significant impact on the law and public attitudes towards homosexuality in Britain. While the report’s recommendations were not immediately implemented, they paved the way for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain in 1967, although the age of consent was set at 21 years of age.

While the laws were changed in Britain, they still remain in many former British colonies around the globe.

In 2002 Jeffrey Eugenides ‘Middlesex’ was published

Middlesex, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by American author Jeffrey Eugenides was published on this day in 2002.

Eugenides drew on elements of his own life and Greek heritage, but the novel is not an autobiography, and he is not intersex himself. The story follows three generations of a Greek-American family who are affected by the passing on of a mutated gene.

Eugenides was inspired to write the book after being dissatisfied with the experience of reading a memoir about the intersex experience. It was proclaimed one of the best books of 2002 by critics and went on to sell over 4 million copies.

The book is built around themes of rebirth, the American Dream, race relations, ethnic relations, nature versus nurture, and also has many links to Greek myths.

Middlesex was included in OUTinPerth’s list of 25 Great LGBTI Books to Read that was published in 2014.

OIP Staff, This report was first published in 2023, AI Technology assisted in its development.  

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