This is part of a series about queer history in Hampton Roads.

Read the first story here.

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WHRO engineer Jordan Christie assisted with this audio report.

The first-ever Virginia Queer Film Festival begins this week.

The inaugural series of independent films seeks to shed light on LGBTQ voices. 

Eric Hause is one of the organizers of the festival. The event was created to add value to an already thriving gay community here.

“I looked around in Virginia and I did not see such an animal and I thought what possible offering could we add here to an already vibrant queer community in Hampton Roads,” he said.

Major movies with queer characters, like “Brokeback Mountain” and “Bros” will not be festival features.  Independently produced films, especially those that shed light on gay life in the South, will be a priority.  

Cathleen Rhodes, Director of Gay Cultural Studies at ODU, said representation in movies matters.

“When we don’t see a lot of LGBTQ people in mainstream films, it’s really limiting. So a film festival like this gives us lots of opportunities to see LGBTQ people in lots of different scenarios and experiences.” 

Festival board member Tanya Kaish Keller said there are queer filmmakers that are “sharing life experiences that need to be told,” especially in an era of increasing polarization. Many don’t get shown at local movie theatres. 

One film that will be shown at the Virginia Queer Film Festival has direct ties to the region.  

David McFarland was a star collegiate swimmer at Old Dominion University in the late 1970s who was also in the process of coming out as gay.

He’s returning to the area to share  “Alone in the Game,” which presents the ongoing struggle that openly LGBTQ athletes face at the professional, collegiate and Olympic levels.