Jackie Frost

Documentary Showcases “What Is Gay?”

A Look Through the Eyes of Children with Gay Parents

January 9, 2007

By Valerie Orleans

Several years ago, Jacqueline Frost, assistant professor of radio-TV-film at Cal State Fullerton since 2002, was teaching art to children in Miami. As she was reviewing the students’ work, she would hear them remark that a certain design or specific colors were “gay.”

“I didn’t know what they meant so I asked,” she said. “What I was told was that ‘gay’ was a term of derision among the students — a way of saying something was stupid.”

She began wondering how these attitudes might affect children with gay parents. So she turned to the medium that she was most comfortable in — film. A cinematographer by training, Frost has produced, written, filmed and/or directed several films and documentaries on a variety of topics since she began making films in the early 1980s.

The result of her interest in the children of gay parents is a documentary that has been making its way through dozens of film festivals —most recently at the Newport Beach Film Festival — titled, “What is Gay?”

“I started in the summer of 2004 and at first, I thought about talking with psychologists and educators,” she said. “But what was particularly fascinating to me was talking with the children of gay parents. They were, for the most part, articulate and very tolerant — not just of gays but also of anyone who was of a different race, religion or culture. They come across as very well loved and open to others. They have been taught to love others and be accepting of other points of view.”

Because the children were such effective spokespersons for their families, Frost ended up focusing only on footage of the children themselves.

However, she did find that children of gay parents faced certain difficulties.

“Almost all of the children had an experience where one or more of their friends were told not to play at their houses because their parents were gay,” she said. “Once they experienced discrimination like that, they became more careful about who they would ‘come out’ to about their parents since they knew there were other parents who may not approve.”

In the course of filming her documentary, Frost visited not only with the children but with the parents as well.

They were very open and trusting,” she discovered. “I enjoyed being able to interview them because they were so honest.”

Middle-schoolers, she discovered, are very concerned about anything that makes them different from their peer group — and having two moms or two dads would certainly make most of them feel different. High school students may develop problems with their peers based on the way people react to them and their family situation.

“What I really wanted to do with this film was simply show that gay families are just like other families,” she said. “They deal with the same difficulties and concerns as families with a mother and a father. The point I hope to make is that children shouldn’t be put in a situation where they feel embarrassed or awkward because their parents are gay. I’m hoping that after seeing this film, people will become a little more tolerant.”

Ideally, Frost would like to see “What is Gay?” distributed and shown throughout school districts to help all children become more tolerant and understanding of other lifestyles. A few school districts have expressed an interest and she hopes this will help launch the film into even more schools.

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