School Fag (1998)
by Richard Fung and Tim McCaskell
A fast-talking and fabulous teen recounts his experiences as an out and loud Toronto queer. With catty wit, he recalls his confrontations with straight students at school and his gay prom at a Toronto gay youth community center, told with a flair for drama and punctuated with enactments of his Wonder Woman fantasies. Fung keeps the format simple, giving voice to his subject.
Much has been said about the trauma of coming out as a gay man or lesbian. Shawn Fowler never had that problem—everyone always knew. In School Fag, nineteen year old Shawn recounts his life as "a queeny little faggot" growing up in a "white bread" Toronto suburb. Shawn is a natural stand up comic, and his stories are alternately hilarious, biting and poignant. From his early yearnings to play Wonder Woman in preschool neighborhood games, to losing the much publicized prom competition at his high school, Shawn offers a fresh account of homophobia and resistance. His tales include victimization by persistent name calling and administrative indifference to a vandalized locker. However, Shawn also describes the joys of discovering Lesbian Gay Bisexual Youth of Toronto and the salvation of the Toronto Board of Education's Triangle Program for queer high school students.
“When he was a child Shawn Fowler would sometimes slip on a Wonder Woman costume and pretend he was the famous feminine crusader. Imagining himself as the defiant Amazon provided solace and empowered Shawn to accept his nascent homosexuality. Twirling around in Lynda Carter’s gorgeous sparkly costume, the unleashed the gay boy inside. At nineteen years old, Shawn becomes the star of School Fag, a documentary monologue that Richard directed in collaboration with his lifelong partner, education activist Tim McCaskell. When the tape starts, Shawn is seated on a stool against a colour screen in a T-shirt boldly emblazoned with the words, “White Trash.” He is by turns glamorous and casual, flippant and earnest. But mostly, he is the quintessential teenager delivering a loquacious, improvised speech that fixates simultaneously, and with invariant intensity, on issues large (social equality and homophobia) and small (makeup and Ru Paul). His stories of high school life are rife with pathos and humour. After “fag’ is written on his locker in black marker, he is offered a transfer to Tri-gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The epithet is a jarring reminder of the hatred and violence lurking below the surface in his present milieu, and he accepts the transfer with equanimity and enthusiasm. Whether or not this constitutes a political triumph is open for discussion. But there can be no question that Shawn’s person experience at Triangle is marvelously liberating. Nowhere does Shawn, the rambling poet of the everyday, emerge as enchantingly as when he recalls his bid for Prom Queen.” (Kyo Maclear)