Gender roles and what they truly mean are one of the most polarizing topics in society today. Not only are we seeing different versions of masculinity and femininity crop up, but we are also taking a serious look inward and asking ourselves what truly makes someone “feminine” or “masculine”. Writer/Actor Corey Camperchioli takes this topic head on, crafting the appropriately titled short film “Femme” around it. Camperchioli’s personal experience’s which helped shape and create “Femme” can now be a template for others in the LGBT community struggling through the same questions on gender and identity. I sat down to chat with this uber talented up and comer and we chatted everything from how he tackles those who still use the tired “No Fats No Femmes” response on social media, what he wants people to take from “Femme” and his relationship with gender trailblazer Laverne Cox.
Tell me what “Femme” is about? Femme is a short film about Carson, who gets denied by a Grindr hookup for being "too femme". This sets him off into an existential crisis that only a drag queen fairy godmother (played by Aja of “RuPaul's Drag Race”!) and some self love can cure. We just raised over $25,000 via Kickstarter and are filming this spring
Why, after all this time, do you still think “No Fats, No Femmes, No Asians” still exists at this time today? I think that the anonymity of hook up apps enables people to express their truest "desires" without having any accountability, especially as many profiles feature only photographs of their torso. As for "No Femmes" and "Masc only", I really feel like it's a product of wanting to assimilate into straight culture. We as gay people have grown up in a society that has told us we are less than, a society that has taught us to be ashamed of who we are. I think the shaming of femininity within the community stems from the desire to suppress the traits that society perceives to make someone markedly gay.
What reaction have you received from friends and people in the community from “Femme”? I was really nervous about how people would react to the concept of the film, but the outpouring of love has really filled my heart to the brim. People have reached out from across the world thanking me for telling my story because it is their story, too. At the same time, I've also received a lot of criticism from within the community. People defending their "preferences" and telling me to "man up". But to me, that's all the more reason that this film needs to be made. We don't have all the answers to these complicated issues, but we can certainly facilitate a dialogue and a space to discuss, challenge, and unpack these issues.
How often do you personally receive these kinds of responses from people in the dating world and how do you respond? Every time I'm on Grindr I see people saying "Masc only" and "No Femmes"; I try to engage with them. I try to get them to think about why they are saying that and what is actually behind it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but my goal is to always challenge that and get people thinking, at the very least.
What do you think we each can do to not only be more accepting, but be more accepting of ourselves? I think the first step to becoming more accepting is noticing feelings of judgement when they arise in the moment. Then being really honest with yourself about why you feel the need to judge, the need to separate yourself from another person. It's scary to look inward, but I think it's scarier to live a life rooted in fear and judgement. As far as self-acceptance, for me it's about learning to shut off your "inner-roommate" aka that voice inside your head that tells you that you are not enough, that you are not worthy. You are enough exactly as you are.
You came up through the ranks with the amazing Laverne Cox. What have you learned from her in terms of gender and truly accepting yourself? Did she give you any advice for your film? Yes! Laverne and I shot a film together called “Migraine” that debuted at Tribeca Film Festival right after I graduated from Tisch. She's a huge role model to me and to witness her break down barriers in the way she has inspires me immensely. She's spoken a lot about loving herself because of being trans and not in spite of being trans. This made such an impact on me, especially in relationship to being perceived as femme. For so long I felt that if anyone loved me, it was in spite of being perceived as "femme", "too gay" or "flamboyant". But then I learned to love myself because of all these things, not in spite of them, and that completely changed my outlook on life (and inspired me to write this film!).
What message do you ultimately want to put out for people after they see “Femme”? Embrace your femininity. Question the gender roles that society raises us to honor and revere. Harness what other people perceive to be your weakness and turn it into your strength. Love yourself as is.
What comes after Femme? What is on the ultimate dream board for you? After we make Femme, I want to tour the world with it. I want Femme to be at every LGBTQ film festival and I want to be there with it. I want to meet my fellow LGBTQ brothers and sisters and hear their stories.
“Femme” has a stretch goal of $30,000. You can contribute and read about the film (and check out the amazing video on https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1144481143/femme-the-film).