CHLOË GRACE MORETZ

This Hol­ly­wood actress is one of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity’s most out­spo­ken al­lies – and with her lat­est movie, she means se­ri­ous busi­ness.

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“Out of any movie I’ve made, this is the one peo­ple need to talk about – they need to see it,” says Chloë Grace Moretz. “It will change you.” That might sound like your stan­dard PR-friendly sound bite that gets taught in les­son one at the Hol­ly­wood School of Me­dia Train­ing, but in this case we be­lieve it to be in­fin­itely more gen­uine than that. Why? Be­cause the film in ques­tion is The Mise­d­u­ca­tion of Cameron Post – an adap­ta­tion of Emily M. Dan­forth’s 2012 com­ing-of-age novel of the same name.

Chloë Grace Moretz – the young actress you’ve seen in Kick-Ass and its se­quel, the Car­rie re­make, and Neigh­bors 2: Soror­ity Ris­ing, among other big bud­get flicks – takes on the ti­tle role here; a queer teen caught hav­ing sex with her girl­friend at her school prom by the boyfriend she at­tended it with, only to then be carted off to God’s Prom­ise, a con­ver­sion therapy camp in Mon­tana. When it first pre­miered at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val ear­lier this year, it was met with crit­i­cal praise. So much so that it walked off with the Grand Jury Prize for US Drama – widely re­garded as the fes­ti­val’s high­est hon­our.

“I had ba­si­cally taken a lit­tle bit of a break from act­ing for a sec­ond to fig­ure out where I wanted to be in my ca­reer, the con­tent I wanted to put out, and what was so im­por­tant to me,” Chloë tells us when we ask at what point when read­ing the script did she know that she needed to be a part of this project. “The first movie that re­ally ticked all the boxes for me and lit a fire un­der me was Cameron Post. It was re­ally that that made me want to jump into this project and be a part of it – and it was for a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons.” The main one, she says, was be­cause she was com­pletely un­aware of how much an is­sue con­ver­sion therapy was – and con­tin­ues to be – in Amer­ica.

The sta­tis­tics are heart­break­ing: there are cur­rently 700,000 peo­ple in Amer­ica af­fected by con­ver­sion therapy, while it’s es­ti­mated a fur­ther 77,000 young peo­ple will be sub­jected to the un­eth­i­cal prac­tice in the next five years. There is ab­so­lutely no re­li­able ev­i­dence that this pseu­do­sci­en­tific method is ef­fec­tive. In fact, pretty much all re­spectable sci­en­tific and med­i­cal ex­perts con­sider at­tempt­ing to change some­one’s sex­u­al­ity from bi­sex­ual or ho­mo­sex­ual to het­ero­sex­ual through psy­cho­log­i­cal or spir­i­tual means to be se­ri­ously harm­ful. Yet con­ver­sion therapy has so far only been banned in 14 states in the US, and that is just when it comes to mi­nors. In the UK, the govern­ment is only just look­ing into ban­ning the prac­tice after years of cam­paign­ing by LGBTQ ac­tivists.

“It’s an is­sue that never went away,” Chloë says. “The movie is set in 1993, so in a way you could look at it and think it’s dif­fer­ent now, but ac­tu­ally it’s not. If any­thing, it’s louder, it’s more talked about, and it’s more eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. There are web­sites now that will help you find any ther­a­pist in a 10-mile ra­dius of your home that you can take your kid to to­mor­row. So it’s be­come very read­ily avail­able and that re­ally shocked me.”

What is even more shock­ing, Chloë adds, is just how far con­ver­sion therapy has its grip. “It’s in ev­ery re­li­gion, it’s in ev­ery so­cio-eco­nomic space, it’s in ev­ery race, it’s an in­cred­i­bly wide­spread is­sue.” And this is where the power of art comes in. When Chloë says that this is the one movie of hers that she needs peo­ple to see, it’s be­cause it could help mo­bilise real so­cial change when it comes to the con­ver­sa­tion around con­ver­sion therapy. “Hope­fully, from peo­ple be­com­ing ed­u­cated it’ll help them to be­come ad­vo­cates to over­turn it and make it il­le­gal in their coun­try and their city.”

When Chloë says that, it’s not even di­rected at just the LGBTQ com­mu­nity, but peo­ple out­side of the rain­bow who could be com­pletely un­aware that these very real is­sues still per­sist in so­ci­ety. And The Mise­d­u­ca­tion of Cameron Post’s se­cret weapon? A great big emo­tional punch that would be dif­fi­cult for any­one to re­sist con­nect­ing with.

“What’s won­der­ful about this movie is that it doesn’t feel like you’re tak­ing a medicine when you’re watch­ing it – it’s in­cred­i­bly ed­u­ca­tional and you find out a lot of in­for­ma­tion, but it’s told through very in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships that are eas­ily ac­cessed by those that even aren’t in the com­mu­nity,” Chloë says, be­fore adding: “To high­light some­thing else, I would say what’s im­por­tant about this movie is that it’s a queer movie told by queer peo­ple. Our di­rec­tor [De­siree Akha­van] is bi­sex­ual and ev­ery­one in the movie is on the spec­trum, and it’s told by the com­mu­nity for the com­mu­nity. It’s through our lens. That is the most im­por­tant thing we can push through – that we’re not just tak­ing ad­van­tage of the story.”

For Chloë, that meant delv­ing deep into re­search for the role and speak­ing with con­ver­sion therapy vic­tims. She met many sur­vivors who were just two to three years from their hor­rific ex­pe­ri­ence, but what left her as­ton­ished was that her idea of what type of per­son might be sub­jected to this prac­tice was com­pletely wrong. “I was re­ally sur­prised by the di­ver­sity of con­ver­sion therapy,” she re­calls. “In my mind when I hear con­ver­sion therapy, the first thing I thought was Chris­tian­ity and ob­vi­ously, highly, strictly re­li­gious fam­i­lies. But

then you start talk­ing to these sur­vivors and it’s ac­tu­ally a lot more in­sid­i­ous. It crosses so­cio-eco­nomic and racial bound­aries. For in­stance, one man’s story is that his father put him in con­ver­sion therapy be­cause his father was an im­mi­grant from an­other coun­try. He worked very, very hard to gain the wealth and re­spect that he now has in this coun­try, so in his eyes, he thought he was giv­ing his kid more op­por­tu­ni­ties in the world by get­ting the gay out of him. I’d never thought of that. It was a re­ally shock­ing en­try point into con­ver­sion therapy that I hadn’t thought of.”

The di­ver­sity of con­ver­sion therapy is im­ple­mented into the movie through both For­est Good­luck’s char­ac­ter Adam Red Ea­gle, who comes from a Na­tive Amer­i­can back­ground, and Sasha Lane’s bril­liantly named char­ac­ter Jane Fonda, who grew up in a com­mune. “There is no sin­gle face of con­ver­sion therapy, as there’s no sin­gle face of gay peo­ple – it’s as di­verse as it can come,” Chloë adds.

What it high­lights is just how wide­spread ho­mo­pho­bia is through­out dif­fer­ent cul­tural, so­cial, and eco­nomic back­grounds, and how per­va­sive it re­mains in so­ci­ety. “There’s a shock­ing amount of ca­sual ho­mo­pho­bia,” Chloë agrees. “It’s ho­mo­pho­bia that comes in the form of, ‘It’s okay if it’s over there, but don’t bring it into my home.’ It’s this la­tent, in­sid­i­ous form of ho­mo­pho­bia which now, in Amer­ica in par­tic­u­lar with this ad­min­is­tra­tion we’re liv­ing un­der, you see peo­ple who maybe had these ideas of ho­mo­pho­bic rhetoric, but now they feel like they have a plat­form to be able to look at you and go, ‘You’re gay, I don’t want you near me, near my fam­ily, or cer­tainly bring­ing me food or work­ing with me.’ It’s jar­ring, it’s scary.”

Ah, there it is. It didn’t take long into this con­ver­sa­tion for the T word to pop up: Trump. Chloë ex­plains that pro­duc­tion on The Mise­d­u­ca­tion of Cameron Post ac­tu­ally started while Barack Obama was still in the White House. Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton were bat­tling in the 2016 Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion through­out the first half of film­ing, but when that fate­ful night in Novem­ber hap­pened, it all changed. “We all went to bed one night think­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton was go­ing to be our pres­i­dent the next day, and we woke up find­ing that it’s now Pres­i­dent-Elect Trump,” Chloë re­mem­bers. “In that mo­ment, this movie be­came one of the most im­pact­ful things we could be do­ing, and it lit a new fire un­der us. It was al­ways im­por­tant to us to make the movie, but now it be­came im­por­tant for Amer­ica to see the movie.”

This added weight of im­por­tance made The Mise­d­u­ca­tion of Cameron Post an even more vi­tal and much-needed piece of ac­tivism. “This is what art should be,” Chloë says. “In the cur­rent state of Amer­ica, if you don’t have a mes­sage that you’re push­ing out, if it’s not some sort of ac­tivism, then why are you do­ing it? I want this movie to be a plat­form. I want this movie to start a con­ver­sa­tion and to help lobby against con­ver­sion therapy in Amer­ica. I’m ac­tu­ally fly­ing to DC to do a screen­ing and to have an open con­ver­sa­tion with a cou­ple of politi­cians, and to talk about lob­by­ing against gay con­ver­sion therapy in Amer­ica.”

We don’t need to re­mind you that the cur­rent Vice Pres­i­dent of the United States, Mike Pence, has a ter­ri­ble record when it comes to sup­port­ing LGBTQ rights. When he was run­ning for Congress back in 2000, he pub­li­cally said that re­sources should be given to “in­sti­tu­tions which pro­vide as­sis­tance to those seek­ing to change their sex­ual be­hav­iour.” It was widely in­ter­preted as sup­port for con­ver­sion therapy. He has since pro­moted anti-LGBTQ leg­is­la­tion in the name of his re­li­gious faith.

The use of re­li­gion as am­mu­ni­tion to en­force big­oted, con­ser­va­tive views plays a large part in The Mise­d­u­ca­tion of Cameron Post. As we men­tioned, Cameron is sent to God’s Prom­ise; a place where ‘psy­chol­o­gists’ use re­li­gion to make these kids feel un­nat­u­ral for be­ing gay. Hav­ing grown up in Georgia, which is a very con­ser­va­tive state, Chloë has ex­pe­ri­enced big­otry based purely on re­li­gious be­liefs first­hand. “The push­back we saw to­wards our fam­ily after my broth­ers came out was jar­ring for sure,” she says. “There’s a lot of peo­ple from our small town that treated us dif­fer­ently, and treated my broth­ers dif­fer­ently. The way I saw them bul­lied and os­tracised was shock­ing. What made me most sad was that peo­ple were weapon­is­ing some­thing that isn’t in­her­ently a neg­a­tive thing.”

“Re­li­gion isn’t in­her­ently neg­a­tive,” Chloë con­tin­ues. “It’s the mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of it and the weapon­i­sa­tion of it that be­comes abu­sive. There’s a lot of re­ally scary rhetoric in the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the bi­ble – the way peo­ple can re­ally ma­nip­u­late it. That breaks my heart be­cause you can do that with any re­li­gion, you can do it as an athe­ist, you can be an ex­trem­ist in any form. It’s re­ally heart­break­ing to see peo­ple use some­thing that could po­ten­tially be en­light­en­ing, but turn­ing it into abuse like that.”

After her broth­ers came out, Chloë’s ad­vo­cacy for LGBTQ peo­ple was so­lifided and she con­tin­ues to sup­port the com­mu­nity in any way she can. “It was a no-brainer for me,” she smiles. “The health­i­est re­la­tion­ship that I’ve ever seen and grew up with was not that of my par­ents, it was that of my brother and his boyfriend who have been to­gether – still to this day – for 11 years. That has been my most healthy parental re­la­tion­ship that I’ve ever seen. It gave me faith and hope that you can find some­one to be with for a long pe­riod of time who you truly love. But for me, it’s in­ter­est­ing that it wasn’t your typ­i­cal nu­clear fam­ily unit – it’s my gay brother and his boyfriend.”

This ex­pe­ri­ence had a pro­found ef­fect on her world view, ul­ti­mately turn­ing her into one of the com­mu­nity’s most out­spo­ken al­lies. “I was re­ally blessed be­cause I grew up so open to it,” Chloë says. “I grew up fight­ing on their be­half be­cause it broke my heart to see that yes, they can stand up for them­selves, but peo­ple wouldn’t lis­ten. So I took it upon my­self with their bless­ing to go out there and talk about it, and to tell peo­ple, ‘Hey, be­ing gay is not a big deal at all. But be proud and be out there and raise the flag high. Be a part of the com­mu­nity, and be for the com­mu­nity.’ So it was never a ques­tion to me whether or not I was ever go­ing to be an ad­vo­cate, and what that meant to my heart and how it shaped me.”

But when it comes to be­ing a good ally to the LGBTQ com­mu­nity there are rules – rules that Chloë lives by. “First and fore­most, don’t take sto­ries,” she says. “Let other peo­ple’s sto­ries stand for them­selves. Many peo­ple try to make these sto­ries about them­selves, and it’s like, you’re not a saviour. As an ad­vo­cate, you’re not a saviour, you’re in no way shape or form sav­ing any­one, but you just need to open your ears and lis­ten. You are a sound­ing board. You are a mi­cro­phone. You’re some­one that can am­plify the voice of oth­ers. That’s what’s im­por­tant. Don’t take the story and then be like, ‘It’s as im­por­tant to me be­cause I’m do­ing this’. It’s like, ‘No, you’re just set­ting the stage. That’s it. You’re just giv­ing peo­ple a plat­form to hope­fully be able to shout it even louder and take it to reaches that they wouldn’t have other­wise had.’”

So when Chloë Grace Moretz re­it­er­ates for a sec­ond time dur­ing this con­ver­sa­tion that “out of all the movies that I’ve done in my ca­reer – which is fair amount at this stage as I’ve done sixty-some­thing in 15 years – I’d say this is the movie I’m most proud of,” we be­lieve her un­con­di­tion­ally. “I will back this movie un­til the very end,” she adds. “I hope it opens your heart. I hope it gives you a new per­spec­tive of some­thing – even if you knew about the com­mu­nity or con­ver­sion therapy. I hope it gives you a new con­nec­tion to it. And I hope that it gets seen – that it opens eyes and ed­u­cates peo­ple.” Amen to that.

Suit by San­dro, dress shirt by Hel­mut Lang, shoes by Vans, ear­rings are Chloe’s Own

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