In 1997, Hollywood bravely released an LGBTQ film about coming out. How does it hold up?

It might seem perfectly normal today, but releasing a gay mainstream film in 1997 was bold and brave.

In 2018, critics and audiences alike raved about "Love, Simon" which told the story of a young man struggling to come out and accept his sexuality. But 21 years ago, another film helped pave the way for films like it, and found a surprisingly warm reception at a time when LGBTQ positive films were still incredibly rare.

Director Frank Oz says he was inspired to make "In & Out" after watching Tom Hanks accept the Best Actor Oscar for 1993's "Philadelphia." But instead of replicating that film's dramatic arc, he wanted to use the power of comedy to tell a meaningful story that would help build compassion and understanding for those facing the very real challenges of coming out.


In the film, everyone knows that their beloved high school English teacher Howard Brackett (played by actor Kevin Kline) is gay, except for Howard himself. When one of his former students wins an Oscar, he accidentally outs Howard in front of millions.

At the time, the movie received a lot of attention for its pioneering 12-second kiss between co-stars Kline and Tom Selleck, but what holds up most today is the story of one person struggling to come to terms with their own identity and how it affects those around them.

Over the course of the film, a number of characters, straight and queer, help him come out, eventually finding acceptance both with himself, and from those who know him best.

Despite the potential for controversy, the movie was a hit at the box office and earned an Academy Award nomination for co-star Joan Cusack.

In fact, Oz says that from the early stages of production through the film's release he only ever faced one complaint from an anonymous reviewer at a preview screening.

"I don't think about my movies very much after I make them," Oz said, "but I'm very proud of that movie."

It's also funny, which helped build a bridge to straight audiences.

Groundbreaking films like "Philadelphia," "Angels in America," and "My Own Private Idaho" made audiences think and feel about serious issues facing the LGBTQ community. While Oz says he was moved by them, he knew he needed to do something different with his own attempt to address the often painful, and sometimes tragic, stories of coming out.

"It's very delicate to do a movie on a subject like that," he said. "Comedy is a very effective way to get verboten ideas across."

When Howard and Peter Malloy (played by Tom Selleck) share that big on-screen kiss, it's awkward and silly but also brings the audience in emotionally as Howard first starts to seriously come to terms with his sexuality.

Photo by Movieclips/YouTube.

Not everything in "In & Out" has aged perfectly, but it was an important piece of inclusive art that paved the way for future LGBTQ work.

After all, the film ends somewhat awkwardly with a dance number set to YMCA's "Macho Man," which speaks as much to the time it was released as to the place of LGBTQ culture in America in 1997. Though even moments like that won some praise at the time for not just "tolerating" gay culture, but actually celebrating it.

A large part of that authenticity is owed to the inclusion of gay men in the creative process, including the screenwriter Paul Rudnick and its producer Scott Rudin.

"It was my film in the sense that I directed it," Oz said. "But they had a tremendous responsibility to their community. And I felt responsible to that community and to them."That's a lesson Hollywood is still learning.

"In & Out" isn't a perfect movie, but it was perfectly brave and bold in ways we can still learn from.

Photo courtesy of Macy's
True

Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

via Pixabay

Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Macy's
True

Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

Keep Reading Show less