Growing up is never easy. It's a universal rite of passage, where challenges like school, family and those first few attempts at "love" stress teenagers almost to their breaking point—and, for some, past it.
For gay teens, movies has finally caught up with today's relatively progressive culture to give them a taste of their own struggles. Though there are plenty of queer teen idols floating around, the last decade has given both teens and adults a rich variety of coming-of-age tales that truly resonate—particularly with short films. From festival winners to independent projects, short films show gay youth at their best and worst, at their most hopeful and most lost.
Crossing languages and borders, this international selection proves at least one thing: You may only be young once, but for kids growing up gay, once might be just enough to change your whole life.
An official selection for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, this Northern Irish short follows a day in the life of James, a middle-schooler whose only comfort from teasing classmates and a crumbling family is isolation—and his ambiguous admiration for his English teacher. When he finally comes out to this "friend," he doesn't quite get the support he was hoping for.
This 2004 Australian short portrays a shy boy's budding friendship with an older schoolmate after a bike accident. The habitual bragging about "how far they've gone" with girls brings them closer together, only to lead to an end as bittersweet as the title suggests.
3. Baskets et maths
Jérôme falls for his teammate Cédric when the star player starts coming to his house for math lessons. But attraction isn't always a one-way street. As the two discover their feelings, resistance and identity come full circle in this heartwarming French short—part of a 2009 series produced by the French government to combat homophobia in public schools.
4. Dirty Love
This American short uses precise sound effects and the cityscape to wordlessly portray a gay teen's descent into his own small heart of darkness. Navigating his city's cruising district for the first time, he lands himself a hustler with a knack for getting attention—and wallets.
5. Silver Road
"To virgins!"—Two childhood friends say goodbye in this 2006 Canadian drama: one headed to Toronto, the other staying behind in the Ontario countryside. Their last night together reveals a secret attraction that could throw both their lives off-balance. Careful viewers will see the influence of another gay short, Alan Brown's "O Beautiful," in the rural setting and the actors' dynamic.
6. Mes chers parents
Despite the narrator's age, this French short deals with a central aspect of the gay coming-of-age story: coming out to the family. Best described as a "video letter," the film explains the details of a young man's life—and the man he shares it with—to his parents after years of silence. The ending easily leaves viewers hoping the letter gets an answer.