Inside Out Filmmakers: Nneka Onuorah on Black Lesbians and Stereotypes

Poignant, hard-hitting, and utterly enthralling, Nneka Onuorah’s The Same Difference explores the unique challenges faced by queer people of colour. Nneka set out to create a film that made the “invisible visible,” and she did so with intelligence, humour and fearlessness. This documentary is a must-see at Inside Out, and it plays on Sunday, May 29th at 4:45PM.

From problematic labels to newfound perspectives, we got inside the mind of the talented Nneka Onuorah.

So much of your film is about addressing stereotypes and labels. How do you identify yourself within the queer community? 

That word “within” for me limits my freedom. It suggests that I need to find a place to fit in, or that I need to be contained in a space based on what group I’m around. I don’t identify as one thing ever. Some days I wake up and say, “Makeup is great,” and other days I say, “Where are my hoodies and boxers?” It’s a toss up; therefore, I don’t label myself. I’m just Nneka. In every community I’m Nneka.

Do you think lesbians would be better off if we ditched terms like butch and femme?

I think we would be better if we didn’t police what those definitions mean for people. If that is how you choose to identify, that is your right, but people should have the freedom to maneuver whatever they want to call themselves. What butch or femme mean to one individual may not necessarily mean the same to another. And that should be ok.

What was the biggest discovery you made through making this film?

I didn’t recognize how much society doesn’t acknowledge us in media, in health care or even within the LGBT community. People forget about our struggles sometimes. Being black, a woman, and a lesbian, people often don’t invest much in our stories or struggles as a whole. I feel I was living in a bubble before this. With this film out in the world, you now get to see how overlooked and segregated we’ve been as a community.

In your opinion, what is the most important change that needs to take shape within the black lesbian community?

The most important change is first within us. We need to understand that we are a lot more powerful when we are uplifting one another. We need to understand that there is not one specific way to be a lesbian. That’s not all we are. We’ve made it into a gang instead of just a “Oh by the way, I prefer women.” Lastly, that we need to open more businesses and organizations that bring us together. Every city I travel to had no lesbian establishments; they have been shut down, or there’s maybe only one. I think we need to start creating positive environments for ourselves.

What was the most fun part of making this film?

The editing, getting Chinese food, and sculpting and organizing the story. The most fun part now is meeting all the people in each city when I travel to do screenings. Hearing their concerns, watching our community come together and being inspired. Also, the karaoke parties that people throw after the film, because I love karaoke.

How has making this film changed your perspective?

It’s given me a better view of the state of the world and what needs to be fixed! So it shows me I have a long career ahead. I want to make the invisible visible.

Watch the trailer for The Same Difference below. And buy your tix before they sell out!

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