“To see the world through Esther’s eyes is a true privilege.”
ESTHER NEWTON MADE ME GAY explores the life and times of cultural anthropologist Esther Newton. Throughout her career, Esther was a pioneer—questioning and challenging status quo assumptions on gender, sexuality, and anthropological methods. Her work inspired generations of scholars to pursue research in what would eventually become the field of LGBTQ+ and Gender Studies.
The film tells her story of awakening to gay life in the 1950’s, the women’s liberation movement and lesbian-feminism, drag culture, and forging a butch identity which for her is now in conversation with trans-masculinity.
Keenly attuned to the cultural and societal forces that shaped her life, Esther guides us through an anthropology of herself, a study influenced by her love for a sport—competitive dog agility—that pairs her aging butch body with her beloved dog teammate on an obstacle course that is constantly changing.
In her persistent efforts to train her body back into shape after numerous health setbacks, we see the intense drive that has helped Esther navigate a lifetime of obstacles she faced in her quest to become who she wanted to be: a butch lesbian, scholar, and athlete.
“Jean Carlomusto makes her films with heart, with grace, and with integrity… her portrait of Esther Newton unveils a living, breathing human being, a masculine of center, femme-loving, dog-loving, brilliant and articulate woman.” — Janet Prolman, QUEER GURU
“This is an amazing documentary about history, huge achievements, relationships, and competence. It will make you emotional, enthralled, and excited. A true embodiment of strength and endurance. To see the world through Esther’s eyes is a true privilege.” — Casandra W, LESFLICKS
“Inspired by Margaret Mead and Gertrude Stein, Newton forged a path for queer studies in academia, writing about drag artists and gender roles. Esther Newton Made Me Gay celebrates the life, loves, and influence of this pioneering figure in queer studies.” — Garry M. Kramer, GAY CITY NEWS
“Through the frank recollections of Newton, now in her early 80s, Carlomusto takes in the dawn of gay liberation, infighting within the feminist movement, AIDS activism, and the history of the formation of the idyllic queer community of Fire Island’s Cherry Grove. Newton’s story is of a life well-lived, full of love affairs with interesting women.” — James Kleinmann, THE QUEER REVIEW