When I knew – a review

When I Knew is a 2008 documentary that consists of interviews with 16 lesbian and gay people as they reflect on the moments that they first became aware of their sexual and gender identities. When I Knew is based on the book by the same name from Robert Trachtenberg. This short film has a run time of 36 minutes and is recommended for those 16 years of age and older on account of its homophobic language. Although this documentary largely focuses on the topic of identity, the film also briefly addresses the complexities of the coming out process. When I Knew is (currently as of June 2024) available to stream on Max. For those with Premium Subscriptions, this film can be viewed on YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and is purchasable on Apple TV along with Google.

            Through the stories shared by the interviewees, there is the commonality of being different. This feeling of being different can be experienced at any point in life. Several of the interviewees talk about recognizing this difference early on in their lives, while others state that they didn’t feel this divergence until after they married heterosexual partners. Same-sex crushes in addition to gender non-conforming behavior often indicated LGBTQ+ identities. To go along with this, pop culture played a major role in the formation of a type as well as to the linking of memories. For instance, one woman describes her attraction to her “blonde, blue-eyed” Barbie doll. Similarly, Bobby describes how he was drawn to the TV character Grizzly Adams that “molded a preference” for the burly, hairy men he would date later in life.

            Overall, When I Knew is worth a watch for those who are interested in hearing and learning from the initial queer feelings felt by LGBTQ+ individuals. As LGBTQ+ people, there is this shared time of self-discovery, which can be used to highlight the variety of personal experiences that exist within the community. On that note, this film could have been longer in length. As the documentary moves from one story to the next, viewers gather snippets of other stories. But these stories are not all elaborated on. Therefore, viewers may be left wanting to hear the rest of the accounts mentioned during the interlude. Apart from this, the filmmakers could have included stories from transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people to better capture the entirety of the LGBTQ+ community.

            Since When I Knew discusses the subject of identity, if you are questioning your identity, need local LGBTQ+ resources, or would like to talk about coming out, please contact the National LGBT Help Center through the support services listed below.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

LGBT National Coming Out Support Hotline: 1-888-688-5428 (1-888-OUT-LGBT)

LGBT National Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-7743 (1-800-246-PRIDE)

LGBT National Senior Hotline: 1-888-234-7243

You can also reach out online at www.LGBThotline.org/chat