Filmmakers Wilson & Hamer Testify in Special Legislative Session on Marriage Equality in Hawai‘i
November 05, 2013
by Derrick DePledge for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser - Nov. 5, 2013:
State House lawmakers conducting a marathon hearing on marriage equality have heard a sea of Christian voices who oppose gay marriage.
The few gay and lesbian voices who support marriage equality have stood out. One of them was Joe Wilson, a documentary filmmaker who lives on the North Shore of O‘ahu, who spoke late Monday:
During this special session, the people of Hawaii, and indeed the world, have been witness to the hell that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, māhū, and other people deemed unacceptable by self-righteous bullies know all too well.
You have seen us sit here while people speak about us in the most dehumanizing terms as though we were not present, as though such vile mischaracterizations as perverts, bug chasers, cross-dressers, and security threats do not affect or terrify us—as though such heinous lies do not inflict wounds or tear our souls apart.
Having seen this, perhaps you now have an idea of what it might be like to be a young gay or gender non-conforming person in one of our schools terrorized by playground bullies who act this way.
Perhaps now you have an idea of what it might be like to grow up in a family that would create such an environment in its own home, forcing their own gay or gender creative children to suppress their most human of feelings, to torture themselves with guilt for who they are, to live a childhood void of true parental love, to feel that they have no choice but to take to the streets to survive, or worse, to take their own lives to end this hell.
Perhaps now you have some notion what it might be like to be a person who lost a job or apartment or was denied any number of opportunities most people take for granted because one of these loving individuals could not find it within themselves to be accepting or to understand that their personal beliefs do not now, nor will they ever, trump our right to live our lives as freely and openly—and equally under the law—as they live theirs.
Perhaps now you’ll know what it’s like to walk down the street looking over your shoulder, wondering if the person who just called you a faggot or māhū is going to turn and chase you down, punch or stab you because you are not welcome in their world.
If so, I hope you’ll agree that it is time to overcome this intolerance, and to not just pass what should be a simple thing like marriage equality, but to end these harms that have been done in the name of religion, tradition, and state-sanctioned discrimination for far too long—and to begin to make our communities whole again.
Please, do the right thing. Pass SB1.
Rep. Richard Fale, who opposes marriage equality, represents Wilson and his partner Dean Hamer, a geneticist, called Wilson back to the podium after his testimony to explain that, as a Tongan, Fale too has experienced discrimination.
Fale asked Wilson whether there are higher priorities for the state, such as child poverty, that might merit a special session.
“Do you think the governor should have put our children in poverty first?” the North Shore Republican asked.
“I resent that you are making this a circus,” Wilson replied.
More Details: http://kumuhina.tumblr.com/
A Transgender Teacher in Hawai‘i Makes a Place for Every Student
October 22, 2013
By Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer - The Huffington Post - Oct. 21, 2013:
It seems that not a day goes by without some reminder of the world’s cruelty to those who don’t conform to the usual stereotypes of male and female gender roles, from family rejection to bullying and harassment in schools, from denial of medical treatment to workplace and housing discrimination, from social exclusion to physical violence and even murder. (See “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.”)
Two years ago we were introduced to a world where the story is different, a world in which there is a place in the middle for every child and adult: Kumu Hinaʻs Hawai’i. This clip is a sneak peek at that world as portrayed in our upcoming documentary film, Kumu Hina:
The main character is Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, an inspiring teacher, or kumu, who uses her native Hawaiian culture to empower her young students at a small public charter school called Hālau Lōkahi. One of the many ancient traditions that she is passing down is that of respect and inclusion of māhū, those who embrace both the feminine and the masculine traits that are embodied in each one of us.
In Hawaiian history, māhū were valued as caretakers, healers, and teachers of ancient tradition, passing on their sacred knowledge from one generation to the next through hula and chant. Kumu Hina embodies and brings this ancient tradition to life in todayʻs modern Honolulu.
In Kumu Hina’s school, a young student who decides to wear both male and female leis at a school performance is not sent to the principal’s office or the guidance counselor as would likely occur at a school in the continental U.S.A., nor are the other students derisive or hostile, much less violent. Instead they are, well, a little envious of this studentʻs special place in the middle!
Kumu Hina tells a rich and complex story, from Hina’s transition from boy to girl over 20 years ago, to her search for love and a committed relationship with a young man from Tonga, to her current life as a teacher, cultural practitioner and community leader. We hope that the premiere of the film in 2014 will launch a new national conversation about gender and youth and lead to the creation of more sensitive and inclusive environments for all people across the wide and diverse gender spectrum.
After all, if this welcoming and encompassing approach to education with aloha works so well in Hawai’i, why not make it work on the continent and everywhere else?
Wilson & Hamer’s New Film on Gender Inclusivity Garners Major Public Television Funding
August 22, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Film on Gender Inclusivity in Hawaiian Culture Receives National Public Television Funding
The documentary about Native Hawaiian teacher and cultural practitioner Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu will reach a broad national and international audience.
Honolulu, HI – August 22, 2013: Kumu Hina, a film about a Native Hawaiian teacher and cultural leader, has been given a full green-light by national public television funders Pacific Islanders in Communications and ITVS (Independent Television Service). Two years in-the-making by Emmy Award-winning O’ahu-based producers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, it will be the first national public television film to delve into the important role of mahu, or transgender people, in Pacific Island life and culture.
The film’s main character, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, is a Native Hawaiian who transitioned from male to female over twenty years ago. Today she is a beloved kumu (teacher) and cultural leader at Halau Lokahi, a Hawaiian values-based Public Charter School in Honolulu where she uses her cultural grounding to empower students to be who they are and know that in their Hawai’i there is a welcoming ‘place in the middle’ for all. She is also a very visible community leader, serving as Chair of the O’ahu Island Burial Council, among many other civic and political roles and responsibilities.
Over the course of the momentous year documented in the film, Hina inspires a tomboyish young girl to fight for her place as leader of the school’s all-male hula troupe as she herself takes a chance at happiness when she marries a tradition-bound young Tongan man who is having difficulty adjusting to life in modern Honolulu.
“At a time when concerns about prejudice and discrimination against gender nonconforming people are coming to the fore in public debate in the U.S. and around the world, Kumu Hina’s message of aloha - unconditional acceptance and respect for all - is timely, and sorely needed,” said Hamer.
“Told through Hina’s very moving personal, and Hawaiian, perspective,” added Wilson, “the film has great potential to inspire and help audiences see themselves, their families, schools and communities, in powerful new ways – and to ensure that no one, particularly younger people, faces harassment, discrimination or violence simply because they don’t conform to modern society’s gender norms.”
“This is an important story that allows the audience a glimpse of life and culture through iconic Hawaiian leader, Hina Wong-Kalu,” said Leanne Ferrer, Executive Director of Honolulu-based Pacific Islanders in Communications. “We at PIC are so grateful to be able to support this project in hopes that it will bring understanding, acceptance, and enlightenment to all who view it.”
The film will premiere in festivals in early 2014 and be broadcast on national public television later in the year or in 2015. In addition to Hamer and Wilson, the Hawai’i-based filmmaking team includes co-producer Connie M. Florez; score composer Makana; and writer and narrator Leonelle Akana.
Initial support for film production was provided by the Hawai’i People’s Fund.
Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson
Kumu Hina Producers/Directors
58-125 Iwia Place, Haleiwa, HI
Pacific Islanders in Communications Executive Director
615 Pi’ikoi Street, Suite 1504, Honolulu, HI
Halau Lokahi Public Charter School
401 Waiakamilo Rd., Honolulu, HI
Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC) was established in Honolulu in 1991 as a national non-profit media arts corporation. Its mission is to support, advance, and develop Pacific Island media content and talent that results in a deeper understanding of Pacific Island history, culture, and contemporary challenges. PIC is a member of the National Minority Consortia (NMC), which collectively addresses the need for programming that reflects America’s growing ethnic and cultural diversity. It receives support form the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The Independent Television Service (ITVS), based in San Francisco, brings independently-produced, high-quality public broadcast and new media programs to local, national and international audiences. The independent producers who create ITVS programs take creative risks, tackle complex issues and express points of view seldom explored in the mass media. ITVS programs enrich the cultural landscape with the voices and visions of underrepresented communities, and reflect the interests and concerns of a diverse society. It receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Hawai‘i People’s Fund is a publicly supported community fund established in 1972 to provide grants to progressive grassroots social change organizations working in Hawai‘i. It is a unique partnership of donors, activist grantmakers and grantees committed to positive social change and a more equitable distribution of wealth, resources and power. Hawai‘i People’s Fund assists groups considered too small, too new, or too controversial by traditional funding agencies.
‘Out In The Silence’ Now Available for FREE at the Hoopla Digital Library
April 17, 2013
‘Out In The Silence’ is one of the first titles available via the Hoopla Digital Library, an online service that allows anyone with a library card to borrow films for FREE. Now that’s what we call Public Media for the Public Good! Check it out at the link below, and please, help spread the word!
A New PBS Film from Hawai’i by the Directors of Out In The Silence
March 28, 2013
KUMU HINA: The True Meaning Of Aloha
by Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer, Directors of Out In The Silence:
After three inspiring years crisscrossing rural America with OUT IN THE SILENCE, we’re thrilled to announce that we’re now hard-at-work in Hawai’i on an exciting new PBS film, supported by ITVS and Pacific Islanders in Communications, that brings the powerful perspective of the Pacific Islands to bear on one of the most important and hotly contested issues of our time: dignity, respect and human rights for transgender and gender nonconforming people around the world.
Although there have been several high profile films about transgender people over the years - from Paris Is Burning to The Brandon Teena Story to Southern Comfort - they have tended to focus on the prejudice, discrimination, and hostility that trans people face, rather than on their abilities, accomplishments, and community involvement.
Now imagine a film where instead of being marginalized because of who they are, transgender people are actually visible, included and honored. A world where youth who are searching for their own creative forms of gender expression are embraced and encouraged to be themselves rather than to hide in fear or pretend they are just like everyone else.
Welcome to KUMU HINA’s Hawai’i.
Like many ancient societies, pre-contact Hawaiians regarded those who displayed both male and female characteristics as gifted and special. They called these people mahu and valued and respected them as caretakers of family and guardians of culture. The arrival of missionaries, however, and imposition of American and Christian values in Hawai’i drove such practices deeply underground. Yet despite two centuries of colonization and repression, and efforts to abolish all traces of Hawaiian acceptance of mahu, the ancient tradition lives on.
In KUMU HINA, the tradition is embodied by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, an extraordinary native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident mahu, or transgender woman, and an honored and respected kumu, or teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader.
The film will play major festivals and be broadcast on national public television.
But we’re most excited about following the trail blazed by OUT IN THE SILENCE, and will be using it as a tool for community outreach, organizing and education in the movement toward inclusion and justice for all in the U.S. and around the world.
The OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign focused on the many difficulties faced by LGBT people living in small towns and rural areas of middle America, and provided a model for grassroots efforts to fight prejudice and discrimination.
KUMU HINA takes an expanded approach, offering an uplifting and entertaining story that will inspire viewers to think past the common stereotypes of transgender people and help them engage in efforts to ensure that our gender nonconforming family, friends and neighbors are included, valued and cherished rather than merely tolerated or accepted.
We hope you’ll join us, stay tuned for updates as we finish the film, and help spread word among your own powerful networks as we prepare to launch an exciting community engagement campaign aimed at igniting social change - Hawaiian-style, or as Hina says, “with acceptance and aloha for all.”
Me ka ha’aheo - with pride — Joe & Dean
More Details: http://itvs.org/films/kumu-hina
“America’s Recent Strides To Support LGBT Youth Are Remarkable” - The Huffington Post
February 02, 2013
by Mark Canavera - humanitarian aid worker, activist, and writer - The Huffington Post:
A simple message: “You’re a perfect child of God.” Simple, yes, but it is also a profound message that everybody can and should hear—hopefully repeatedly—and one that seems especially urgent for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in an era of entrenched bullying, depression, and suicide. America’s recent strides to support such youth are remarkable. The Trevor Project and the It Gets Better Project are the most headlined, and they are bolstered by waves of community-level activism like the Out In The Silence Campaign for justice and equality in rural and small town America.
Amidst this groundswell of much-needed activity, however, a single song stands out to me for its clarity of message and its beautiful simplicity.
“You’re Not Alone,” developed by lyricist Jon Hartmere and composer Lynne Shankel for the current off-Broadway revival of the musical Bare, will become a new anthem for LGBT youth. Bare churns in tempo with the lives of a group of sexually awakening teenagers who are struggling within the confines of a Catholic school. “You’re Not Alone” comes late in the second act and represents the show’s emotional pinnacle, piercing through the turmoil. (Although no official recording of the song yet exists, a demo version is available to stream here.) Sister Joan, an empathetic nun, is consoling one of her gay students who is caught in the whirlwinds of the drama. She uses the clearest words imaginable:
You’re created in His image. / You’re a perfect child of God. / And this part of you / It’s the heart of who you are. / It’s who you are / And you just need to know / You’re not alone.
“I feel so honored to be able to sing that song every night,” says Missi Pyle , the accomplished actor who starred in the Academy Award-winning The Artist and plays Sister Joan in this production. Pyle, who grew up Southern Baptist in communities where being gay was “wrong in the eyes of God,” explains the power of singing the song each night:
The song itself is so beautiful. Just looking into somebody’s eyes and saying those words: “You’re perfect just the way you are.” I try to get my own ego out of the way and just perform. It’s all right there in the song.
(Pyle also volunteers at a suicide prevention hotline, which she describes as “one of the most important things I’ve ever done.”)
In developing the song, which is new for this production of Bare, Hartmere and Shankel first settled on the hook—“you’re not alone”—and then fleshed out the remainder of the lyrics and music. As they did so, both felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to create a song that would resonate with LGBT youth and provide them with assurance and hope amidst hostile environments. Hartmere explains, “You don’t have to look very far to find examples of intolerance, places where you can’t be different.” Indeed, as I write this article, I have just learned that 15-year-old Jadin Bell has passed away after hanging himself on his school’s playground in Oregon. “If we can just reach one kid,” says Shankel. “If they think about this show and they can feel better about themselves, or it makes them not make a sad choice, we feel hugely responsible.”
That the song is sung by a teacher to her student illuminates the special role that teachers can play in supporting their students while opening new horizons. “I think that teachers have such an amazing opportunity-slash-responsibility to their students to open a kid’s eyes to what is possible beyond what they think is possible,” says Shankel. Hartmere himself was a teacher who spoke frankly to his classrooms about his sexual orientation and the offense he felt at hearing insults tossed around. “One day on the yard,” he describes, “I heard a kid call someone else gay, and one of the girls from my class said, ‘Don’t use that word because my teacher’s gay, and I like him.’”
In addition to being a teacher, Sister Joan is obviously a nun. Hartmere, who was raised Catholic and whose great aunt is a nun, believes that this character and her song should help to provide a counter-balance to conceptions of the Catholic Church as a monolithic, doctrinaire haven for sex offenders. “There’s another angle here,” says Hartmere, “another way of looking at things. Nuns are an amazing group of people who have an amazing worldview that should be listened to more.”
I couldn’t agree more. Listening to Sister Joan send her clarion message to the struggling student in a recent performance of Bare transported me directly to 1992, when I was a freshman at a Catholic high school in Charleston, South Carolina. I was coming to terms with my sexual orientation, lonely, lost, confused, and yes, suicidal. My Sister Joan was Sister A.J.—short for Alice Joseph—of the Sisters of Mercy order. Sister A.J. was in her 50s when she taught me and passed away some years ago now; God rest her soul. Much like the teacher whose supportive note to a gay student recently went viral, Sister A.J. wrote the following note on one of my essays:
By the way, you were born homosexual, overweight, and with a loving heart. Don’t worry about your homosexuality. One day the pope will understand. PS…I love you.
“You’re Not Alone” and such notes are crystal lasers of love, beaming direct and clear from the hearts of nuns to their LGBT students. May such love go viral.
Petition President Obama to Enact LGBT Equality Now! - The Huffington Post
January 10, 2013
by Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer - Emmy-Award-winning directors, ‘Out in the Silence’ Campaign & Youth Activism Award:
The right to petition our government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Not long ago the Obama administration created an online way for us, we the people, to do just that: press our public officials to take action on the issues of utmost importance to us. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure that it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts and issue an official response.
Well, as President Obama embarks on a second term, we think it’s high time that he use his executive, and moral, authority to demonstrate to a skeptical world and recalcitrant Congress that the federal government of the country that claims to be a beacon of freedom, democracy and human rights for all will finally begin to treat its own lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens with dignity, respect and full and equal treatment under the law by enacting executive orders, amending existing ones and promoting legislation that sets a government-wide precedent for equality.
This should include but is not be limited to:
- Nondiscrimination protections for employees of federal contractors based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- Prohibition of federal funds being used to discriminate against LGBT Americans
- A moratorium on deportations of foreign same-sex partners of LGBT Americans
- Strong promotion of legislation to prevent bullying and harassment of students
- Strong promotion of legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and action to include LGBT federal workers and their families in all federal benefits programs
- A statement declaring his specific second-term priorities regarding full LGBT equality in his 2013 State of the Union address
In order to get the White House to respond to this petition, we need to gather 25,000 signatures by Feb. 7. Please, add your name to the petition HERE, and share it with your family, friends, allies and online networks.
And if you need some inspiration, we encourage you to read Langston Hughes’ powerful poem “Democracy.”
Out In The Silence Extended Edition Blu-ray Now Available on Amazon and Streaming on iTunes!
January 01, 2013
When it premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, ‘Out In The Silence’ was The New York Times Critics’ Pick of the week. This extended version of the film, featuring additional scenes and a raucously-entertaining and uplifting ending perfect for community screenings, is now available on Blu-ray at Amazon.com and streaming on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/out-in-silence-extended-edition/id489395340!
Letter from a 15 y.o. Gay Boy in Canada
November 18, 2012
While the march toward marriage equality may make it feel like the tide is finally turning, this note from a teen who just watched OUT IN THE SILENCE is a poignant reminder of the work to be done on behalf of, and alongside, those still living in the shadows, in fear and isolation, in places near and far ...
November 15, 2012:
My name is John, I am a 15 year old boy that is gay.
I live in a small city just on the Atlantic Ocean near a city called Halifax in Canada.
I know you live in the United States but I just wanted to email you and tell you how your documentary helped me with the struggle of 4 years because I did not like the fact that I was gay.
I had lived in two cities during the 4 years and was out of the closet in the last town I lived in.
I had came out to my parents at the age of 13 and they were perfectly fine with it. Everyone around me thought that I was the happiest most energetic person they knew but what they didn’t know was that I had cut myself and used to be suicidal do to the fact that I hated myself because I was gay.
I am in grade 10 now and about one week ago I was still suicidal but not cutting anymore. The depression I was dealing with was dropping my grades and making me anti-social.
No, I was not getting physically bullied by my peers but I was getting cyber and verbally bullied by people who I used to call my “friends.”
I found your documentary while searching for a good movie to watch late at night. I have watched “Out In The Silence” seven times in the last four days.
I have friends who know these things about me and would try to help me through it and try to help me accept that I am gay. I also tried to tell myself I was fine with it but realized I couldn’t force myself to accept something.
All the stories and things that happened in this movie finally helped me to realize that I am OK with the fact I am gay and that it was a waste of my time fighting it and that I should embrace it.
I know I am gonna face a lot more difficulty in my life but I have never felt this happy since I was 9 years old.
I just wanted to say thanks for the documentary. I enjoyed it and it helped me a lot with everything.
Kinsey Institute Welcomes Dean Hamer Collection To Archives - Scientist Turned Filmmaker
October 24, 2012
Wednesday, October 24, 2012:
The Kinsey Institute welcomes the addition of the Dean Hamer collection to the Kinsey Institute Library at Indiana University. Best known as the discoverer of the “gay gene,” Hamer’s papers, correspondence, news clips and videos provide fascinating insights into the excitement and controversy that surrounded one of the most important periods in the scientific study of human sexuality.
Hamer, like Alfred Kinsey, began his career as a research biologist. He obtained his BA at Trinity College, CT, his Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School, and was an independent researcher at the National Institutes of Health for 35 years, where he directed the Gene Structure and Regulation Section at the U.S. National Cancer Institute. He invented the first method for introducing new genes into animal cells using viral vectors, which allowed the production of numerous biomedical products, and elucidated one of the first animal gene regulation circuits to be understood at the molecular level.
As the techniques of molecular genetics became increasingly powerful in the 1990s, Hamer turned his attention to the roles of genes in human behavior. He focused on sexual orientation because it was one of the most fundamental aspects of human biology, yet one of the least studied from a molecular perspective – a situation he believed was due to a conservative political climate that stigmatized the objective study of human sexuality.
Combining classical family studies with the newly developed technology of gene mapping by DNA linkage analysis, Hamer’s group produced the first molecular evidence for the existence of genes that influence homosexuality in males, and showed that one of these genes is associated with the Xq28 marker on the X chromosome. This finding was replicated in two studies in the United States but not in a third in Canada; meta-analysis indicated Xq28 has a significant but not exclusive effect. Subsequently, several additional linked regions on other chromosomes have been described. The maternal transmission pattern was also confirmed in studies showing a possible evolutionary advantage at the level of female fecundity.
Hamer’s findings, first published in Science in 1993, ignited an international media firestorm that quickly spread across newspapers, magazines, television, radio and the internet. The research was the topic of front page stories across the world, major articles in Time and Newsweek, news and talk shows including Nightline and Oprah, and even became the subject of a Broadway play.Reactions varied from cautious support from the scientific community to passionate disavowals from religious conservatives. Many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals felt the results would increase understanding and acceptance, while others feared that they might medicalize or even eliminate non-heterosexual orientations. Hamer described his work, and the range of reactions to it, in his 1994 book The Science of Desire, a New York Times Book of the Year.
The Hamer Collection includes a wide range of scientific materials including the original research protocols, sample questionnaires and participant responses, detailed statistical analyses of the data, and drafts of the research papers. His correspondence with other scientists and laypeople reveals the diverse reactions that the research evoked. Popular materials include extensive press coverage in both mainstream and LGBT periodicals. Of special interest are the materials relating to Hamer’s appearance in the Colorado Supreme Court Amendment 2 trial, in which the role of biology in sexual orientation received high level judicial scrutiny.
In more recent years Hamer’s research focused on related topics in human behavioral genetics, including the discovery of the “Prozac gene,” and new biomedical forms of HIV prevention. He also became a director and producer of documentary films, including the Emmy Award-winning PBS film OUT IN THE SILENCE, which examines the reactions to his marriage to his partner Joe Wilson in a small conservative town in rural Pennsylvania.
Announcing the Winners of the 2012 Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism
October 11, 2012
by Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer, Out In The Silence Campaign, Haleiwa, HI
Three years ago, as stories about the alarming rates of anti-gay bullying and youth suicide were beginning to receive national attention, we started traveling to communities across the country with Out In The Silence, our PBS documentary about the brutal bullying of a gay teen and his family’s courageous call for accountability, to raise awareness about the issues and help people develop solutions.
While the campaign revealed that tremendous challenges remain for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in towns large and small alike, it also introduced us to the vibrant new, youth-led movement that was emerging to push for justice and equality for all.
Inspired by these bold efforts, we launched a new national Award for Youth Activism to encourage, highlight and honor creative and courageous young people and their work to call attention to bullying, harassment, bigotry and discrimination and to promote safe schools and inclusive communities for all.
The program has exceeded all expectations, with nominations for inspiring individuals and organizations pouring in from across the country.
Today, National Coming Out Day 2012, we’re excited and honored to announce the Winners of the Second Annual Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism:
Justin Kamimoto - Fresno, CA
At 18 years old, Justin epitomizes what it means to be a community activist. When he came out at his high school two years ago, Justin founded the Clovis North Gay Straight Alliance, an effort to help create a safe environment for LGBT students and their allies and to bring an end to the homophobia and transphobia that made learning so difficult for so many, not a small feat in the very conservative San Joaquin Valley of Central California.
Shortly after, Justin joined the board of Reel Pride, Fresno’s annual LGBT film festival, then became director of student outreach, building a new audience for and pumping energy and excitement into one of the country’s most important and visible media events.
Now a sophomore, and Bulldog Pride Fund Scholar, at California State University at Fresno, Justin is not sitting on the laurels of his early accomplishments. In order to address the gaps in family acceptance, support and services for LGBT youth in the Central Valley, he founded MyLGBT+, a unique community resource that raises public awareness about the needs of LGBT youth and provides forums for discussion, advice, support and encouragement. Justin is organizing for change by helping to identify and meet immediate needs while providing a training ground for future activists!
Ollin Montes - Longmont, CO
Last April, a right-wing talk radio jock in Colorado whipped up a firestorm of controversy about the first-ever Diversity Day at Longmont’s Niwot High School, a full day of workshops aimed at encouraging students to be understanding and respectful of cultural and other differences. In the midst of all the negative attention, aimed primarily at workshops addressing LGBT issues, and efforts to shut it down, 17 year-old student Ollin Montes held his ground. As a member of the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and the City of Longmont’s Youth Council, Ollin had helped organize the event and inspired many in the community by his insistence that it go forward as planned. In fact, he understood an important organizing maxim, that in crisis comes opportunity. Diversity Day was a huge success and helped open long-needed dialogue, and build bridges, on many issues in the community!
As president of his own high school’s GSA, Ollin went on to found and lead the St. Vrain Valley United Gay Straight Alliance Network, and is working with statewide advocacy organization One Colorado, to make his and other schools and communities in the region more inclusive and accepting of all.
Isaac Gomez - San Diego, CA
Five years ago, when Isaac Gomez, at twelve years-old, came out as female-to-male transgender, he was asked to share his story with a college class of more than 100 medical and psychology students. While not yet fully confident of his own identity, but with the unyielding support of his amazing family, Isaac accepted the opportunity, was open to each and every one of the questions posed by his curious audience, and discovered his passion, and talent, for public speaking and community education.
Now a 17 year-old freshman at Standford University, Isaac has years’ of experience raising public awareness about what it means to be transgender, or as he says, normal. His courage and willingness to be visible has put him in the hot-seat and he and his family have become a powerful symbol for love and acceptance for all, from participating in a successful effort to enact new rules to prevent bullying and harassment in the San Diego Unified School District to speaking at the International Conference of Families for Sexual Diversity in Chile, to appearing on CNN. When asked to talk about what it’s like to be Latino and LGBT Isaac says: “My family and I don’t think of ourselves as Latino or LGBT activists. We’re activists for human rights.”
Tanner Uttecht - Shawano, WI
This past January, 14 year-old Tanner Uttecht arrived home with the Shawano High School Hawk Post in his hand and told his dad that they needed to talk. The paper had published an opinion piece in which the author condemned gay adoption and parenting, quoting scripture to say that “homosexuality is a sin punishable by death.” Tanner said he thought to himself: “This can’t be serious. I’m being raised by gay parents and there is nothing wrong with me.” He was angry, but determined not to let the situation get the best of him.
Tanner and his dad took their concerns to the school superintendent who issued a public apology, but an anti-gay hate group known as Liberty Counsel helped whip the story into a national controversy. Instead of backing down or being silenced by bullies, Tanner saw it as an opportunity to educate his peers and adults in the community alike. He began wearing rainbow pins to school and a button that read: “I vow to help end bullying against LGBT people. My father is gay. I am a straight ally.”
When Tanner met resistance from teachers, he formed a gay-straight alliance to help the school and residents of their small community understand that it is OK to be gay. A nearby PFLAG group called Tanner an angelic troublemaker, a title that seems to fit him quite well.
BreakOUT! Fighting the Criminalization of LGBT Youth - New Orleans, LA
Across the U.S., the brutal and dysfunctional juvenile justice system sends queer youth, especially queer youth of color, to prison in disproportionate numbers, fails to protect them from violence and discrimination, and to this day often condones attempts to ‘turn them straight.’ In post-Katrina New Orleans, the notoriously troubled police department compounded such problems by profiling and targeting LGBTQ youth of color for harassment and discrimination in jails and on the streets.
BreakOUT! was created by advocates at the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana who knew something had to be done. They formed BreakOUT! to help organize LGBTQ youth most affected by the criminal justice system, empower them to protect themselves and heal their communities, and to put an end to the criminalization of youth in New Orleans.
This year, BreakOUT! helped achieve an unprecedented victory through its “We Deserve Better” campaign. Its young members not only got seats on an Advisory Committee to recommend changes within the New Orleans Police Department, they courageously shared their stories with the U.S. Department of Justice during a federal investigation of the corrupt and scandal-ridden police force. As a result, a groundbreaking Consent Decree announced in July named discrimination toward the LGBT community as a top concern and established concrete measures to address profiling and discrimination against LGBT youth.
The road to full justice and accountability is still a long one ahead, but BreakOUT! will be there to let the world know that We Deserve Better!
Each honoree will receive $1,000 and year-long outreach and promotional support for their important work from the Out In The Silence Campaign.
In addition to these extraordinary award winners, several nominees deserve an Honorable Mention:
Calen Valencia - Tulare, CA
Brittany Hartmire - Newhall, CA
Maverick Couch - Waynesville, OH
Matthew Loscialo - Bernardsville, NJ
Dallastown Gay-Straight Alliance - Dallastown, PA
OUTreach Resource Center - Ogden, UT
Teens With A Purpose - Chesapeake, VA
Southeast Asian Queers United for Empowerment & Leadership - Providence, RI
Shades of Yellow - St. Paul, MN
Trans Youth Support Network - Minneapolis, MN
Thank you all and stay tuned for announcements about how to support and participate in the 2013 Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism.
Learn more and see photos of the winners at Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism
More Details: http://outinthesilence.tumblr.com/
‘Gay Gene’ Scientist, Dean Hamer, Featured in American University’s McCabe Lecture Series
October 03, 2012
When Andrew Merluzzi was looking for a renowned scientist to speak at American University, Dean Hamer was a shoo-in.
The scientist, filmmaker, and gay rights activist will be at the Bishop McCabe Lecture Series November 8, speaking about his research with sexual orientation and genetics. Out in the Silence, a documentary Hamer produced with his partner, Joe Wilson, will also be shown.
“I thought his research would have a good appeal for the community,” Merluzzi, a senior in AU’s College of Arts and Sciences, said. “His research is on hot topics that are controversial.” Merluzzi contacted Hamer, who said he would love to come and give a talk.
Hamer’s discovery of the “gay gene” started a national debate. He and his colleagues said they found an unidentified gene on the X chromosome that determines who develops the trait. Hamer’s book on the discovery, The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene and the Biology of Behavior, was a New York Times Book of the Year.
“It’s good scientific research that’s important for people to learn about,” Merluzzi said.
Hamer earned his bachelor degree from Trinity College and his doctorate from Harvard Medical School. He was the chief of gene structure and regulation at the National Institutes of Health for 34 years. There he focused on treatments for HIV and AIDS.
When not doing scientific research, Hamer works with Wilson on documentaries about ignored social issues. Their partnership, Qwaves, has produced a variety of short films, including Boy in a Dress, The Preacher & the Poet, and Thorn In Your Side.
Hamer and Wilson’s documentary that will be shown following Hamer’s talk, Out in the Silence, has won awards from the International Film Festivals, the Nashville Film Festival, and the South Dakota Film Festival. It tells the story of how the announcement of Wilson and Hamer’s marriage in Wilson’s hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania, garners a negative reaction from the town while catching the attention of a woman with a gay teenage son. Wilson and Hamer talk with school authorities, local politicians, and traditional value activists as they try to show that all people can get along. The film also highlights how gay people struggle in rural American communities, where some people are less accepting.
Hamer and Wilson are currently working on a documentary film in Hawaii that looks at balancing traditional Pacific Islander culture with modern-day society.
The lecture will be Thursday, November 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the AU Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. For more information, go to the Bishop C.C. McCabe Lecture Series website.
“Out in the Silence: At the Forefront of LGBT Inclusion” - American University, Washington, DC
August 28, 2012
The McCabe Lecture Series is pleased to present Dean Hamer, Leading Geneticist, Filmmaker and Gay Activist—7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Thursday, November 8, Katzen AU Museum. Dr. Hamer will present the overwhelming scientific evidence that sexual orientation has deep biological roots. He lays out research from a variety of disciplines to show us how our brains become wired for sexual desire, and how both heterosexual and homosexual orientation have contributed to human evolution. Widening his scope, he explains why these findings are vitally important, especially today, from the Supreme Court to the courtroom of public opinion. The lecture is accompanied by an exclusive screening of Out in the Silence, an award-winning Sundance documentary about the struggle for LGBT inclusion amidst vehement anti-gay sentiment. Arrive early as space is limited.
Hartford Financial Services Group Builds Diversity Awareness Through ‘Out In The Silence’ Screenings
July 20, 2012
(July 19, 2012) - by Joe Coray, Chair of GLOBE for iConnect Employee Portal at The Hartford:
The Hartford’s GLOBE (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Organization Benefiting Everyone) employee resource group is committed to building awareness and supporting the development of an inclusive workplace. GLOBE sponsored national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month in June and led a series of events to promote community outreach, professional development, and business growth.
More than 100 employees and members of the public attended GLOBE’s signature-event screenings of the movie OUT IN THE SILENCE, which was shown in the home office in Hartford, CT, as well as satellite offices in Windsor and Simsbury.
The documentary shared the poignant story of a child who was openly gay and the reactions of classmates, school officials, and local residents. Discussion followed the screenings, which gave attendees the opportunity to reflect and share their reactions.
One viewer noted, “The movie made me want to be a better advocate, and to be open to discussions with my son about how to move beyond tolerance to acceptance and love. Even more, it helped me understand how to be courageous in opposition to injustice and bullying, and to relate to people on both sides of the issue.”
Grace Figueredo, vice president of diversity and inclusion, said, “An organization is made richer by the diversity among us. We need to create a culture where we accept all people and their differing values, perspectives, and experiences.”
Satellite offices are invited to reserve the DVD by completing the request form on the GLOBE weConnect site.
Hundreds of employees also viewed the Legacy Project Exhibit located in the home office atrium. The exhibit profiled the history and accomplishments of LGBT people.
The Legacy Project Exhibit is available throughout the month of July.
** “The Hartford” is The Hartford Financial Services Group, a leading provider of insurance and wealth management services for millions of consumers and businesses worldwide. The Hartford is consistently recognized for its superior service, its sustainability efforts and as one of the world’s most ethical companies.
Sundance Programmer Includes “Out In The Silence” in List of 5 Films to Celebrate Pride
June 21, 2012
5 Films on LGBT Lives to Celebrate Pride at Indiewire @ Hulu
by Basil Tsiokos:
June is LGBT Pride Month, and this weekend is the culmination of Pride events in NYC. Recognizing this, Indiewire’s latest curated Documentaries page for Hulu presents five films exploring the diversity of the LGBT experience. Watch all these docs for free now!
“Out in the Silence”
After filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer place their wedding announcement in Joe’s rural hometown’s newspaper, they inspire both a controversy and a desperate plea for help from a recently outed and now bullied teen. “Out in the Silence” follows the duo as they return to Oil City, PA, to try to help the boy and find common ground with their opponents.
“The Brandon Teena Story”
Sadly, Brandon Teena didn’t have this kind of support in rural Nebraska. In 1993, Teena - a female to male transgender - was discovered “passing” as a boy and murdered. Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir’s “The Brandon Teena Story” reveals his life, which inspired the Academy Award winning “Boys Don’t Cry.”
The subjects of “The Aggressives” adopt masculine appearance and swagger but don’t aspire to be men, further demonstrating how varied LGBT communities are. They’re part of a fascinating predominantly African-American lesbian subculture explored in Daniel Peddle’s insightful documentary.
“30 Years From Here”
Josh Rosenzweig’s “30 Years From Here” takes a decades spanning look at AIDS. Drawing together activists, experts, survivors, and others affected by the pandemic, the film explores the legacy of the disease, its impact on the LGBT community and beyond, and the changes wrought by advances in research and drug development.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Finally, John Walsh’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is not technically a documentary, but a one-man show utilizing true stories to reveal the damaging effects of the US military’s policy banning service by open LGBT individuals. Based on his award-winning Broadway play, Marc Wolf brings to life actual interviews with eighteen gay and straight individuals, speaking out for them in a compelling performance about the contentious and now-repealed policy.
EDITOR’S NOTE: “Indiewire @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the Iw-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. Indiewire selections typically appear in the carousel at the top of the page and under “Featured Content” in the center. Be sure to check out the great non-fiction projects available to watch free of charge. Disclosure: Some of the selections are titles provided to Hulu by SnagFilms, the parent company of Indiewire.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance and a consultant to documentary filmmakers and festivals. Follow him on Twitter (@1basil1) and visit his blog (what (not) to doc).
Out In The Silence Benefit for Equality Texas
May 28, 2012
by Patrick Williams for Voice Nation:
“It gets better,” the national YouTube video campaign assures gay and lesbian teenagers who confront homophobia. Sometimes, though, before things get better, life can get a lot harder.
Out in the Silence, a documentary by filmmaker Joe Wilson tracks the struggles of a small-town gay teen tormented by classmates and ignored by school authorities in his rural, conservative hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania, which also happens to be the hometown of Wilson. Wilson is drawn into the boy’s struggle after he announces his wedding to another man in the local newspaper, a move that leads him to confront the bigotry afflicting Oil City and capture the battle on video for this critically acclaimed doc.
Out in the Silence gets its North Texas premiere at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Angelika Plano, 7205 Bishop Road. Tickets are $12 ($15 at the door) and proceeds benefit Equality Texas, an organization lobbying the Texas Legislature to eliminate discrimination against the LGBT community. Advance tickets and more information are available at equalitytexas.org.
Out In The Silence Launches the 2012 Award for Youth Activism—Who Inspires You?
April 25, 2012
Nominations Open for 2012 Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism
Haleiwa, HI – The Out In The Silence Campaign announces the Call for Nominations for the 2012 Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism.
The award was established in 2011 to honor courageous and unheralded young people who are leading the way in making schools and communities safe from bullying and welcoming for all, especially in places where silence and indifference have rendered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and their allies invisible, marginalized, fearful, and powerless for far too long.
During its inaugural year, more than 100 student, youth and ally groups from across the country were nominated for their powerful and inspiring work. Three remarkable groups were honored: Farrington High School Gay-Straight Alliance, Honolulu, HI (Grand Prize); Oregon Student Equal Rights Alliance, multi-campus (Impact Award); and Equality Club at Arapahoe Community College, Littleton, CO (New Group Award). Full details about the 2011 award winners in The Huffington Post.
“We’re now looking for powerful and inspiring young people, and youth organizations, to be considered for the 2012 Award for Youth Activism,” said Joe Wilson, Director of the Out In The Silence Campaign.
Nominees should be bold and dynamic individuals or groups leading important efforts to ensure that all youth are safe and free from bullying, harassment, and discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and they should be based in places that don’t get the kind of attention and support they need and deserve.
“There are no specific guidelines for what might make the most successful nominee,” said Wilson. “Their activism could range from policy advocacy to protest to creative outbursts for justice and equality heretofore unimagined, unseen and unheard. Nominees should simply offer inspiring examples of the change that is possible when silence is broken and action is taken at unexpected times, in unexpected places.”
Winners will be announced in November 2012 and receive cash awards totaling $2,500. They will also be featured on The Huffington Post and have a chance to be featured in Out Magazine’s OUT100, a list of “the year’s most influential people in gay culture.”
Be creative – links to articles, blogs, videos, etc. to support your nomination are welcome!
Nominees should be youth, or groups serving LGBTQ youth, between the ages of 14-21.
For more details see: wpsu.org/outinthesilence/award
And watch for news and updates at: Facebook.com/OutintheSilence
The Out In The Silence Campaign was inspired by the Emmy Award-winning 2010 documentary film of the same name about a small American town confronting a firestorm of controversy ignited by a same-sex wedding announcement and the brutal bullying of a gay teen. The aim of the campaign is to expand public awareness about the difficulties that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face, particularly in rural and small town America, and to promote dialogue and action that will help people on all sides of the issues find common ground.
More Details: http://wpsu.org/outinthesilence/award
Honolulu High School GSA Receives Inaugural “Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism”
April 13, 2012
Farrington High School’s GSA Breaks the Silence in Honolulu
by PJ Delonza & Lisa Baxter for eXpression Magazine Hawaii:
With the 2012 campaign season well underway, candidates are touting the importance of “small town values” with the same urgency they muster toward reducing our national debt. But what exactly are small town values? Quaint parades on a Main Street lined with cozy shops? A perpetual saddling up to a bar stool on “Cheers” where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came? Perhaps. After all, small towns lend familiarity and cups of sugar, offer a slow pace of life and the gossip of everyone knowing everyone else’s business.
But, behind the picket fences and the waving neighbors is another trait inherent to small towns, silence. it lays over rural America like a dense fog, a blanket of conservative thinking and fear, smothering the spark of anyone or anything deemed to be abnormal.
Unfortunately, abnormal can mean being gay in Small Town, U.S.A.
When Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer announced their same-sex marriage in Oil City, Pennsylvania’s local newspaper, they were congratulated by a storm of hate mail and negative reactions through letters to the editor. But not everyone in this industrial town of 11,000 was against them…one woman offered not only well wishes, but to Joe and Dean’s surprise, a request for help on behalf of her gay teenage son, C.J.
It was this letter that inspired Joe and Dean to create “Out in the Silence,” a documentary aimed at promoting fairness, equality and a sense of community for gay and straight residents of small towns like Oil City across the country. Their efforts to break the silence didn’t end there. In 2011, the “Out in the Silence Awards for Youth Activism” was established “to lift up and honor courageous and unheralded young people who are on the front lines in the struggle for dignity, respect, inclusion, fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the country [and around the world].”
There were over 100 entries submitted for this award and the grand prizewinners were right in our backyard.
Farrington Sets the Pace!
On March 2nd, 2012 during a pep rally at Farrington High School, Wilson and Hamer presented the Farrington High School Gay-Straight Alliance with the “Out in the Silence Award for Youth Activism.” Alison Colby, the Director for the Teen Center at Farrington, Adam Chang [Gay-Straight Alliance mentor], as well as other faculty members and students involved in promoting equality in Hawaii were on hand to receive the prize check of $1,500 in front of a gym filled with over 2,000 excited, loudly cheering and supportive students and faculty members.
Way to break the silence Farrington!
For more information about “Out in the Silence”, how to nominate individuals and groups for the next “Out in the Silence Award for Youth Activism” and an intriguing new documentary Wilson and Hamer are working on in Hawaii, visit OutintheSilence.com.
“The True Spirit of Aloha” - Out In The Silence Directors at Work on New Film in Hawai’i
April 08, 2012
The directors of Out In The Silence, Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer, are hard at work on an exciting new film project in Hawai’i called KUMU HINA. You can join the fun and follow the work-in-progress here: https://www.facebook.com/KumuHina
KUMU HINA Synopsis
At a time when transgender people are often marginalized or misrepresented by mainstream media and popular culture, the feature documentary KUMU HINA presents an intimate and moving portrait of Hina Wong Kalu, a proud and confident Native Hawaiian mahu, or transgender woman. As a respected kumu, or teacher, at an inner city Honolulu public charter school, Hina continues the ancient Hawaiian tradition of mahu as guardians of the culture by teaching her students the essence of who they are through hula and chant. She is also a respected member of her community, entrusted with leadership positions in local church and civic groups.
Despite the societal acceptance and respect she has achieved, Hina still longs for true love and a committed relationship. The dramatic arc of the film emerges when she meets and marries a Pacific Islander man in Tonga, then brings him back home to Hawai’i. Their relationship begins with great warmth and tenderness, but as Hina’s liberated view of gender rubs up against the more traditional
of her husband, conflict erupts and their marriage hangs in the balance.
As the trials and tribulations of Hina’s journey unfold over the course of the year, it becomes evident that her Hawaiian roots and values are what give her the strength and wisdom to persevere. In this way, KUMU HINA will compel viewers to think past the popular stereotypes of Pacific Islander culture to consider how its core values of unconditional love and respect could benefit and strengthen their own lives, communities and nations.
More Details: https://www.facebook.com/KumuHina?ref=ts
“Film and Discussion Draws Largest Crowd Ever”—Nashville Area Reconciling Ministries
March 28, 2012
by Wayne Wood - Belmont United Methodist Church:
The largest crowd ever to attend a reconciling ministries event at Belmont, about 100 people, gathered on the afternoon of Sunday, March 4, to view the film “Out in the Silence” and hear a panel discussion afterward.
The showing of the Emmy Award-winning documentary was co-sponsored by Belmont’s Reconciling Ministry Team and the Nashville Area Reconciling Ministries.
The panel, which was moderated by Pam Hawkins, included Hugh Wright from Belmont; Brian Rossbert, pastor of Dalewood United Methodist Church; Don Shockly from the group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); Pam Sheffer from the Oasis Center; and Ben Rock, managing editor of Out and About Newspaper. The group commented on aspects of the documentary, which follows filmmaker Joe Wilson as he returns to his hometown of Oil City, PA, and tells the stories of several residents of the town, including high school student C.J. Bills, who was forced to leave school due to bullying because he is gay.
Those who missed the screening and who would like to view the film can watch it free on Hulu at http://www.hulu.com/watch/157306/out-in-the-silence.
Those who want to know more about Belmont’s Reconciling Ministry Team may contact co-chairs Stephen Mallett or Sharon Helton.
Silence No Longer Golden: Out In The Silence in Chico, Ca.
March 13, 2012
by Kayla Wohlford for The Orion at Cal State University Chico, March 12, 2012:
The fight for equality is a campaign that one aspiring activist has undertaken on through film.
“Out in the Silence” is a powerful documentary that illustrates the ongoing struggles LGBTQ communities face in small towns.
Chico State Pride director Katie Garland thinks showing the film in Chico could help or inspire someone who’s too scared to come out, she said.
“The LGBT community in Chico is strong and I will consider the event a success if even one person feels more confident and safe afterwards,” said Garland.
The film screening will bring more awareness to the LGBTQ community, said Ange Bledsoe-Briggs, program coordinator for the Chico Stonewall Alliance Center.
The movie showcases director Joe Wilson and his partner Dean Hamer as they publish their wedding announcement in a newspaper in Wilson’s hometown, Oil City, Pa. The announcement causes a serious disturbance and negative response from community members.
“People can see these experiences, and it will give them a different perspective,” Bledsoe-Briggs said.
The film shows both sides of the battle, as Wilson and Hamer speak with a wide variety of community members including supporters, non-supporters and anti-gay activists. The movie shows the changes that can occur over time as the battle to promote and expand equality is carried out.
“I think it’s a more powerful film, because it’s a more personal story,” said Kimberly Edmonds, director of the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center. “It’s directly from someone’s life experience.”
Wilson will be in attendance for a Q-and-A session after the award-winning film.
“I’m hoping to get a really broad audience,” Bledsoe-Briggs said. “We welcome everyone.”
“Honolulu Star-Advertiser Promotes Views of Anti-Gay Hate Group” - by Joe Wilson, Out In The Silence
February 25, 2012
by Joe Wilson, Director of the Out In The Silence Campaign:
On Sunday, Feb. 19, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser ran an opinion piece by James Hochberg titled “Law Aimed at Bullying in Schools Poses Threat to Freedom of Speech.”
In his article, Hochberg called on the Hawaii Legislature to reject the ‘Hawaii Safe Schools Act,’ claiming that it “is a mechanism for imposing a pro-homosexual, state-mandated orthodoxy on students and teachers.”
Charging that the Legislature’s efforts to protect all public school students from harassment and bullying would be an infringement on the First Amendment rights of those with “different philosophies or religious tenets,” Hochberg portrayed this modest measure as an act of “an oppressive government” and used the mean-spirited right-wing rhetorical tactic of referring to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as “practitioners of a sinful behavior” rather than as human beings deserving of dignity, respect and full and equal treatment under the law.
While the Star-Advertiser innocuously identified Hochberg as “a Honolulu lawyer and an Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney,” it gave him a prominent platform to decry the so-called “homosexual agenda” without providing full disclosure of what these affiliations might mean about his own personal agenda. Nor did it offer readers an alternative point-of-view, a standard journalistic practice on sensitive, and timely, political issues.
Hochberg’s Alliance Defense Fund was established in 1993 by a coalition of “traditional values” advocates who have the dubious distinction of sitting atop a list of powerful anti-gay hate groups compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center for the “demonizing propaganda they pump out about homosexuals and other sexual minorities.” These advocates include such legendary right wing zealots as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, and Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Hochberg’s own personal anti-gay agenda is further hinted at in an article featured prominently on his legal firm’s web site. Titled “Reparative Therapy, Homosexuality, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the article promotes the idea, discredited by the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other professional organizations, that sexual orientation is changeable through Christian therapy and counseling. This incendiary article also declares that “the normalization of homosexuality simply cannot be accepted by anyone committed to biblical Christianity.”
If the Star-Advertiser truly wanted to inform its readers about, and help communities overcome the pervasive problem of school bullying, not-to-mention anti-LGBT bigotry and discrimination, it would invite one or more of Hawai’i's many dedicated safe schools, LGBT, labor, and/or faith-based advocates to discuss their views on the subjects and share information about their work toward fairness and equality for all.
It would also cover important events, such as the very successful LGBT Youth Safety Net Conference recently held in Honolulu, and sing the praises of courageous and unheralded young people in the communities it serves, particularly when they garner prestigious national equality awards, such as the Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism, recently won by the Farrington High School Gay Straight Alliance!
And it would help to promote activities that provide opportunities for Hawai’i's residents to engage with families, friends and neighbors in ways that build, rather than divide, their communities, such as this important March 10 event:
Break the Code of Silence! - A Call for Inclusion, Equality and Safety of LGBT Youth
Free Screening of “Out In The Silence” - followed by a facilitated discussion and Q&A with the filmmakers
Sponsored by the Hawai’i People’s Fund
Saturday, March 10, 2012 • 1 – 3:30 p.m. • Studio 909 at the Musicians Bldg.
949 Kapiolani Blvd. across from Blaisdell Arena
‘Out in the Silence’ Screening Sparks Controversy in Dallastown - Pa. Student Equality Coalition
February 07, 2012
YORK, PA -The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC) continues to monitor an unfolding controversy in Dallastown, Pa. involving a contested screening of Emmy-award winning documentary film “Out in the Silence.”
The screening, which was hosted by Dallastown Area High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) on Jan. 25, struck a chord with former Dallastown school board member Carroll Tignall, who has expressed fears of a “covert” agenda on the part of local LGBTQ activists, according to the York Dispatch. Before the screening, the York Dispatch ran an article highlighting hateful comments and actions generated by Tignall and others in Dallastown.
“They aren’t supposed to be interfering with parental authority,” Tignall said.
The next day, the York Dispatch published a groundbreaking editorial in support of the GSA. Most recently, a homophobic letter to the editor was published in the York Dispatch by a local parent who attended the screening.
PSEC stands behind the Dallastown High School GSA and its brave efforts to combat intolerance in its community. Bullying of any kind is considered unacceptable, and PSEC rejects accusations that the club or the school’s administration officials have crossed any boundaries. Administration officials are commended for supporting the GSA’s efforts to address the all too common conflicts in rural communities over acceptance of LGBTQ youth.
“In this ordeal, Dallastown has shown it is on the front lines of creating safer communities for LGBTQ youth in Pennsylvania – a meaningful film screening took place and good prevailed,” PSEC Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman said. “With every positive conversation this screening of ‘Out in the Silence’ has sparked in the Central PA region, another step is taken toward inclusion and respect of all people.”
One such conversation includes courageous comments by an editor of the York Dispatch, who highlighted the fragile state of LGBTQ youth and declared to critics that they should “leave the gay-straight club alone.”
And despite reports from attendees of being turned away following the event, a PSEC high school student leader from a neighboring community in York County noted the event’s uplifting nature and emphasis on positivity. PSEC will continue to support Dallastown’s GSA as tensions continue to rise.
The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC) is Pennsylvania’s statewide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) youth organization. As an organized voice of the Pennsylvania LGBTQ youth movement our affiliation is open to youth-led LGBTQ organizations in Pennsylvania. PSEC provides resources and support to LGBTQ youth in local communities and in educational institutions. PSEC works for social support and coordinated campus‐community organizing for LGBTQ equality in Pennsylvania. As part of a broader social justice movement, PSEC works for Pennsylvania to be a Commonwealth that respects the diversity of human expression and identity which provides opportunity for all. The primary focus of PSEC is on local, state, and national safe school
More Details: http://pennsec.org/2012/oits-controversy-in-central-pa/
“Out In The Silence - A Film Everybody Should See”—Daily Kos
January 28, 2012
by Christopher Haight for the Daily Kos:
Today marks the end of No Name-Calling Week, which was created by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to bring attention to name-calling in schools. From the website:
No Name-Calling Week was inspired by a young adult novel entitled “The Misfits” by popular author, James Howe. The book tells the story of four best friends trying to survive the seventh grade in the face of all too frequent taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, and sexual orientation/gender expression. Motivated by the inequities they see around them, the “Gang of Five” (as they are known) creates a new political party during student council elections and run on a platform aimed at wiping out name-calling of all kinds. The No-Name Party in the end, wins the support of the school’s principal for their cause and their idea for a “No Name-Calling Day” at school.
Motivated by this simple, yet powerful, idea, the No Name-Calling Week Coalition created by GLSEN and Simon & Schuster Children’s publishing, consisting of over 40 national partner organizations, organized an actual No Name-Calling Week in schools across the nation. The project seeks to focus national attention on the problem of name-calling in schools, and to provide students and educators with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate name-calling in their communities.
Of course, many of us are well aware of the existence of name-calling in our schools. And those of us who were unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of it certainly don’t need to be reminded of how destructive it is in young people’s lives.
One particular day in middle school sticks out in my mind. Probably because it summarizes my entire early adolescence. I was in gym class, which was my least favorite class for obvious reasons. I refused to get changed or shower (for obvious reasons), which already made me suspect, not that I wasn’t already. We had to play some game that involved locking arms with another person. Needless to say, there was not a line to lock arms with me. In fact, when there were only two of us left, the other person refused to touch me. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes. It was as if I was a piece of trash. And truthfully, that’s how I felt.
I had a pretty shitty school experience, to say the least. If I wasn’t the faggot (which I was pretty much every day, as my peers knew before I did that I was gay), I was the fat-ass. I could count my friends on one hand. From about sixth grade until high school, I went through pure hell. Had I not believed in hell, I probably would have been suicidal. I certainly wished for death.
No violence was ever committed against me. For the most part, I wasn’t touched. It was all words. Words matter. Words can kill. They didn’t kill me, but they killed my spirit for years to come and profoundly fucked me up in ways that I’m still grappling with to this day. Yes, words really do matter. I was one of the lucky ones.
Given my own personal experience, I feel a little bad that I haven’t at least written something for No Name-Calling Week. It has been a busy week, and I just remembered today that No Name-Calling Week is coming to a close. I think a good way to end No Name-Calling Week is to recommend a film that tackles the subject (and many others) in a moving and deeply inspiring way. The film is called Out in the Silence.
I first heard about Out in the Silence when I received an e-mail about its screening in my old city, Erie, Pennsylvania. I went to the screening and was able to meet Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer (yes, that Dean Hamer), the filmmakers. By the end of the film, I was in tears. It hit really close to home.
Out in the Silence is a documentary that takes place, interestingly enough, about a half an hour down the road from where I grew up, in Oil City, Pennsylvania. This is a deep-red part of the state, in what I call the Alabama section of Pennsylvania, where tolerance is in short supply. It follows the experience of CJ, a gay teen who had to leave school because the bullying was so brutal. None of the teachers or administrators cared, which is really highlighted in one scene of the film in which a school board member laughs during a meeting when CJ’s mom asks what is being done about the bullying situation. The film follows CJ’s struggle to get the school board to address the problem of bullying in the school district, a struggle that takes him all the way to Harrisburg and ends with ACLU intervention.
That’s not all, though. The film also addresses the homophobic culture of the area, which helps enable bullies in the first place. It looks at the uproar over the filmmakers’ wedding announcement when it was published in the local newspaper. It features Diane Gramley of the AFA of Pennsylvania as the main villain who fights progress in northwestern Pennsylvania, however slight, tooth and nail, even going so far as to sabotage a local lesbian couple’s business’s grand opening.
Out in the Silence is about more than CJ and Diane Gramley and a bunch of backwoods bigots, though. It’s about a town’s gradual evolution. The film is a hopeful one which traces the evolution of a local preacher, who railed against the wedding announcement in the beginning of the film and joined CJ in Harrisburg in the end. It’s about humans’ capacity for change, and it points to a future in which teens like CJ won’t have to drop out of school because of intolerance.
In short, it’s a film everybody should see. And I really wish it was mandatory viewing for youth. It might make a few think twice before throwing “fag” or any other hurtful word (anti-gay or not) around. It’s really short (under an hour) and available for free on Hulu.
York Dispatch Editorial: “Leave Gay-Straight Club Alone”
January 26, 2012
[Local Tea Party activist] Carroll Tignall could be the poster boy for Dallastown Area High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance club.
The former school board member epitomizes the need for such groups, which promote diversity and acceptance of gay and lesbian teens.
Tignall apparently doesn’t approve of homosexuality, and he’s up in arms about the club’s screening tonight—at the high school—of “Out in the Silence,” a documentary dealing with the bullying of a gay student.
It’s a sign, Tignall believes, the district is “covertly” promoting homosexuality—and he’s been trying to rally other concerned residents to attend the screening.
We’re not sure why, if Tignall disapproves so strongly of gays and lesbians, he would want to attend a Gay-Straight Alliance club. (There are probably going to be some gay people there, after all.)
It seems a better approach would be to attend a school board meeting and confront the members and administration about their sinister plot to create homosexuals.
Tignall and whoever else he manages to enlist might think their attendance at the screening is a sign of protest against their imagined threat.
Of course, the students in the club might not see it that way.
They might very reasonably take it as harassment and intimidation.
Unfortunately, those are things many gay and lesbian students are all too familiar with.
According to the It Gets Better Project, nine out of 10 gay, lesbian and transgender students have experienced harassment at school, and they’re bullied two to three times as much as straight kids. A third of them have attempted suicide, and they’re four times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.
“Out in the Silence” focuses on a gay student from Oil City, Pa., who is being tormented at school because of his homosexuality. His mother reaches out to a local filmmaker, who recently put an ad in the local newspaper announcing his marriage to another man, to try to help her son.
“The aim of ‘Out in the Silence’ is to expand public awareness about the difficulties that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people face in rural and small town America and to promote dialogue and action that will help people on all sides of the issues find common ground,” according to the film’s website.
Now there’s a thought.
Tignall ought to stay home tonight and think of a better way of expressing his opinion.
But if he’s dead set on attending the club’s screening, we hope he takes a seat and pays attention.
“Out In The Silence - Extended Edition” on iTunes Bestsellers List as “New and Noteworthy”
January 14, 2012
OUT IN THE SILENCE captures the remarkable chain of events that unfold when a same-sex wedding announcement and the brutal bullying of a gay teen ignite a ﬁrestorm of controversy and a quest for change in a small American town. Tough and wrenching, hopeful and entertaining, this Emmy award-winning documentary has inspired a national movement for fairness and equality for all.
Winners of Out In The Silence Youth Activism Award Announced!—The Huffington Post
December 10, 2011
Announcing the Winners of the First Annual Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism!
A new national award to highlight and honor courageous young people who are speaking out to end anti-LGBT bullying, bigotry and discrimination in their schools and communities.
The winners of the Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism for 2011 are:
Grand Prize ($1,500): Farrington High School Gay-Straight Alliance, Honolulu
Impact Award ($750): Oregon Student Equal Rights Alliance, statewide
New Group Award ($500): Equality Club-Arapahoe Community College, Littleton, Co
FROM FILM TO CAMPAIGN TO NATIONAL AWARD
by Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer, Out In The Silence Campaign—(The Huffington Post):
Two years ago, as stories about the alarming rates of anti-gay bullying and youth suicide were beginning to receive national attention, we started traveling to small towns and rural communities across the country with Out In The Silence, our PBS documentary about the brutal bullying of a gay teen and his family’s courageous call for accountability, to raise awareness about the problems and help people develop solutions.
While the campaign revealed that tremendous challenges remain for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in cities small and large, it also introduced us to the vibrant new, youth-led equality movement that was emerging - with little or no recognition or support from established advocacy groups - to push for change at the community level in powerful and exciting new ways.
Inspired by these bold efforts, we launched a new national Award for Youth Activism to encourage, highlight and honor creative and courageous young people and their work to call attention to bullying and harassment and promote safe schools and communities for all.
The award competition was announced this past June in partnership with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. In no time, more than 100 student, youth and ally groups, coast-to-coast and beyond, registered to participate by committing to hold free public events throughout the month of October, which marks LGBT History Month, Ally Week and National Coming Out Day. The events included a wide range of activities - from film screenings, town hall forums and information fairs to art exhibitions, spoken word and original musical performances.
The program exceeded all expectations, and today, International Human Rights Day 2011, we’re excited and honored to announce the winners of the first annual: Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism
The $1,500 GRAND PRIZE AWARD goes to the Farrington High School Gay-Straight Alliance of Honolulu, HI for “Going Loud,” an October 21st student-led program, attended by more than 200 people, that included a day-long art showcase, live music, spoken word performances, ethnic food fair, film screening and discussion, launch of a “Safe Space Program” outreach campaign, and featured presentations by Farrington High School students and Principal Al Carganilla, Hawai’i Supreme Court Justice Sabrina McKenna, Family Court Judge Paul Murakami, and popular Hawaiian comedian Augie T.
Not only did “Going Loud” organizers manage to bring together an incredible array of community sponsors and supporters to help amplify the event’s message during two months of online and community outreach, promotion, and education, they re-invigorated a dormant peer-to-peer support group at the high school and succeeded in involving local middle school students, the Boys and Girls Club of Hawai’i, and members of a large conservative Evangelical church. Perhaps most importantly, they used the film, and their extraordinary voices and creativity, to demonstrate that homophobic and transphobic bullying, harassment and discrimination are experienced by, and must be addressed across, all ethnic, racial, class, gender, geographic, and religious groups. Youth in the Rainbow Nation are on the move!
The $750 Impact Award goes to the Oregon Student Equal Rights Alliance, which coordinated film screening, discussion and speak-out events throughout October on campuses all across the state - including Southern Oregon University Ashland (pictured), University of Oregon Eugene, Eastern Oregon University La Grande, Lane Community College Eugene, Western Oregon University Monmouth, and Portland State University - “to call attention to the day-to-day lives of LGBTQ students, educate the public about issues faced by LGBTQ youth, and call people to take action on campus and in communities for inclusion, equality, and access to higher education for LGBTQ students in Oregon.”
The events reached hundreds of college and high school students, community and campus leaders, and administrators, parents, and allies. And the best part is, these events were just the beginning. OSERA is committed to using momentum generated by the events to continue promoting justice for the LGBTQ community, changing diversity and tolerance trainings to help prevent gender discrimination, and strengthening state anti-bullying legislation.
The $500 New Group Award goes to the Equality Club at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, CO, for a National Coming Out Day event that brought more than 250 people together to see and hear, like never before on this conservative small town campus, the faces, voices and concerns of LGBT students and their allies. Spearheaded by a young military veteran and his organizing team, the events included film screenings and powerful coming out stories and discussions, a panel about discrimination and its effects by former armed services members, the formation of a new campus “Safe Zone” program, and a celebratory public balloon release to help people let go of their fears and announce a new era of visibility and equality for all in the region.
To these three extraordinary groups, CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU for your hopeful activism!
In addition to the award winners, several other groups that participated in the program and did amazing work on their campuses and in their communities deserve an Honorable Mention:
Naugatuck Valley Community College Gay-Straight Alliance - Waterbury, CT
Queer Action at Virginia Commonwealth University - Richmond, VA
Hammond High School Gay Straight Alliance - Columbia, MD
Community College of Baltimore County Rainbow Club & Honors Program - Essex, MD
Ringling College of Art & Design Gay Straight Alliance - Sarasota, FL
West Chester University’s LGBTQA Services - West Chester, PA
St. Xavier University Alliance - Chicago, IL
Broward College Gay Straight Alliance, Safe Zone Team, Student Success -Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Aragon High School Gay Straight Alliance - San Mateo, CA
Blackburn College Common Ground - Carlinville, IL
Thank you all and stay tuned for announcements about how to support and participate in the 2012 Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism.
“Out In The Silence” Highlighted in “Designing for Impact,” a New Report from American University
November 18, 2011
Designing for Impact - Case Study: Out In The Silence:
Sometimes fear and hatred come from ignorance. When that occurs, the best way to eliminate hate is to foster understanding.
The film “Out in the Silence” started with an “unexpected” same-sex marriage announcement in the local newspaper of Oil City, PA. Letters and phone calls from all over the town rushed in. A few people showed their support, but many expressed their resentment.
Among the supporters there was a mother. Her gay teenage boy C.J. was being bullied in school so badly that he refused to go to class and became suicidal.
Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, the filmmakers and the couple in the marriage announcement, know exactly how it feels to be gay in a small town. They found C.J. and were determined to help. They tried to connect people in and outside the LGBT community, searching for common ground. The results? “Out in the Silence” is their message to the world. It aims to raise awareness of what LGBT people face especially in relatively rural area. It has inspired so many people, activated so many gay and lesbian organizations and grown into a huge campaign.
Five weeks into our release of the Designing for Impact report case study, this time we will look at how “Out in the Silence” initiated LGBT campaigns. We will analyze the way the filmmakers have responded to obstacles, and used various media and distribution channels to build networks and reach out to a broader audience.
Read the complete case study here: Designing for Impact - Out In The Silence
“Out in the Silence” Showing a Successful Event for Anchorage-area GSAs
November 08, 2011
by Shannon Sanderson for Bent Alaska:
Out in the Silence was shown two nights ago (Sunday, Nov. 6th) at Out North. It was an excellent turnout of students, families, allies, and friends to address the issue of bullying of our teens that is brought up in the video.
Eric Braman and Kris Katkus did a fantastic job coordinating and organizing this event. They extended thank you‘s to Spectrum (APU), The Family (UAA) and Out North for their help in sponsoring the event. (I believe there may have been others, I’m remiss for not remember each and every one.) Heather Hamilton, president of The Family, reported on Facebook that the event raised “more money for Out North and the GSAs than I could have hoped for at a ‘donation only’ event — well over $200. Congratulations on a job well done.”
Monica Letner, an amazing local musician offered her talent to start and finish the show. Her beautiful rendition of “Who You Are” by Jessie J was just as eerily touching and poignantly pertinent to the cause in this venue as it was when she sang it at the Community Building Conference!
Penny Arcade was able to join us and share some insightful thoughts on the journey we’re on as “outsiders” in a world of “pack animals”. It was touching and motivating to be reminded that while we are outsiders, we have the power (and responsibility) to continuing striving to be the person we’ve always wanted to be and to do exactly what it is we’ve dreamed of doing with our lives! She was the perfect combination of friendly, caring, open, engaging and instructive opening for such a serious topic film.
The talks after the film were poignant and heartfelt.
One beautiful young lady shared her experience of having never suffered any dramatic negativity from coming out, until the last year when her job has sent her all over the U.S. The silence was palpable when she shared that this was the first time “in a long time” that she’d felt comfortable again, surrounded as she was in a room of like-minded strangers.
Students from Mat-Su who traveled through the heavy snows to attend talked about sitting in Vagabond Blues looking for other GLBTAs, feeling alone and having no support, the frustration of having their GSAs shut down.
Students and parents alike expressed an interest in seeing more support within schools all over Alaska.
Several people noted that they were inspired by parts of Out in the Silence where efforts to simply build friendships between the gay men and the straight antigay leaders in the community succeeded and resulted in finding a supportive middle ground between the two causes. It was also acknowledged that there are some — as one lady in the movie — that are never going to be swayed, and it’s not worth our time to continue battling those people, when the majority of people are willing to listen and learn.
An inspiring suggested was made by one of the younger One Anchorage volunteers that in the room we had people from at least 4-6 different GLBTA groups in the area, many of whom didn’t know each other or about each other. She suggested that we work to create activities like this that bring those groups together every couple months so that we can be reminded that we are all part of one larger community. I second that idea! What a great plan! I hope we can make that happen!
A group of allies also raised their hands that they want to be supportive, explaining that they simply don’t hear about events in the community and don’t know how to be more involved. Names, numbers, dates and times were exchanged and I think I can say all who attended look forward to seeing each other again in future events!
Interview with Joe Wilson for the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation’s ‘On Screen / In Person’ Film Tour
November 04, 2011
Podcast of Conversation with Joe Wilson, co-director of Out in the Silence - by Ann Turiano, Program Associate, Fellowships & Visual Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation:
The first time I saw Out in the Silence, it was during a late night showing on PBS. I had been on my way to bed, but I caught a glimpse of this moving small-town story and watched it the whole way through. The documentary takes you on a journey with its characters, and tackles some seriously controversial issues along the way.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking with Joe Wilson, who directed the film along with his partner Dean Hamer. In our conversation, he shares his thoughts on what’s happening in small town America today, the self-distribution process for independent documentarians, and the camera as a tool of empowerment.
Click HERE to listen.
Link to film tour details HERE.
“Fighting Back In The Hardest Places” - The Rachel Maddow Show
October 11, 2011
by Laura Conaway:
Last night’s opening block was all about fighting back. We looked at examples in Arizona, Ohio, Tennessee, Maine and Colorado, all places where progressives have decided not to give up. Whether they’re pushing back for voting rights or union rights or humane immigration policy, people across the U.S. are not giving up.
This morning my aunt Cathy posted this from our hometown in Mississippi, the story of what might be the first-ever pro-gay anything in Tupelo. It’s a small town in the northeastern part of the state that happens to be home to the American Family Association—they’re the ones with Bryan Fischer for a mouthpiece, the ones who gay-baited SpongeBob SquarePants.
Tupelo is one of the places (one of so many in this country) where just being different, proudly, is its own way of fighting back. Yesterday the city’s Link Centre screened a movie about being LGBT in small towns called “Out in the Silence”—after they cleared a bomb threat. They just kept going. From a comment on the Out in the Silence blog:
This is Diva, the big haired drag queen from today’s event; it was such a pleasure to meet you and Dean. Your documentary was such a pleasant and proud moment for me as a gay man. I am so moved by the work you guys are doing and I offer you my support now and throughout the rest of your journey. You inspire me. We made a little bit of history today, and thank you thank you thank you for being part of making this happen. Words can never be enough so I’ll be passing it along through my work.
Life is better having met you guys;) Please stay safe and know there is a group in Tupelo that always has your back.
“Tupelo Rally Urges Support for LGBT Community” - Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
October 10, 2011
by Galen Holley:
TUPELO - Demonstrators outside the Link Centre on Monday held up signs reading “Love” as they showed their support for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The event, called “Give Hate a Holiday” was organized by the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Tupelo and brought together about 35 legal analysts, gay rights activists and their supporters.
“Homosexuals do not expect special rights, only human rights,” said Amanda Todd, an attorney and organizer of the Tupelo chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG.
Speaking alongside Todd at a press conference prior to the demonstration were representatives from the ACLU, the Tennessee Equality Project, the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Earlier this year the SPLC designated the Tupelo-based American Family Association a hate group. The SPLC based its designation in part on comments made by Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis at AFA and host of “Focal Point” on American Family Radio.
Mark Potok of the SPLC called Fischer’s comments about gays “outrageous” and “intentionally false.” Potok referred specifically to comments Fischer made in a May 27, 2010 blog post in which he endorsed a theory that links gays to Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust.
AFA President Tim Wildmon said that comments on blogs like Fischer’s don’t necessarily reflect the positions of the AFA, adding that while he believes the Bible plainly teaches against homosexuality, “I reject the notion that we’re doing anything that fosters hate against LGBT people. That would be un-Christian.”
At noon folks were dismissed from the press conference and gathered along West Main Street holding signs proclaiming their belief in the fair and equal treatment of gays. A march that had been planned at AFA’s headquarters was canceled because of traffic safety concerns.
Filmmaker Joe Wilson, whose documentary “Out in the Silence,” about a Pennsylvania teenager picked on because he’s gay, said events like this raise awareness within a community and help deter injustice. The film was shown twice at the Link Centre on Monday.
Read more: NEMS360.com - Rally urges support for LGBT community
PRESS CONFERENCE: Tupelo, MS - Oct. 10 - 11am - First Gay Rights Events in Hate Group’s Hometown
October 08, 2011
Media Advisory: PRESS CONFERENCE
Monday, Oct. 10, 2011 – 11:00 AM
Link Centre, 1800 West Main Street, Tupelo, MS
1) Organizers of First Public Gay Rights Events in Tupelo, Hate Group’s Hometown, Speak
2) Unveiling of “THE PROPAGANDISTS: Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association & the Demonization of LGBT People, by the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project
An 11:00 AM press conference will launch “Give Hate A Holiday” in Tupelo, Mississippi, a day of events at the Link Centre, Northeast Mississippi’s premier cultural arts institution, calling for full inclusion, fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The events, organized by a coalition of local, state and national civil rights advocates, include a pro-equality rally at 12 Noon; screenings of the Emmy Award-winning PBS film “Out In The Silence” at 2:00 and 7:00 PM, followed by town hall public forums; and a networking fair for supportive area groups to provide information and resources about their work and how to get involved.
Tupelo holds special significance as the setting for these events as headquarters for the American Family Association (AFA), a national organization designated as a “hate group” by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.”
At the press conference, Mark Potok, Director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project will unveil an explosive new Special Report titled “THE PROPAGANDISTS: Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association & the Demonization of LGBT People.”
Additional Press Conference speakers will include:
Bob Spencer - Lay Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tupelo and lead event organizer
Tim Jordan – Tupelo native, former Youth Pastor at Tupelo High School – Clinical Research Associate in Burbank, CA
Amanda Todd – Lee County resident and Coordinator of Tupelo PFLAG (Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Gail Stratton – Member, PFLAG Oxford/North Mississippi
Anne Gullick – Mississippi native – Tennessee Equality Project board member, Co-chair, Shelby County TEP Committee
Pastor James Hull – Tupelo minister and community leader
Nsombi Lambright - Executive Director, ACLU of Mississippi
Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh – Program Director, ACLU of Mississippi
Jaribu Hill – Executive Director, Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights
Dale Merkle – Gulf Region Director, PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer – Co-Directors, Out In The Silence Film & Campaign
For more information: http://outinthesilence.blogspot.com/
“Rally for Equality in Tupelo, Hate Group’s Hometown”—The Huffington Post
October 05, 2011
By Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer for The Huffington Post - Oct. 5, 2011:
Several years ago we fell in love and got married. Like many couples, we decided to share the news with our communities by publishing our wedding announcement in our hometown newspapers.
Dean’s announcement in The New York Times elicited congratulatory notes and wishes for a happy life together. But the reaction to the publication of the announcement in The Derrick, the paper in Joe’s small hometown of Oil City, Pa., was a torrent of anti-gay hate mail. One letter-to-the-editor referred to it as “a homosexual perversion announcement.” Another said, “It would have been better if you had never been born.”
We soon learned that the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Family Association, the controversial anti-gay organization based in Tupelo, Miss., was behind the outcry. Its President, Diane Gramley, had issued an “action alert” asking readers to write to the paper in protest.
While the year-long brouhaha caused a disturbingly ugly rift in the community, it also prompted many good people to begin speaking out against such brazen bigotry, and to organize for change. The whole story is told in our Emmy-Award-winning PBS documentary Out In The Silence, which is now the centerpiece of a grassroots campaign to raise lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) visibility in small towns and rural communities and bring people together to find common ground in the quest for fairness and equality for all.
At the invitation of a coalition of courageous local organizers, we’re taking the film and campaign to Tupelo for a day of exciting events to help build support for efforts to counter the divisiveness of “hate groups” like the American Family Association, and to make our communities more just and inclusive for LGBT and all people who call them home.
The events, which will take place at Tupelo’s premier cultural arts venue, the Link Centre, on Monday, Oct. 10, will begin with an 11:00 a.m. press conference, where a highly anticipated new Southern Poverty Law Center “Intelligence Report,” titled “The Propagandists: Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association, and the Demonization of LGBT People,” will be unveiled. Fischer, the AFA’s most prominent spokesperson, has blamed gay men for the Holocaust and called for the re-criminalization of homosexuality.
The public events start at 12:00 noon with a colorful rally outside the Link Centre, where participants will demonstrate a more charitable commitment to the struggle for inclusion, fairness and equality for all and call out to others to take a stand in their community.
At 2:00 and 7:00 p.m., in the Link Centre Concert Hall, there will be Free Public Screenings of Out in the Silence, followed by town-hall-style public forums aimed at engaging the audience in an action-oriented dialogue about justice and equality for all. We’ll be on-hand to help lead the discussion and explore ideas for promoting positive change.
Alongside these events, there will be a networking fair in the Link Centre’s Reception Hall, where participants can visit with representatives of local groups and organizations to learn about their work and how to get more involved.
Groups like the American Family Association will continue to instill prejudice and fear in communities by pumping out “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda about homosexuality and other sexual minorities,” as described in a recent SPLC report on anti-gay hate groups, only as long as we stay silent.
With these events, we need to make a strong show of support for the courageous folks in Tupelo who are beginning to speak out and work to create a world where hate is unwelcome and all people are treated with dignity, respect and equality under the law.
Take A Stand Against Hate and For Equality in Tupelo, MS - Oct. 10
September 23, 2011
GIVE HATE A HOLIDAY: Take a Stand for Justice & Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender People
October 10, 2011
A very special series of events will take place in Tupelo, MS on Monday, October 10, to help raise visibility and public awareness about the lives and concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Mississippi and throughout the South, and to help build support for ongoing local, state, and regional efforts to make our communities more just, inclusive, humane, and safe for LGBT and all people who call them home.
In line with recent high profile public debates about bullying and youth suicides, safe schools, family equality, military service, racial intolerance and other civil and human rights concerns, there will be an emphasis on the perspectives and needs of LGBT youth, as well as efforts to help bridge the gaps, created by those who use religion and politics as weapons of hate, that have divided families, friends, churches and communities on these issues for far too long.
Tupelo holds special significance as the setting for these events because it is headquarters for the American Family Association, a controversial national organization recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.”
The Take a Stand for Justice & Equality events, aimed at challenging and offering an alternative to bigotry and hate, will begin at 12:00 Noon with a peaceful and colorful demonstration on Main Street in front of Tupelo’s Link Centre where participants are invited to declare, with banners, posters, chants and other creative forms of public witness, their commitment to the struggle for inclusion, fairness and equality for LGBT people and to call out to others to take a stand.
At 2:00 PM, in the Link Centre Concert Hall, there will be a free public screening of OUT IN THE SILENCE, the acclaimed, hopeful and inspiring documentary film about courageous local residents confronting homophobia and the limitations of religion, tradition and the status quo in their conservative small town, followed by a dynamic town hall-style public forum aimed at engaging the audience in an action-oriented dialogue about inclusion, fairness, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all people in Mississippi, throughout the South, and across the country. Filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer will be on-hand to help lead the discussion, and the public is invited to participate and to share their perspectives on the issues, and ideas for promoting change, with the audience. (There will be a Repeat Screening & Town Hall Forum at 7:00 PM for those unable to attend the day-time event.)
PLEASE JOIN US to TAKE A STAND AGAINST HATE and FOR JUSTICE & EQUALITY for ALL!
“Out In the Silence” Selected for Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation’s Inaugural On Screen/In Person Tours
September 16, 2011
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Announces 2011-2012 On Screen/In Person Tours
Baltimore, MD - September 12, 2011 - Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation has announced two tours supporting six films each in the inaugural season of the On Screen/In Person film touring program. On Screen/In Person is designed to bring the best in new independent American films and their respective filmmakers to communities across the mid-Atlantic region.
The tours will travel to 14 different venues across the mid-Atlantic region during fall 2011 and spring 2012. Host sites range from the St. John Film Society in the U.S. Virgin Islands to Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ and from the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston, WV to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA. For a complete list of host sites and tour information, click here.
Over 90 filmmakers submitted films for review for this first round of On Screen/In Person. Program host sites vetted all of the films and then met at the Charles Theatre, Baltimore’s premiere independent film center, for a two-day screening event to select the 12 films that make up the tours. Selected films include:
>Tour A: What’s “Organic” About Organic directed by Shelly Rogers; Beatboxing: The Fifth Element of Hip-Hop produced by Angela Viscido; Out in the Silence directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson; Concrete, Steel and Paint directed by Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza; Proceed and Be Bold! directed by Laura Zinger; and Milking the Rhino directed by David E. Simpson.
>Tour B: Trust: Second Acts in Young Lives directed by Nancy Kelly; Little Town of Bethlehem directed by Jim Hanon; In Good Time, The Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland directed by Huey; Money Matters directed by Ryan Richmond; Fambul Tok directed by Sara Terry; and BLAST! directed by Paul Devlin.
The filmmakers will tour with their films to the venues and will work with the host sites to develop their participation in community activities that provide context and greater appreciation for their respective work and the art of film.
The purpose of On Screen/In Person is to provide exhibition opportunities for independent filmmakers; provide access to film programming of excellence to audiences across the mid-Atlantic region; and to provide communities with opportunities that engender greater understanding of the filmmakers work and enhance the viewing experience.
On Screen/In Person is made possible through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Regional Touring Program.
About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation fosters and supports arts programming for the benefit of arts organizations, artists and audiences and encourages exchanges that link the arts resources of the mid-Atlantic region to the rest of the nation and the world. The Foundation was created in 1979 and is a private non-profit organization that is closely allied with the region’s state arts councils and the National Endowment for the Arts. It combines funding from state and federal resources with private support from corporations, foundations, and individuals to address needs in the arts from a regional perspective. The region includes nine states and jurisdictions: The District of Columbia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania,U.S.Virgin Islands, Virginia and West Virginia. To learn more about MAAF, its programs and services, visit our web site at http://www.midatlanticarts.org
Discussion of “Out In The Silence” & Anti-Bullying Strategies in Phoenix, AZ - (VIDEO)
September 13, 2011
A very powerful discussion panel on anti-GLBT bullying that was held after the screening of the documentary film “Out in the Silence” at the 2011 Desperado Film Festival in Phoenix, AZ. This discussion is moderated by Heather Merryl from Glendale Community College, and features Dave Pape from PFLAG AZ, GLSEN trainer Jimmie Munoz, and GLUAD founder Caleb Laieski. They discuss strategies on dealing with bullying in both school and in the workplace. Shot and edited by PVCC Film Faculty Ed Kishel.
More Details: http://www.desperadofilmfestival.com/
ANNOUNCING: New Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism!
September 01, 2011
The OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign, in partnership with GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), announces a new national Award for Youth Activism to highlight and honor the courageous young people who are on the front lines in the most important civil and human rights struggle of our time: achieving dignity, respect, inclusion, fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The award was conceived in response to the tragic epidemic of teen suicides that captured the nation’s attention last year and the renewed, and troubling, efforts of anti-LGBT voices to stir the bigotry, hatred and fear that puts youth at-risk and has divided families, friends, churches, and communities on these issues for far too long.
A $1,500 Grand Prize, $750 Impact Prize, and $500 New Group Prize, will be awarded to the student, youth, and ally groups that most effectively raise LGBT visibility, call attention to bullying and harassment, and promote safe schools, inclusion, fairness and equality for all by holding an OUT IN THE SILENCE film screening & speak out event in their school or community during the month of October—which marks LGBT History Month and National Coming Out Day.
Entering the award competition is easy. To be eligible to win, and to receive a FREE DVD and Event Planning Toolkit, check out all the details and register by the Sept. 23 deadline HERE.
Award Winners will be announced in The Huffington Post on December 10—International Human Rights Day!
About the Film and Campaign: Based on the true story of a courageous teen who stands up to bullying and harassment in his small town high school after a brutal gay-bashing, OUT IN THE SILENCE provides a hopeful and inspiring call to speak out and take action against all forms of bigotry and discrimination. Since its June 2010 premier in the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and subsequent broadcast on PBS stations across the country, the film has become the centerpiece of a dynamic grassroots campaign aimed at raising LGBT visibility and promoting dialogue and civic engagement, particularly in small towns and rural communities where there often is no visible or organized LGBT presence at all.
Screenings of this Emmy Award-winning film are a great way to spark new thinking, capture the attention of leading local decision makers, and recruit new allies to the movement for equality.
YOU CAN HELP by spreading the word to student and youth service groups in your area.
Take Action - Silence Is Meant To Be Broken!
GLSEN offers many resources and support for schools to implement effective and age-appropriate anti-bullying programs to improve school climate for all students. Check it all out at: GLSEN Anti-Bullying Resources
More Details: http://wpsu.org/outinthesilence/award
Speaking Out for Fairness and Equality in Wyoming
August 27, 2011
The ACLU of Wyoming is proud to partner with Wyoming Equality to present on Thursday, September 15, a film screening of “Out in the Silence,” which captures the chain of events that unfold when the announcement of filmmaker Joe Wilson’s wedding to another man ignites a firestorm of controversy in his small Pennsylvania hometown. The screening will be followed by a discussion about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues in Wyoming with special guests film directors Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer and lobbyist for Wyoming Equality and author of the blog, Out in Wyoming, Jeran Artery. This event is free and open to the public.
Date: Thursday, September 15
Time: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., film begins at 7p.m.
Location: Hilton Garden Inn, University of Wyoming Conference Center, 2229 Grand Avenue, Laramie, Wyoming
Download event poster & postcard at link below.
More Details: http://www.aclu-wy.org/
One Colorado’s Statewide Movie Tour for Safer Schools for LGBT Youth
July 19, 2011
Celebrate the end of summer and the start of another school year!
Join One Colorado for a screening and discussion of Out in the Silence, “a stunning documentary” (Philadelphia Inquirer) about the harrowing, ultimately successful battle of a gay teen and his mother against recalcitrant school authorities when the teen is brutally attacked for coming out in his rural Pennsylvania high school.
All across Colorado, LGBT young people like the film’s CJ, face bullying, name-calling, harassment, and even violence. A new law that was passed this year is a tremendous step in the right direction, but more work must be done to ensure that LGBT youth are given the opportunity to thrive in our schools and in our communities.
Through this screening of Out in the Silence in your town, we hope to start a conversation about how we can work together to ensure that LGBT students are out, safe, and respected in local schools.
Join us throughout August for statewide screenings of this powerful film — and be sure to stick around after the movie for a discussion about local efforts to improve school safety for LGBT young people.
Colorado Springs: Friday, August 5
Grand Junction: Thursday, August 18
Montrose: Tuesday, August 23
Loveland: Thursday, August 25
Greeley: Saturday, August 27
Buena Vista: Date TBA
Fort Collins: Date TBA
Pueblo: Date TBA
“Is It A Choice? A Scientist’s View” - by Dr. Dean Hamer for The Advocate
July 14, 2011
When Tim Pawlenty said the science was “in dispute” about whether being gay is genetic, that sure came as surprise to molecular biologist Dean Hamer, Co-Director of the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign.
By Dr. Dean Hamer for The Advocate:
In a recent interview, Tim Pawlenty was asked “Is being gay a choice?” The presidential hopeful replied that “the science in that regard is in dispute.”
As a working molecular biologist, that was certainly a surprise to me.
In fact, the scientific community has long regarded sexual orientation – whether gay, straight, or somewhere in between – as a phenotype: an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For us, the role of genetics in sexual behavior is about as “disputable” as the role of evolution in biology. Come to think of it, pretty much the same folks are opposed to both ideas.
The empirical evidence for the role of genetics in sexual orientation has steadily mounted since I first entered the field in the early 1990s. Back then, the only quantitative data was derived from studies of unrepresentative and potentially biased samples of self-identified gay men and lesbian. But in the intervening 20 years, studies of twins – the mainstay of human population genetics – have been conducted on systematically ascertained populations in three different countries. These studies are notable because they have large sample sizes that are representative of the overall population, they’re conducted by independent university-based investigators using well-established statistical methods, and the results are published in the peer-reviewed literature.
Each of these studies has led to the same fundamental conclusion: genes play a major role in human sexual orientation. By contrast, shared environmental factors such as education, parenting style, or presumably even exposure to Lady Gaga, have little if anything to do with people’s orientation. While there is a substantial amount of variation that cannot be ascribed to either heritable or shared environment, the differences might also be due to biological traits that are not inherited in a simple additive manner.
One criticism frequently leveled at my work was that sexual orientation couldn’t possibly be inherited because “gays don’t have kids.” As the gay father of a daughter with lesbian mothers, I always had to shake my head in disbelief – but now there is a solid scientific explanation for how genes that increase same-sex attraction might persist or even increase in the population. Careful family studies by two groups of investigators show that the same inherited factors that favor male homosexuality actually increase the fecundity of female maternal relatives, and that this effect is sufficient to balance out the decreased number of offspring for gay men and maintain the genes over the course of natural selection. This explanation may not be the only one, but it serves to show that the evolutionary paradox is not necessarily overwhelming.
Another criticism frequently brought up by politically motivated critics of the research is that there is still no single identified “gay gene.” However, the same is true for height, skin color, handedness, frequency of heart disease and many other traits that have a large inherited component but no dominant gene. This doesn’t mean that sexual orientation is a choice; it simply confirms that sexual orientation is complex, with many genes contributing to the phenotype.
In certain animal model systems, the precise genes involved in sexual partner choice have in fact been identified and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in detail. Humans may be more socially and culturally complex, but it is likely that some of these mechanisms are preserved, as they are for every other behavioral trait we know.
Given the accumulated evidence, why might Pawlenty assert that the scientific community is still debating the role of biology in sexual orientation? Probably because that’s what the religious fundamentalist groups that vehemently oppose LGBT rights want people to think, and have spent considerable time, effort and money trying to promote.
There is good reason for their opposition to the scientific findings. Studies in college classrooms have shown that exposure of students to information about the causes of sexual orientation has a direct, positive influence on their opinions about LGBT civil rights. This fits with polling data showing that people who believe that gays are “born that way” are generally supportive of full equality, whereas more than two thirds of those who believe it is “a choice” are so opposed that they favor the re-criminalization of same-sex relations.
I would never want my life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness to be subject to a DNA test or any other sort of scientific analysis. Basic rights are just that – basic. But it is essential to acknowledge that lack of scientific knowledge can actually result in having our rights and freedoms taken away through the actions of misinformed voters, legislators and judges.
At least Pawlenty acknowledged that science has some role to play. I doubt that would be the case for his competitor Michele Bachman, who considers sexual orientation to be so malleable that people can “pray away the gay”. She’s hopeless. With Pawlenty, it might just take some education – and plenty of Lady G, of course.
Dean Hamer is a molecular biologist who works on human genetics and HIV prevention and is the author of several scientific books including The Science of Desire. When he’s not in the lab, he is visiting small towns and rural communities with his husband Joe Wilson on the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign.
Midcoast Maine LGBTQ Youth Group Speaks Out In The Silence
June 19, 2011
The Midcoast Maine Free Press
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Open Letter to the Five Towns School Board -
We are members of Out! As I Want to Be, midcoast Maine’s program for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Our meeting place is in Rockland where we run two afterschool programs (on Wednesdays and Fridays) and typically see more than 20 young people from Swanville to Cushing each week. We have several active Out! youth members from Camden who attend Camden Hills Regional High School. Several of us live in Camden.
Some of us attended the Five Towns Community School District Board meeting on June 1st when a student-initiated proposal to establish a GSA at the high school was considered. As you know, under Maine and Federal law, students have a right to form Gay-Straight Alliances on the same terms and with the same privileges and resources as all other extracurricular groups.
At the meeting, School Board members appeared to be genuinely seeking to understand the need for GSAs in our schools. We thought you might appreciate more information.
You can join us at the Camden Public Library, Thursday, June 16, at 6:30 p.m. or at the Belfast Public Library, Saturday, June 18, at 6 p.m. for a discussion with Joe Wilson about rural LGBTQ youth, following a screening of his award-winning film “Out in the Silence” on this topic.
As you know, adolescence is the developmental stage for finding your people. Who understands you? Where do you fit? What and whom do you love? For kids who suspect or know that their sexual or gender identities estrange them from their families and their childhood friends, fear and a smothering introversion can dangerously isolate them. LGBTQ kids must tolerate not only bullying, which occurs in all our schools, but the wounding daily banter in school hallways (“That’s so queer. You’re so gay. He’s a faggot.”). When teachers and administrators fail to actively confront banter and bullying, LGBTQ kids feel this is condoned by the adults around them.
We estimate that 300 to 500 LGBTQ young people reside in midcoast Maine. These young people are inherently at risk. Routinely harassed and bullied in school, often unrecognized or rejected at home, comprising 30 percent of youth suicides and 42 percent of youth homelessness, our youth are at greater risk of pregnancy, substance abuse and school failure. Their isolation is exacerbated by the lack of access to transportation in rural Maine and therefore contact with similar youth or adult support.
Unless other young people or teachers are conspicuously “out,” LGBTQ kids make the same assumptions you do; they think that everyone is straight and that they are the only different person around.
Diversity is an admirable goal, but the word is often used in schools to avoid speaking clearly about sexual and gender identity. GSA’s are exactly what the name suggests: alliances of LGBTQ kids and their straight allies. Other students are excluded purely out of their own disinterest or hostility. LGBTQ kids ... need to know that their core identities are recognized and normal. The CHRHS students have been urged by CHRHS school administrators not to be exclusive. This is analogous to telling battered women in safe houses that men should be admitted too. Legally, it is well-established that a school cannot require a GSA to adopt another name, such as the “Diversity Club” or the “Tolerance Club,” nor can it force a GSA to broaden its scope beyond the reach of LGBTQ issues. Refusal to allow students to form a GSA on the ground that the group must have a different name, or that it must have a different purpose, violates the Equal Access Act.
Students submitted a request for a GSA in September 2010. The school-year-long stonewalling by the CHRHS administration sent a clear message of, at best, disinterest, and, at worst, resistance. June is traditionally Pride Month in the LGBTQ community. Portland and Bangor Pride will be celebrated this coming weekend. It’s an opportune time for the CHRHS Board to demonstrate their pride in Five Town’s LGBTQ students.
Dora Lievow, Lis Clark, Jeff Alexander, Liz Davenport, Ralph F. Field, Ph.D., Erica Sanchez, Starcia Willey
“NOVA Hosts Standing-Room-Only Film Screening”—Bucks County Courier Times
May 02, 2011
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011:
More than 150 people attended a screening and discussion of the film “Out in the Silence,” a documentary about differences and acceptance, on Wednesday, April 13, at Bucks County Community College’s main campus in Newtown.
The event was hosted by NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance) in coordination with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 10-16. NOVA’s goal, and that of the filmmakers, was to expand public awareness about the difficulties that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face and to promote dialogue and action that will help people on all sides of the issues find common ground.
The film chronicles the events that unfold after a gay man and his partner - filmmakers, Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer - post their wedding announcement in Wilson’s hometown newspaper in Oil City, Pa., and how it prompts the mother of a teen boy in that same town to contact the Wilson and Hamer seeking help for her gay son who is being bullied and terrorized in school.
Wilson and Hamer attended the screening.
To learn more about the film, visit OutintheSilence.com.
“Gay and Lesbian Issues Brought Out at Film Forum” - Wyoming County Press Examiner - Tunkhannock, PA
April 20, 2011
By Michael J. Rudolf—Wyoming County Press Examiner, 4/20/11:
Thursday night’s showing of the film “Out in the Silence” at the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock and the forum that followed brought forth a lively discussion on issues that affect the gay and lesbian community in the region.
With more than 100 people in attendance – many of them high school and college students – filmmaker Joe Wilson said that showed that the community not only has a considerable number gay and lesbian people, but also that they and others are eager to move the discussion forward.
“This is by far the best attended presentation as far as students that we’ve ever had,” Wilson said.
Wilson and his spouse, Dean Hamer, produced the documentary to present some of the problems they and others face in communities that are often less than tolerant of gay and lesbian lifestyles.
The film and the forum was presented by PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) of Wyoming / Luzerne Counties, Keystone College O.P.E.N., and the Tunkhannock Area High School Gay-Straight Alliance.
After the film, a panel discussion allowed those who attended to express their views about not only the movie but also about their own community.
In the film, a teenager from Oil City – also Wilson’s hometown – describes the attacks and threats he received while attending high school.
Cindy Francis of Wyoming County Family Preservation, said any animosity toward the LGBT community in this area is small, and tends to be more prevalent among adults and older people.
“There is really almost no prejudice, no bias in the younger kids. The older kids are starting to come around,” she said, noting that there have been incidents among older students.
The audience included a number of Tunkhannock Area High School students, some of whom spoke out.
“I was always picked on all my school life,” one boy said. He said he has learned to push the words aside, as if they had no meaning.
One girl spoke up to say her own family objected to her even being associated with LGBT causes.
“When I confronted by dad about being in the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), he wanted nothing of it,” she said, adding that her father claimed that if she were a boy he would have beaten her.
The girl said she can’t comprehend how people such as her father can use religion as a means to attack someone’s sexual orientation.
“I was taught that God loves everybody. If God loves everybody, why can’t you?” she said she asked her father.
One member of the panel, Rev. Paul Walker of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Montrose, said he believes such a gathering could not have happened in this area years ago.
“The very fact that we’re all gathered here is to me an amazing transition that’s happened in the past 30 years,” he said.
Walker said while he has not faced problems while living here, his sexual orientation was an issue when he served at churches in other areas.
For example, he said at a parish in New Jersey, the mayor of the town openly fought against programs Walker wanted to initiate.
Walker said that people of different sexual orientations must learn that they all have a valued place in society.
“This is not a choice. This is who we are. To reject that gift is not who God calls us to be,” he said.
Acceptance of one’s self is the first step toward gaining the acceptance of others, Walker said.
“Just being who you are and just accepting who you are is really important to changing people’s mindsets,” he said.
One woman said all clergy members should follow Walker’s lead and speak out against intolerance toward gay and lesbian people.
“That’s what we need, ministers speaking out against the bigotry,” she said. “If the worst thing that someone can say about me is that I’m gay, I’m doing just fine.”
A large portion of the crowd consisted of students from Keystone College. One of the high school students wondered whether the level of tolerance is different at the college level.
“From what I gather, things are better than they were when I was in high school,” said one woman.
She added, however, that the general perception of the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is probably very much underestimated.
“I think there are a lot of people who are LGBT in this community who are not out,” she said, adding that she hopes discussions such as the one Thursday helps that to change.
Another Keystone student said among the public there seem to be varying degrees of acceptance. She said while those who are gay, lesbian or bisexual are occasionally accepted, transgender people such as her are not. She said she found life as a gay man was much different than her current lifestyle.
“Being gay was far easier than being trans. People treat us like we’re not human,” she said.
One woman asked the panel how they respond when asked why they chose to be gay.
Hamer said he usually turns the question around, asking in response, “Did you choose to be straight?”
“All of the scientific research shows that sexual orientation is not a choice,” he said.
At the conclusion of the forum, Hamer said he and Wilson had an incentive for student LGBT organizations to increase their awareness activities.
Hamer said they want to present more screenings of “Out in the Silence,” sponsored by student groups. To that end, he said in October they will award a Youth Activism Award to the youth LGBT group that presents the most effective screening event, with the winning group receiving a $2,500 prize.
- Panelists at the forum in Tunkhannock on gay and lesbian issues included Rev. Paul Walker, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Montrose; Kelly Hilsey, president of PFLAG of Wyoming / Luzerne Counties; Ryan Creary, Tunkhannock Area High School Gay-Straight Alliance; Cindy Francis, Wyoming County Family Preservation; Curtis Weaver, Keystone College OPEN; and filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer.
More Details: http://wcexaminer.com/index.php/archives/news/22811
“Organizers Hope ‘Silence’ Yields Talk—Wyoming County Press Examiner - Tunkhannock, PA
April 12, 2011
by Michael J. Rudolf for The Wyoming County Press Examiner
A film scheduled to be shown in Tunkhannock tomorrow night hopes to bring awareness to issues concerning the area’s gay and lesbian community.
“Out in the Silence” is a documentary produced by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer.
It will be shown free of charge at the Dietrich Theater at 7 p.m..
Wilson and Hamer will be at the screening, and will answer questions from the audience following the film.
Wilson, originally from Oil City, said the purpose of the program is to provide an outlet for people who have until now kept themselves hidden.
“Historically in small-town America, many people believe we shouldn’t be talking about gay and lesbian people in small communities,” Wilson said.
The situation affects young people to a greater extent, Wilson said, because they are just beginning to understand their sexuality. He said they need to know that it is acceptable to ask questions and seek advice from others.
Wilson said he also wants to encourage others in the community to learn about the needs of gay and lesbian people, and help them as they would help any other group.
“We want them to understand what it means to people who live in fear and need support,” Wilson said.
The screening is being presented by PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) of Wyoming / Luzerne Counties, Keystone College O.P.E.N., and the Tunkhannock High School Gay-Straight Alliance.
Kelly Wilsey of Lake Winola, president of the local PFLAG chapter, said such a forum is long overdue.
“I’ve lived in Wyoming County over 20 years. To my knowledge there’s never been a public discussion or outlet for LGBT people or their friends and families,” Wilsey said.
LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Wilsey said the number of people identifying themselves with that group is more than most people realize, especially in this area. She said a lot of them are young people who are questioning their sexual orientation, and feel uncomfortable expressing it.
“I would guess that they feel isolated,” Wilsey said.
For many of them, Wilsey said they don’t open up until after they leave the area.
“Most people who do discover that they are gay or lesbian or bisexual don’t come out while they live in Wyoming County,” she said.
Wilson said that is similar to what he and Hamer experienced in Venango County.
“You feel like you’re the only one. You feel like what you have to do to survive is to leave,” Wilson said.
He noted that he first moved to Pittsburgh, and later to his current home in Washington, D.C., where he met Hamer.
Wilson explained that he and Hamer never intended to make a film about LGBT issues. However, when their marriage was announced in a newspaper in Oil City, controversy erupted in the community.
The film features the stories of people whom Wilson refers to as “just ordinary people” affected by the stigma against LGBT people in their communities. It also shows how others who were once part of the opposition became more sensitive once they met those they had rallied against.
In making the film, Wilson said he learned that his situation was far from unique.
“I started to discover a huge but largely underground population of gay and lesbian people,” he said.
Sometimes the issue hits a lot closer than community animosity, Wilsey said.
“I’ve received calls from parents who are not in such a great place in accepting their child’s sexual orientation,” she said.
That’s one reason why Wilsey hopes people from all walks of life will attend the film and the discussion that follows.
“I hope it will help people to feel more comfortable in discussing their situation,” she said.
While there have been a handful of instances of vocal opposition at previous showings of “Out in the Silence,” both Wilson and Wilsey believe most people who are not part of the LGBT community are just unaware of its presence or its magnitude.
“Most communities are full of a majority of people of good will,” Wilson said.
“A lot of young people under the age of 30 are comfortable with the LGBT community,” said Wilsey.
For more information about the film, contact the local PFLAG chapter at 392-9864 or visit outinthesilence.com or http://www.nepapflag.com.
More Details: http://wcexaminer.com/index.php/archives/news/22612
“Documentary to End Silence”—The James Madison University Breeze
April 07, 2011
By Spencer Adams -
April 7, 2011:
Traveling filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer made a movie they weren’t expecting.
On Monday, Wilson and Hamer brought their documentary “Out in the Silence,” to an audience of 195 students, faculty and Harrisonburg residents in Health and Human Services room 2301. The School of Media Arts & Design, JMU’s Office of Diversity, the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence and the College of Arts & Letters helped sponsor the event.
After the screening they held a question and answer session and a general discussion.
The film tells the story of how the two men sent their wedding announcement to Wilson’s hometown newspaper in the small Pennsylvania town of Oil City.
The announcement led to a firestorm of hate, bigotry and misunderstanding. But amid the hate mail was a letter from someone coping with the same discrimination back in Oil City.
C.J. Springer was bullied and tormented in high school due to being openly gay. He had to drop out of high school and was taking online classes. The single letter changed Wilson and Hamer.
“We didn’t originally expect to make a film like this,” Wilson said. “But when we heard from C.J.‘s mom, it was a very compelling reason to go back there and see how things played out.”
As the movie progressed, it became clear that the movie was not about Wilson and Hamer.
It was about people like Springer, who stand up for who they really are, only to be treated worse. It was about a lesbian resident of Oil City, Roxanne, and her partner, who purchased a rundown movie theater and renovated it - only to be met with condemnation and disapproval.
Cindy Carr, pastor of the River of Life Ministries in Harrisonburg, gave possibly the most compelling discussion of the night.
“I have been a pastor since 1986 but about three years ago I feel like God arrested my heart and convicted me of my prejudice,” Carr said.
It was a move that courted controversy.
“It split my church in half when I decided to open the doors to the gay community,” Carr said. “But I did it because I woke up one day and said this is stupid. I had to literally repent for my ignorance.”
After about an hour of stories, questions, testimonies and laughs Wilson announced a call to action.
“I think it is leaders like you, it is people who might not be as courageous as you, who see someone like you doing something good, and it inspires them,” he said.
Sydney McKenney, a sophomore media arts and design and political science double major, played an important role in success of the event.
McKenney created a Facebook event to spread the word with students. Although she had no direct affiliation with the sponsors, McKenney felt compelled to notify others of the event.
“It’s important to fight for individual rights and for justice because as humans we have the power to do so,” she said.
Wilson and Hamer travel across the country telling their story in hopes of encouraging more people to find the strength to end their own silence.
“NOVA Hosts Screening, Discussion of Award-Winning Film in Newtown” - Bucks County Local News
April 02, 2011
Published Saturday April 2, 2011:
The Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA), in coordination with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, will host a screening of the award-winning film, Out in the Silence, on Wednesday, April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bucks County Community College. The free event, open to the public, includes a discussion with the filmmakers, Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, as well as a resource fair with advocates and educators from many local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations.
“The aim of Out in the Silence,” say the filmmakers, “is to expand public awareness about the difficulties that LGBTQ people face in rural and small-town America and to promote dialogue and action that will help people on all sides of the issues find common ground.”
“A collaborative effort with several other area agencies, this event is aimed not only at the ‘choir,’” said Mandy Mundy, director of education and training for NOVA. “NOVA also hopes to reach faith-based communities, social services networks, members of the education community, parents as well as young people — anyone who has questions or simply wants to be better informed.”
To that end, the debriefing and discussion that follows the film will include the opportunity to hear from Wilson and Hamer, as well as to gain the insights of leaders from Bucks County working for equality and fairness in our communities.
The resource fair will feature displays, literature and representatives from some of the key agencies at work on LGBTQ issues, including NOVA, PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Rainbow Room, AWP, Bucks Equality Coalition and The Peace Center, among others.
In the movie, Wilson’s announcement of his wedding to another man in his hometown newspaper ignites a firestorm of controversy and a quest for change in the small Pennsylvania hometown of Oil City, which he left long ago. Drawn back by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being brutally tormented at school, pulled into the town’s conflict by the angry leader of an ultra-conservative group that’s calling on the townspeople to denounce same-sex marriage, over the next four years Wilson navigates the ins and outs of being different and learns a lot about his own agenda. The result is an exhilarating journey for viewers through love, hate and understanding in rural America.
“I think we’re a community that is more open and tolerant and accepting, but even so, there are challenges,” Mundy said. “And an event like this falls on the proactive side of what NOVA does, working to help circumvent or prevent violence and victimization through education and awareness, by building strong interpersonal as well as community relationships.”
“There’s a lot of pressure on LGBTQ kids to change who they are in order to fit in — to be someone they’re not,” said Nicholas Dansbury, youth education director at Planned Parenthood’s Warminster offices.
In contrast, he talks of the freedom and sanctuary offered by such organizations as Planned Parenthood’s Rainbow Room — where he spent many of his own teenage years — and the space they give young people to explore who they are away from the pressures exerted by society and traditional gender roles. He hopes Out in the Silence will encourage more resources in all communities so LGBTQ kids “can go on to be mature adults with good heads on their shoulders.
“It saddens me to know there are kids who don’t have an organization where they are safe to figure themselves out. More than anything,” he says, it will encourage young people to “see adults and others in their communities attending this film [event], interested in solving the [bullying and acceptance] issues LGBTQ youth face.”
The 65-minute film will be shown in Gateway Auditorium at Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road, Newtown.
For information about 2010 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, visit http://www.ovc.gov.
“Letter to Durango: If Not Now for Equality, Then When?”—The Huffington Post
March 20, 2011
Dispatch from the Culture War Front: Durango, Co.
As filmmaker-activists who have spent the last two years criss-crossing the heartland of America to promote fairness and equality with our documentary Out in the Silence, we spend a lot of time listening to stories of how difficult and dangerous it can be to live as openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in small towns and rural communities outside the major urban enclaves. Only rarely, however, have we ourselves felt threatened or intimidated.
A recent incident in Durango, Co., which Joe was visiting for a screening event, revealed how thin the veneer of civility for LGBT people really is. The following is an open letter to the people of Durango, written in hope of raising awareness of the work that still needs to be done to make it a truly inclusive community.
by Joe Wilson:
During a recent visit to Durango, CO for a screening of my film, Out in the Silence, in the Durango Independent Film Festival, I was verbally assaulted and physically threatened in an anti-gay tirade by two prominent local businessmen while having dinner in a downtown restaurant.
I became the target of their anger and threats after I approached the them and their female companions to say that I, as a gay man, was disturbed by their loud and mocking references to “queers” in a public setting, and hoped that they would think about the consequences that such offensive behavior has on a community and its most vulnerable members.
I decided to say something because, as the co-director of a documentary about equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, I regularly urge audiences at screenings to speak up and take constructive action when confronted with intolerance.
How could I not practice what I preach when in such a situation myself?
While the bullies and their companions eventually moved on, I was too shaken by the episode to venture out for the film festival-sponsored “gallery walk under the stars” that evening. Rather than risk more trouble, I hunkered down for the night in my hotel.
The next day, film festival personnel and many other community residents expressed embarrassment about the incident and promised to take their concerns to the businessmen. But I couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like to be a victim of such, or worse, abuse and not have anywhere to turn for safety or compassion.
What about the student tortured at school whose teachers turn a blind eye and whose own family would reject him if they found out he was gay? What about the adults who have spent decades alone and in hiding because their church pastors preach that the “homosexual lifestyle” is sinful and wrong? What about the basic rights of millions of LGBT people—to education, employment, housing, marriage and family-formation to name just a few—that have been lost or never enjoyed due to the pervasive bigotry and discrimination that goes unchallenged, day-in and day-out, in towns large and small across the nation?
To those who believe in the promise that all people are created equal and endowed with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we have an obligation to ensure that such rights are realized.
If not us to work toward these goals, then who? And if not now, when?
It’s time to speak out in the silence for fairness and equality for all!
“A film helps Arizona’s efforts to heal community divides” - Arizona Public Media
February 22, 2011
Story and interview by Kimberly Craft, host of Arizona Public Media’s “Arizona Illustrated”—
In 2006, human rights activist Joe Wilson published an announcement of his wedding to his same-sex partner in his small hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania. That one act sparked a whirlwind of controversy, and it led Wilson back home in an effort to chronicle and understand his home’s relationship to homosexuality, inclusion and equality.
Now a filmmaker, Wilson joins the studio to talk about Out in the Silence, the widely acclaimed documentary that grew from his experiences. He shares the story behind the movie, its impact on his hometown and his hopes that it will strengthen Arizona’s efforts to heal community divides.
Arizona will host several screenings of the film, sponsored by the Pima County Public Library System, ACLU of Arizona, Wingspan Anti-Violence Project, The Amancio Project, and the Yuma High School GSA. Screenings are scheduled for:
Feb. 22, 7:30pm - The Loft Cinema - Tucson
Feb. 23, 6:30pm – Arivaca Old School - Arivaca
Feb. 24, 6:00pm - Yuma County Main Library - Yuma
Feb. 25, 1:00pm - Salazar-Ajo Library - Ajo
In addition to the film’s hopeful and entertaining stories, and dynamic post-screening discussions with filmmaker Joe Wilson and local organizers, the Arizona events will feature performances by special guest Namoli Brennet, a Tucson-based transgender musician. (Brennet’s music is a major feature of the film’s soundtrack.)
“Breaking The Silence Is Essential To The Health Of Our Movement”—Rural Organizing Project
February 18, 2011
RURAL ORGANIZING PROJECT: A Network of Human Dignity Groups
Dear Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer,
From the bottoms of our hearts, we want to thank you for joining forces with us at the Rural Organizing Project to stage a statewide film tour of OUT IN THE SILENCE.
Throughout our 10-day trip we held 15 public events attended by over 1000 people in small-town communities in Oregon. We had over a dozen pieces published in
local media, print and television. Each stop was organized by a local human dignity group in the area, and featured a film screening, and a dialogue skillfully facilitated by you two, Joe & Dean, in a way that brought national realities into focus while raising up the experience of LGBT folks in each local community.
The tour combined just the right tone, focus, timing, and coordination to pack every stop. In several out-of-the-way communities where the right wing dominates
public debate, these screenings were the biggest pro-LGBT events in over a decade.
By bringing Oregon groups like Basic Rights Oregon, Oregon State PFLAG, and the Community of Welcoming Congregations on board as part of the planning
team, we coordinated a tour that crossed issues, and drew on our diverse strengths.
The OUT IN THE SILENCE tour inspired several communities to form a new group advocating for LGBT fairness for the long term, or to take back up a group
that had long been dormant. For existing groups, the tour brought in a wholistic view of LGBT fairness & equality, including civil rights, marriage equality, but also
safe schools, and tolerance in the faith communities. One group is following up on the tour by coordinating school wide bullying assemblies in each of the 4 regional
high schools – events which will incorporate the experiences of LGBT youth, youth of color, and other minority groups.
And these were just a few of the ripples of the Out in the Silence tour in Oregon.
In short, it allowed groups to reach a large audience even in very conservative towns, and talk openly about issues that for many years have been dealt with quietly
and at the margins. It reminded us that breaking the silence and isolation of LGBT people, and all who experience hate and discrimination, is essential to the health of our movement.
It was a pleasure to participate in this tour, and we would recommend using this film as an educational & organizing tool to any organization that may consider it.
We would be happy to share our experience with others.
On behalf of the Rural Organizing Project and our statewide network of 50 human dignity groups, thank you, and keep in touch!
Amanda Aguilar Shank, ROP Organizer & Tour Coordinator
Yuma Hosts Emmy-winning Film Screening - The Yuma Sun
February 17, 2011
February 17, 2011 3:00 PM
BY MARA KNAUB - SUN STAFF WRITER
When a 16-year-old gay teen was attacked in his small-town high school and officials reportedly ignored the bullying, his mother reached out to the only person she felt she could trust: openly gay and native son Joe Wilson.
Wilson himself ignited a “firestorm of controversy” when earlier he announced his same-sex wedding in the local newspaper.
On hearing of the gay teen’s struggles, Wilson went to the family’s home with a camera in hand and documented the “harrowing but ultimately successful battle” waged by the teen and his mom against school authorities.
The result is documented in the film “Out in Silence,” an Emmy Award winner for Achievement in Documentary.
Wilson will present his film Thursday at the Yuma Main Library at 5:30 p.m., with cooperation from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU-AZ) and The Amancio Project.
The program will include an introduction by Wilson and a short performance by transgender singer and songwriter Namoli Brennet, who also served as musical contributor for “Out in the Silence.”
After the documentary showing, an ACLU-AZ representative and Wilson will engage the audience in a question-and-answer discussion of the various themes posed by the film.
Wilson told the Yuma Sun he hopes the film helps celebrate the first anniversary of the first local Gay Straight Alliance. According to Baughman, founder of The Amancio Project, the alliance was formed at Yuma High School “after an eight-year battle with school administrators.”
Wilson also hopes to bring attention to two other Yuma groups: the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). However, he said, the entire community is invited to attend.
Baughman said the film presentation is also timely due to the “tragic epidemic of gay teen suicides that has galvanized national attention.”
Wilson said that although he has made short films before, “Out in the Silence” is his first feature. He notes that the film came about “by accident.”
“I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and, like many do, I left after high school. When I got married, my then-partner and now husband put an announcement in his hometown paper, The New York Times. We received many congratulatory notes, so I got the idea to put an announcement in my hometown paper.”
The announcement “unleashed a firestorm of controversy,” Wilson said. For six to eight months, the local newspaper published letters to the editor with “horrible and ugly statements about the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender).”
He recalled receiving the letter at his Washington, D.C., home, from the gay teen’s mother. “She said her gay son was being tortured endlessly, harassed horrendously by peers as well as administrators.”
The family had no resources or support networks available, he noted. So he packed his camera and met the family and followed their story to its happy conclusion, three and a half years later.
“It ended good,” he said.
Along the way, he also documented other stories that show how life is for gay people in small rural towns, including the efforts of a lesbian couple to restore a historic theater while facing of anti-gay attacks and Wilson’s own “unexpected friendship with an evangelical preacher.”
“The film chronicles the challenges the GLBT face. It shows where the hope is. It’s uplifting and also entertaining. A few courageous people started speaking and as a result, things started to unfold in exciting and uplifting ways.”
Wilson added that the purpose of his community engagements is to “reach out to local groups through sharing of the film, raise visibility and awareness, talk about the issues the film raises and how it relates to communities.”
“LGBT Films Look At Struggle For Acceptance”—PBS Hawaii
February 12, 2011
Notes from Leslie Wilcox, the President and CEO of PBS Hawaii
Look for two back-to-back programs on PBS Hawaii that highlight colliding beliefs and struggles for acceptance in homes and communities. Both LGBT films have local ties of different kinds.
The shows air on Saturday evening, Feb. 12, 2011.
“Out in the Silence,” shown last fall at the Hawaii International Film Festival, is about a gay student who is bullied in high school. Filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer have become acquainted with a lot of folks in Hawaii. I met them in the lobby of PBS Hawaii when they stopped by to ask if we were going to air their documentary. The story takes us to Joe’s small hometown in Pennsylvania and a firestorm of controversy. The film will be presented at 8 pm on Saturday. http://www.OutintheSilence.com
Then stay tuned for “Anyone and Everyone” at 9 pm. It introduces us to families across the country who have a common thread—a homosexual child. Filmmaker Susan Polis Schutz is also the parent of a gay son. Parents share their initial reactions to their child’s “coming out” and how they handled the revelation and their family life going forward. One set of parents, who raised their children in Los Angeles, have Hawaii roots. Harold Kameya is from Maui; Ellen Kameya is from Honolulu. http://www.anyoneandeveryone.com
“LGBT Film Hits Home” - Scranton / Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader
February 06, 2011
by Rich Howells - The Times-Leader:
SCRANTON – A free film screening of “Out in the Silence” sparked a lively and oftentimes personal conversation about inclusion and equality for the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community on Jan. 29 at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church on Wyoming Avenue.
Filmmaker Joe Wilson received a mass of hate mail for placing a wedding announcement to his partner Dean Hamer in his local newspaper, but he was also sent a letter from Kathy Springer, a woman from his hometown whose son, C.J., was being bullied for also being openly gay.
The couple returned to Oil City, Pa., to chronicle the 16-year-old’s struggle for acceptance and confront ongoing bigotry in the small town that Wilson had moved away from years before.
The award-winning documentary touched many of the more than 60 attendees, including hosts Rev. Peter D’Angio of St. Luke’s and Rabbi Daniel Swartz of the Temple Hesed. They were joined by Rosanne Kolberg, a member of NEPA Citizens In Action whose daughter is gay, and Jessica Rothchild, president and founder of Scranton Inclusion, the University of Scranton’s first officially recognized gay-straight alliance, for a subsequent Q&A discussion.
“This is a town like Oil City that has faced and is facing economic problems. I’ve got to feel like that niceness could be turned into a much broader welcome than it is, especially given some of the other towns around here and the way they treated immigrants, for example, and that can be turned into an island of welcoming in a stormy sea,” Swartz said.
“It’s been important for Peter and me to speak up because, unfortunately, sometimes, on issues like welcoming the LGBT community, religion has been on the wrong side. There are plenty of us who believe that all of us are created in the image of God.”
D’Angio, an openly gay pastor who leads “a progressive faith community” in his church, said that he has had his own “Oil City moment” in Scranton when he reached out to another local pastor, who considered him a sinner for being a homosexual.
“It can be a lonely place for all of us who are LGBT in this city, and I would hope that the conversation would get us to have gay-straight alliances that don’t just exist at the University of Scranton but exist in the city for the good of the city,” D’Angio said.
Rothchild said that while University President Rev. Scott R. Pilarz and Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera have not tried to ban their alliance, they did have some difficulty forming the group and have been wary of others who are not as tolerant.
“Being in such a religious community, and especially at the University of Scranton, it has been a bit difficult. We’ve had a few issues where we’ve had to watch out for people who are more radical in their beliefs and don’t want us doing what we want to do,” Rothchild said.
Kolberg, who says she gets “verklempt” whenever she watches “Out in the Silence,” said that her daughter is marrying her partner soon and stressed that acceptance starts at home.
“Thank God my daughter did not have to drop out of school or be harassed, but there are many other kids that are still getting harassed, and that’s one kid too many,” Kolberg said.
Those in attendance also came forward with their own tales of discrimination and perseverance.
One Scranton woman named Debbie said that she found a local church where she felt included until she applied for membership.
“I was told that unless I denounced my life, and I must say ‘life’ because if I choose the word ‘lifestyle’ that implies I have a choice, I couldn’t become a member of that church,” she explained. “I still go to that church every Sunday. The pastor and I know each other, and he knows my story very well, and he has to see me sit there every single day loving God with all my heart. Sometimes you have to stand up and you have to be present in a place where you’re not wanted.”
Coming “Out In The Silence” Of A Rust Belt Town - TBD TV - Washington, DC
February 02, 2011
by Ryan Kearney:
Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, D.C. residents who met here during a pickup basketball game in 1996, decided five years ago to get married. As the District had yet to legalize gay marriage, the couple traveled to Canada to make their vows. Afterward, Hamer published a wedding announcement in his hometown paper, The New York Times. “Everyone said, ‘That’s nice, how wonderful. How’d you get in the New York Times?,’” says Hamer, 59. Then Wilson published an announcement in his hometown paper, a daily in Oil City, Pa., called The Derrick. A firestorm erupted in the Rust Belt town, with readers submitting — and The Derrick publishing — mostly hateful letters about Wilson and Hamer’s union. (One person wrote, “It would be better for you to have not been born.”) But then Wilson received a letter from an Oil City woman whose gay 16-year-old son, C.J., had left his high school due to aggressive bullying. That’s when Wilson, who worked in human rights, and Hamer, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health, decided to make a film about Oil City — about why so little had changed there since Wilson’s youth.
Out in the Silence, which screens tonight as part of the Human Rights Film Festival, is an often appalling, but ultimately hopeful documentary about homophobia in small-town America. It’s infuriating to hear C.J.‘s stories of abuse at school, and then see the school board’s indifferent response to his claims; or to watch a lesbian couple, which was renovating an art-deco movie theater downtown, battle the head of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, Diane Gramley. But there are surprises, too, as Wilson befriends a local pastor who, when they first met, told Wilson that gay marriage could lead to incest and polygamy. (The pastor’s wife, meanwhile, made a house-plumbing metaphor, as though the notion of male and female parts had been invented not by evolution or God, but rather Ace Hardware.)
The film took four years to shoot and edit, but the work was hardly over, as Wilson and Hamer have screened the film in around 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties since 2009. “Really it was an act of activism rather than a film,” says Hamer. Recently, they drove 2,000 miles in 10 days in the Pacific Northwest, screening their film in one small town after another — frequently, as they prefer, in libraries. “It’s important for us, as LGBT people, to claim our right to be out and open in the public square,” says Wilson, 46. “It tends to be a great way to accomplish our goals.” In all, Out in the Silence has held more than 500 screenings since its completion, including in Oil City itself. Wilson and Hamer first held a special screening with the mayor, schools superintendent, and chief of police, after which the filmmakers told them they could oppose the film, thereby proving how backwards Oil City is, or promote the film as an example of how great Oil City is becoming.
The town leaders chose the latter. The City Council even proclaimed Sept. 13 to be “Joe Wilson Day.”
“Joe Wilson’s film shows Oil City to the rest of the country as a town capable of positive change,” read the proclamation, “and documents progress in fair and equal treatment for all people in this community.” Wilson and Hamer are hoping that Out in the Silence will convince other towns across America to follow Oil City’s lead.
Out in the Silence screens tonight at 7 p.m. at the West End Cinema. Wilson and Hamer will be on hand for a Q&A. If you can’t make it, an abbreviated version of the film is available on SnagFilms and another local screening is scheduled for Feb. 9 at Artisphere.
“When Change Occurs” - Human Rights Watch Podcast Interview w/ OUT IN THE SILENCE Directors
January 19, 2011
Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson discuss their film “Out in the Silence,” about being gay in small town America, with HRW’s Boris Dittrich; hosted by Amy Costello. The documentary premiered at the the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York on June 21, 2010. Listen at the link below:
More Details: http://www.hrw.org/en/node/90786
“The film shows changes, people do make a difference!” - Blue Ridge Times-News - Hendersonville, NC
January 08, 2011
Hot Topics On The Big Screen At Hendersonville Church
By Amy B. McCraw, Times-News Correspondent (Published: Saturday, January 8, 2011)
If you’re looking for a little more reality and inspiration from your movie night, the congregation at Hendersonville’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship might have just the ticket.
The church off Kanuga Road welcomes its members and the public to a monthly film series that uses documentaries to explore a wide range of contemporary moral challenges.
“We show films that make a statement about some social justice issue in our country or sometimes in other countries,” says Suzy Camp-Goodman, a member of the church and part of its social justice team. “I look for issues that are either under-reported in the news or hot topics.”
“Out in the Silence,” the first documentary in this year’s Third Wednesday Film Series, will be shown at 7 p.m. Jan. 19 in the church’s fellowship hall.
The documentary, which runs for about an hour, tells the story of a handful of rural residents struggling for inclusion amid vehement anti-gay sentiment.
As the story unfolds, filmmaker Joe Wilson’s same-sex wedding announcement has been published in the newspaper in the small Pennsylvania town he left long ago.
Initially, Wilson is drawn back by a plea from the mother of a gay teen who’s being bullied and tormented at school; she thinks her son is contemplating suicide. The journey of the son, played by Wilson, dramatically illustrates what it’s like to be an outsider in a conservative environment.
Featuring not only the gay teen but also a lesbian couple, Wilson shows the potential for building bridges across differences in religion, faith and values when people approach one another with openness and respect.
After the movie, local PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) leaders including the Rev. Jerry Miller and Jean Allen will participate in a discussion panel along with Susan Grider, a consultant on the film.
Camp-Goodman says she chose “Out in the Silence” for the series because of the wave of recent teen suicides across the country that involved gay teens who were bullied.
“This film shows changes,” she says. “The community as a whole — it changes. People do make a difference.”
The documentary also supports the church’s designation by the Unitarian Universalist Association as a Welcoming Community. To receive the designation, the church went through an in-depth program to more fully understand and appreciate gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender neighbors.
The church says it hosts the monthly film series in support of its mission to “engage in practice and service for love, justice and peace.”
Camp-Goodman hopes people who see the films each month will leave with a greater understanding of important social issues and gain a desire to address problems.
“There are so many wonderful and moving documentaries made that inform us about the human condition and so little chance to view them,” she says. “We provide that venue.”
Some of the films shown last year included: “Nuclear Tipping Point,” “Food, Inc.,” “War Made Easy,” “Capitalism: A Love Story,” “The Golden Side of the Tracks,” “The World According to Monsanto” and “Rethinking Afghanistan.”
“We’ve shown lots of interesting films,” Camp-Goodman says. “Sometimes they are on the heavy side. But sometimes they are lighter. We try to show some upbeat films.”
Each film is followed by time for audience members to discuss their impressions.
The discussions are an important part of the viewing experience, Camp-Goodman says.
“We don’t censor anybody,” she says. “We have civil conversations.”
“The ‘Out In The Silence’ Tour Of Rural Oregon Was A Huge Success!”
January 04, 2011
How To Bring Rural Oregon Alive - 5 lessons
by Amanda Aguilar Shank of the Rural Organizing Project:
What does it mean when a small town paper runs a front page story that features three local community leaders who also identify as gay - a first for the leaders and the paper? What does it mean for the multiplex movie theater in town to host a movie that explores homophobia in rural America? And a standing room only crowd attends at 10:30 on a Saturday morning? What does it mean when an audience with different perspectives then discusses those differences through tears and honesty instead of the divisive politics of the last few decades?
As I read the headlines of the day (endless war, more tax breaks for the wealthy, Palin for President), it is these small ripples that seem to offer real organizing possibilities for enduring these times.
The OUT IN THE SILENCE tour of rural Oregon was a moment of dozens of such ripples. The legacy of statewide attacks on the LGBT community beginning in the late 80s is our strong web of relationships, analysis, and skills that made this film tour a huge success.
Host groups worked hard for 3 months leading up to the tour. We presented at school board meetings, city council meetings, got on TV and in the newspaper, spoke to faith congregations, tried new methods of organizing via text message and facebook.
The conversations that we had snowballed and our message of pride and respect reached thousands that we had never met before. We hosted 15 stops on this tour, got 1000 people in the room with us, and reached thousands more through the press, conversations, and online.
After the tour, filmmaker Joe Wilson wrote to us:
“We’re still riding high from our tour of Oregon, an experience that exceeded all expectations in countless ways and left us with sooooo much respect for the work ROP and other groups are doing there. We’re beginning to share its power to inspire folks in other parts of the country who aren’t nearly as organized or able to think so strategically. It was so overwhelmingly positive and inspiring that it’s hard to put into words.”
For more inspiration - follow this link to see our photos from the tour, and see below for top picks from the news outlets that covered us.
And not only did we feel moved at every stop, we learned so much to carry forward…
* Thanks to two decades of defending ourselves against right-wing attacks, we are now capable of mobilizing for LGBT rights and beyond in ways that are unique and powerful.
* These times are deeply divided. But when we use our voices to call for real open dialogue on even very tense issues, we can fill auditoriums with people ready for respectful conversation.
* Rural Oregon’s queer youth need more support! At nearly every stop, youth stole the show. There was a call for older generations to support & mentor, and for younger generations to come out and take leadership.
* As with the struggle for the basic dignity of immigrants right now, responsibility for change is shared by all, not just those most impacted by intolerance. The support of straight allies to the LGBT community was indispensable.
* When we learn to recognize organizing opportunities, our communities pay attention. This year, we crafted our message in response to the tragedy of youth suicides – and found that we were able to use that open door to reach new supporters and expand the conversation about LGBT inclusion.
As our groups continue to promote LGBT justice in every corner of the state, we’ll also be thinking about the next step. How do we continue to stretch our wings, flex our organizing muscles, and use the incredible strength at our disposal?
ROP’s Annual Caucus and Strategy Session in Spring of 2011 is the next opportunity to come together and strategize – look for the date soon and be sure to join us!
PS. If you missed the tour, you can order copies of the film here. You can buy 5 copies of the film for $50: keep one for your screening and sell the rest to fund your event! We would love to know about your screening and work with you to make it an event that revitalizes passion for LGBT inclusion in your community!
More Details: http://rop.org/how-to-bring-rural-oregon-alive-5-lessons
After OITS Screenings, South Dakota Clergy Support LGBT Lives
December 31, 2010
from Equality South Dakota:
As Terri Carlson, founder of the Sioux Falls PFLAG, was traveling around South Dakota in September with the showing of Out In The Silence, she was approached by ministers at each showing. These ministers expressed their support of GLBT issues to Terri. This resulted in the formation of an ad hoc ministerial group that grew as the word spread. The group issued this letter which appeared as an attractive colored ad in the Sunday, December 19, 2010 Sioux Falls Argus Leader (page 7B). The letter has appeared or will appear in regional newspapers and is presented below.
In recent weeks, bullying has apparently resulted in the deaths of at least six people under the age of 20. These tragedies have made the public aware of how each of us plays a role in creating safe—or unsafe—places for our children, many who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT).
Recently PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) convened a group of faith leaders to discuss this serious issue and the recent tragedies. The dialogue focused on how we can organize our efforts to make our GLBT friends safer. Our communities need to know there are people moved by their faith who affirm GLBT persons, and their families and their allies. Now is the time for a voice of urgency and clarity so that all children and young adults will know that we, as parents, families, friends and communities, will do what we must to ensure everyone’s safety.
During this holiday season, we wish to gift ALL members of our GLBT community with the assurance that you are not alone. We, as leaders of faith communities, compelled by our faith, want you to know there are safe and welcoming people and places here for you to be who you are.
Rev. Armida Alexander, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Sioux Falls, SD
Mark Bonnema, Director of Intergenerational Ministries, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Crystal Buckneberg, Sioux Falls, SD
Pastor Bob Chell, University Lutheran Center, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD
Rev. Jeffrey Eisele, Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Jim Fenner, Parish Associate Westminster Presbyterian Church, Sioux Falls, SD
Pastor Richard Foster, Zion Lutheran Church, Garretson, SD
Rev. Tony Haglund, Canton Lutheran Church, Canton, SD
Rev. David Hansen, Brookings, SD
Rev. Nancy Hong, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Carl Kline, Brookings, SD
Rev. Dr. Anna Madsen, OMG: Center for Theological Conversation, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Brook R. McBride, Vermillion, SD
Lori Menke, Director of Christian Education, First Congregational, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Jay Mitchell, Beresford/Centerville Joint UCC Parish
Jack Mohlenhoff, Minister of Music, First Congregational Church, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Jean Morrow, Senior Pastor, Spirit of Peace United Church of Christ, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Kent Narum, Custer Lutheran Fellowship, Custer, SD
Rev. Ryan Otto, Associate Pastor, First Congregational Church, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Dr. Ann Pederson, Professor of Religion, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Val Putnam, Pastor, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Donald C. Reusch, Church of St. Matthew the Martyr, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Paul HW Rohde, Campus Pastor, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Richard K. Seaman, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Marilyn Stone, Peace Presbyterian Church, Yankton, SD
Rev. Dr. Nelson Stone, Teaching Elder, Peace Presbyterian Church, Yankton, SD
Rev. Dr. Richard W. Swanson, Sioux Falls, SD
Pastor Russ Tarver, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Bill Tesch, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Kathryn Timpany, Senior Pastor, First Congregational Church, Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Don and Nancy Veglahn, retired United Methodist pastor, Sioux Falls, SD
Jen Wagner, Mt. Zion Synagogue, Sioux Falls, SD
Brian Wienk, Lay Minister, Sioux Falls, SD
Second Showing of ‘Out In The Silence’ Continues Dialogue On Gay Rights
December 19, 2010
Film Examines Bullying, Same-Sex Marriage in a Small Pennsylvania Town
by Jennifer Pinto for The Teaneck Patch:
The same day the United States Senate voted to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the Teaneck International Film Festival held an encore screening of “Out in the Silence” at the Puffin Foundation.
The film, which was directed by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, documents the struggles of C.J. Bills, a gay teen who lives in the small town of Oil City, Pa., and his mother’s fight to end the bullying her son endures at school. The movie forces residents to challenge their long-standing views on the gay community.
Wilson was contacted by C.J.‘s mother, Kathy Springer, after she saw the anti-gay sentiment that erupted after Wilson and his partner Hamer put their same-sex wedding announcement in the town’s newspaper. Wilson grew up in Oil City but had moved away many years prior. Springer wrote a letter to Wilson asking for his help on how to get the school board to end her son’s harassment.
This Emmy-award winning documentary originally was screened on the closing day of the Teaneck International Film Festival (TIFF) and featured a panel discussion afterward.
“We had a great turnout for the original screening and panel discussion,” said TIFF Executive Director Jeremy Lentz.
Wilson and Hamer were showing their film in Pennsylvania this weekend, so they were unable to attend Saturday’s event at the Puffin Foundation.
“I think what Jeremy and the Puffin Foundation did by holding the first panel discussion was tremendously important in creating dialogue about this issue,” said Wilson in a phone interview. “I’m only sad we couldn’t be there for the second screening and discussion.”
Though the initial screening and panel discussion of “Out in the Silence” were well attended and well received, Lentz said he and his organization wanted to continue the dialogue, especially because there were people who approached Lentz after the festival saying they were unable to attend.
“It’s an important topic, and we had a sold-out crowd of between 95 to 100 people in attendance, which is the capacity for the Puffin,” Lentz said. “Also, the film screened on Sunday, Nov. 21, and the next day, Nov. 22, New Jersey passed the most comprehensive anti-bullying legislation in the country.”
TIFF fundraising director Judy Distler introduced the film at Saturday’s event and spoke of its power to cause change.
“Good things happen when we show this movie,” said Distler. “The day after we screened it at the festival, the state passed anti-bullying legislation, and today we just learned that the Senate repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-Bergen) sponsored New Jersey’s anti-bullying bill, and it was strongly supported by state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), who not only attended the Nov. 21 panel discussion but also Saturday’s event.
“I enjoyed the film more the second time,” said Weinberg. “You pick up more of the subtleties of the film. I doubt the directors planned to cover what turned out to be three stories in the movie: the story about C.J. Bills, who by the way is still in Oil City; the story of the refurbishing of the Latonia (an arts building that was being restored by a lesbian couple in town), and the growing friendship between Joe Wilson and Pastor Micklos.”
Micklos and his wife Diana wrote a letter to the editor detailing their disappointment in the newspaper’s decision to print Wilson and Hamer’s wedding announcement. The pastor and his wife are featured throughout the documentary.
Weinberg said during the panel discussion that the anti-bullying legislation is still sitting on Gov. Christie’s desk waiting to be signed. When asked by Distler what could be done to speed up the signing of the bill, Weinberg said a public response could move things along.
“Calling the governor’s office and leaving him a message is worthwhile,” Weinberg said. “Or send a postcard to the statehouse addressed to the governor asking why he hasn’t signed it yet,” Weinberg said.
Besides advertising the event to adult movie-goers, TIFF also extended an invitation to local schools.
“We wanted to invite students to the screening because this film is about a gay teen who’s bullied in rural America. The teen’s mother goes to the school board, which turns a blind eye to the bullying,” Lentz said.
Wilson said he was pleased that the film was open to an audience of all ages.
“I think how TIFF and Puffin are inviting young people and hopefully their parents and educators is what we need to do in all communities,” said Wilson. “That’s our mission right now with this film. We’re taking it to small towns and rural communities throughout the country to help residents find common ground on this important issue that affects so many young people.”
Alice Nadelman of Teaneck said she came to see the movie because the message of the film reaches across cultural lines.
“The issue of equal rights is an important subject whether you’re Jewish, black, a woman or gay,” she said. “This film was outstanding and well done. It certainly was appropriate for people of all ages.”
“A Changing Philipsburg To Showcase Movie On Gay Teen’s Struggle”—Centre Daily-Times
December 03, 2010
by Lori Falce:
There are people who say nothing changes in Philipsburg, that Philipsburg today is the Philipsburg of yesterday, of a thousand yesterdays, and that we are more or less in a time warp while other places move on.
Well, I’m not going to say there aren’t ways that’s true. Some are good, like the reverence we have for our history. Some keep us stuck in a way, as some seem to think that closing our eyes and humming really loud will keep progress from happening.
But Philipsburg is seeing change and growth for the better. And if you would like to see a community that is changing, you should come to 1 North Front Street Cafe at 7 p.m. Saturday. That’s when you will get to see a special screening of “Out in the Silence,” an Emmy-award-winning film by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer that documents the struggle of a gay teen in western Pennsylvania.
Now, that might not seem like a big deal. After all, Philipsburg is a stone’s throw from State College, which has a large and active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
But I can tell you, it is a world, a universe, a galaxy away from where Philipsburg was on this issue 20 years ago.
When I was in college, I was the token straight girl in Penn State’s Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Student Alliance, there to support my closest and dearest friend. At school, he was able to be who he was. In Philipsburg, he was not.
Not that he didn’t try. Not that we didn’t attempt to make people see that different isn’t scary or bad. We started a group to try to help people who were questioning who they were. We put up fliers at BiLo on our nightly Mountain Dew runs. Before we walked out again, the posters would be gone. Sometimes they were thrown away. Sometimes they were crumpled. Sometimes they were ripped to shreds or had epithets scrawled on them.
Some of the most fun people I knew in high school didn’t feel that they fit because of their sexuality. Most struggled with family and community and church, and almost none of them live here anymore. Most are living happy lives being the people they always were someplace else.
But a poster is hanging at County Market, which used to be BiLo, today.
A poster offering support to youth who might be thinking of taking their lives because of their sexuality, a topic that has gained plenty of attention this year because of high-profile suicides.
No one has torn it down, or written words I can’t bring myself to type across it. It’s a small change. But it’s huge.
Lori Falce writes this weekly column for the Rush Township/Philipsburg area.
OITS Filmmakers Named to the 2010 Out 100
November 19, 2010
Welcome to the 16th Annual Out 100
Out Magazine chronicles the 100 LGBT movers and shakers who made big impressions on the cultural and social fabrics of this year.
Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer - Filmmakers
If you haven’t seen Out in the Silence, make sure you do. The startling documentary begins with filmmaker Joe Wilson announcing his marriage to Dean Hamer in his small hometown’s newspaper. The unexpected controversy that follows leads the mother of a tormented gay teen in that town to reach out to Wilson and Hamer, and the movie they made follows the journeys Wilson and the teen take, together and separately. Tough, wrenching, inspiring.
By Out.com Editors
‘Out In The Silence’ Spurs Diversity Dialogue—Editorial - South County Spotlight, Scappoose, OR
November 17, 2010
by Darryl Swan, Publisher:
I’ve got to hand it to the Scappoose-based Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity. Last week, the group managed to deliver a successful screening of the movie “Out in the Silence,” which has as its central theme the question of tolerance for homosexual lifestyles in rural areas.
The reason CCCHD deserves recognition for its delivery of this type of content to Columbia County is not because, as some like to believe of the media, we’re a bunch of left-bent liberals who revel in jamming stereotypically urban issues down the throats of rural residents. Instead, it’s because, as the reporting in Stover E. Harger III’s article exposed, these are issues that are present here, today, and should be confronted by means of open community dialogue versus in society’s shadows.
Equally worthy of acknowledgment are the words of Plymouth Presbyterian Church Pastor Marilyn Allen, who after the screening so aptly reflected the film’s overlying message. “I think I understand better the challenges that people face when they live in a society that doesn’t accept them,” she said. “And it’s heartbreaking.”
Heartbreaking, indeed, that any group – homosexuals, people of color or varying ethnic backgrounds – seeking only to live a lifestyle that does no harm to others is marginalized and made to feel it resides within hostile territory.
Some, of course, would disagree with this perspective. Several comments posted to our website at http://www.spotlightnews.net exhibit this disagreement. One reader, citing the Bible, questioned why society should be tolerant of “sexual immorality.” Another said that while he believes homosexuality is immoral, it is also not acceptable to persecute homosexuals for their lifestyles. Almost in the same breath, however, the comment poster, while admitting it is legal to be gay and that gay people have the same legal rights as others, said they should not “whine” about societal pressures to reserve demonstrations of their lifestyle, such as hand-holding, for the privacy of their homes, and that those who would condemn such behavior are equally entitled to that condemnation.
Frankly, I think this misses the point, and it kind of brings to mind Jane Elliot’s brown eyes vs. blue eyes experiment conducted in the 1960s.
Elliot, an Iowan school teacher, on the day following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. separated her grade-school classroom into student groups of those with blue eyes and those with brown eyes. The challenge was for her all-white classroom of grade school students to understand segregation and, ultimately, diversity. As Elliot had experienced from other media reports, most white people when discussing racial segregation did so with a very removed quality, unable as a majority to fully comprehend the minority perspective.
Sure enough, Elliot’s experiment elevating the class standing of students with blue eyes and devaluing students with brown eyes resulted in behavioral shifts in both student groups. What happened? The brown-eyed students almost immediately became subservient, timid, less astute in their studies. The blue-eyed students, conversely, became arrogant and acted superior to the brown-eyed students. The blue-eyed students seemed to believe they were entitled to their condemnation of the brown-eyed students, much as the comment poster believes he is entitled to the condemnation of homosexuals some 50 years later. The student roles were subsequently reversed so that those with brown eyes were dominant, and though a similar effect on mood and attitude occurred, the actions of those with brown eyes were muted after having first had their privileges and class standings suppressed.
In another instance, a reader said he was upset because his middle school-age daughter was told she could receive extra credit for attending the screening of the movie, though the parents were not informed beforehand of the film’s controversial subject matter. In fact, according to the poster, parents were told the movie was broadly promoted as a film about bullying.
This raises another level of discourse, including questions about the role of public education and what we, as parents, expect of our school system. Is it public education’s role to expose students of appropriate ages to real-world scenarios, regardless of whether those scenarios clash with our world views? Are middle school students mature enough to handle the movie, which, while not rated, has the equivalent of PG content and predominately discusses the bullying of homosexual teens and adults across small-town America?
Those are questions each parent must answer for him or her self. If the parents have questions after the fact, it might do them well to watch the movie so they can personally ascertain the damage or benefit it provided to their daughter, and any lingering concern should be brought up to the district superintendent, Paul Peterson.
In my opinion, and given the controversial subject matter (let’s not pretend CCCHD or the Scappoose teacher were clueless about it being controversial), the teacher and school district should have made the effort to ensure parents were informed, if in fact they had not. Still, the movie is not inappropriate, and it certainly has added value in that it does demonstrate the ill stifling effects of bullying, in general, on our society and in our community.
CCCHD representatives reported to The Spotlight that their goal in bringing “Out in the Silence” to Columbia County and 14 other rural communities across Oregon is about saving lives. Certainly we’ve seen, lately, the devastating psychological and sociological effects that bullying of homosexuals and other minority groups, including the recent high-profile suicide of gay Rutgers’ University freshman Tyler Clementi after he had been bullied by his dorm mate, can have. In this, we hope CCCHD is successful in their mission.
For those who hope they are not, ask the question: Do you have blue eyes or brown eyes?
– Darryl Swan, Publisher
Oregon College Takes Down Anti-Gay Posters - The Associated Press
November 14, 2010
ALBANY, Ore. — A poster at an Albany, Ore., community college that contained hateful words about gays and lesbians was fraudulently attributed to the college’s diversity center in an apparent protest of the center’s sponsorship of a gay-rights film.
The Albany Democrat-Herald reports that Linn-Benton Community College and Oregon State University were jointly presenting the screening of filmmaker Joe Wilson’s “Out in the Silence,” a film about the controversy that erupted in Wilson’s small Pennsylvania hometown after the local newspaper published the announcement of his wedding to another man.
The posters were removed by campus security, and the community college is attempting to identify the person or people responsible.
The posters also contained the e-mail address and phone number of diversity center coordinator Toni Klohk.
Information from: Albany Democrat-Herald, http://www.dhonline.com
The Mood Was Tearful, Yet Hopeful”—South County Spotlight - Scappoose, OR
November 11, 2010
‘Out in the Silence’ provokes rural communities to consider social tolerance
The mood was tearful, yet hopeful.
By Stover E. Harger III
After a screening of the documentary, “Out in the Silence,” chronicling the effects of anti-gay bullying on numerous levels as it reverberates through a small town in Pennsylvania, nearly 100 community members from varying walks of lives shared their thoughts on how the messages in the film relate to our community.
Along with Washington, D.C. filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, who are in the midst of a whirlwind Oregon tour for “Out in the Silence,” residents spoke up, often with an outpouring of emotion.
A mother told how her 19-year-old daughter ended up being ignored by her father when she told him she was gay. A local pastor said she cringes when people discriminate in the name of God. One young girl, choking up with emotion, said her eyes were opened when she learned that being gay was not a choice, but ingrained within genetics. But the overall message was on the importance of communication: It might not be possible to change someone’s beliefs or lifestyle, whatever that may be, but it is possible to open a dialogue.
By numerous accounts it is sometimes difficult to be openly gay in Columbia County.
There’s the occasional odd glance at the supermarket, the sometimes deep-seated fear you will be harmed, the name calling. These are the troubling realities of many gay county residents who shared their stories with The Spotlight.
But these issues are not merely local, they say, but a systemic problem across the country, especially with gay youth, who have been a topic of conversation recently after increased media attention has been paid to their higher-than-average suicide rate.
“Our whole point is not so much rattling cages, it’s about saving lives,” said Gigi Gordon, who along with others at Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity helped bring the screening to Scappoose. “It will get better.”
Homosexuality, and sexuality in general, is an often complicated and sometimes controversial topic. Some openly identify as gay, others as bisexual, while others never leave the closet. As the hot topics of gay marriage and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” continue to spur national debate, many agree that it looks like there is still a ways to go before – or if ever – homosexuality is entirely accepted by the masses.
George Schmitz, 50, a gay man living with his longtime partner Kevin Walding in Warren, grew up here and returned as an adult after a few stints in Portland. He said there is a much larger population of gay residents in the county than many are aware of. That’s because many choose not to wear their sexual preferences on their sleeves. While most heterosexual residents wouldn’t bat an eye at holding their lover’s hand at Fred Meyer, for instance, Schmitz, and others, say that is something they aren’t comfortable doing.
“There are certain things you just don’t do, unfortunately…” he said. “It’s a safety thing. Who knows who is there.”
But Schmitz said walking through Portland would also likely elicit strange looks.
Schmitz and Walding’s residence was vandalized and their tires slashed at their prior home in St. Johns after they flew a gay pride flag. Walding said the police, disappointedly, did not follow up on the crime.
“I think you may think it would happen more in a rural area like this, but I don’t necessarily think population-wise that would be true,” Schmitz said about anti-gay sentiment.
However, Walding said earlier this decade in 2004, as Measure 36, which ended up defining marriage in the state as between one man and one woman, was on the minds of residents, it was a much more difficult time to be openly gay. With time it gets easier to be open about sexuality, he said.
“It’s changing, it’s changing slowly,” he said.
Glenna Fox, 53, who has lived in Scappoose for 30 years, first as a married straight woman before eventually coming out as a lesbian at age 28, has encountered many difficult ordeals over the years.
Many years back when she went to watch her daughter sing at a large Portland Christian church, where she had formerly served as a board member, Fox was asked to leave because the congregation learned she was gay. She went from being accepted to shunned. She never returned.
“They loved me, [but] it says in their belief system that I’m going to hell,” she said.
Fox was also harassed and stalked anonymously while working at Armstrong World Industries in St. Helens, she said. The company did the best it could to curtail the problem, she said, but it got to the point she decided to just quit. When she did, the calls ended.
“I probably shouldn’t be working in this community,” she decided.
Fox and her partner, Becky, a lifelong Scappoose resident, have over the years become unofficial counselors to people struggling with coming out of the closet, or to parents with gay sons and daughters. Fox said she didn’t ask for that role, but is glad to give a “sympathetic ear” when they come to her door.
Besides a now-disbanded gay/straight alliance at Scappoose High School, there are few meet-up or social groups for gay people in Columbia County.
“It’s getting better, but there are still some nuts to crack,” Fox said.
Plymouth Presbyterian Church Pastor Marilyn Allen was at the screening of “Out in the Silence” and said it upsets her when religion is used as a basis for bullying and discrimination. She said she was heartbroken after the film.
“I think I understand better the challenges that people face when they live in a society that does not accept them,” she said. “And it’s heartbreaking.”
“What about the kids from small towns who don’t have a voice?”—Lucy Tonic Review
November 09, 2010
Review of Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson’s Documentary, “Out in the Silence”
Due to the recent death of Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University who killed himself when a sex tape was released which revealed his homosexuality, I happened to stumble upon a documentary called Out in the Silence.
Directed by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, this 2009 film surrounds the real-life story of Wilson, whose announcement in the paper of his marriage to another man sparked much controversy in the small town of Oil City.
Due to the responses he received, along with a mother’s plea for help regarding the abuse of her own son due to his sexuality, Wilson decided to make a film regarding his hometown’s attitude towards gay marriage and overall homosexuality.
While the subject matter in this film isn’t anything that hasn’t been heard before, it does portray a realistic view of how hypocritical and closed-minded people still are.
The only people in the town who agreed to be interviewed for the documentary were a pastor and his wife, who were some of the people that responded to Wilson’s ad negatively. “If we grant two men the right to get married, what’s wrong with incest or polygamy? I think at times we’ve seen that happen…” This quote from the pastor is a perfect example of how absurd some people’s views are. Even if homosexuality isn’t approved by any church in America, it is a far cry from marriages which allow multiple partners (and these marriages probably happen with or without the church anyway.) Although Wilson obviously shared this sentiment, eventually he did respect the pastor for at least coming forward and being honest about his opinions, even if Wilson himself disagreed with them.
In addition, Diane Gramley, leader of the AFA (American Family Association,) refused to speak to Wilson on camera about her views, although she hosts her own radio show and speaks out frequently to the public against same-sex marriage, stating that gay people encourage children to live a “dangerous lifestyle.”
The film also portrays how not enough is being done in schools regarding verbal and physical abuse towards homosexuals and virtually anyone who’s different. Wilson himself sees that the Oil City school system hasn’t changed much in regards to teachers standing by and watching this abuse occur. Even in the workplace, same-sex relationships are stereotyped and frowned upon, as portrayed by the two lesbian women who receive threatening phone calls when trying to re-open a theater for the community.
While shows like Sex & the City and Will & Grace portray homosexuality as a “fabulous” thing, what about the kids from small towns who don’t have a voice, who aren’t old enough yet to realize that there are people on Earth who are accepting? And what about those who grow older, and for whatever reason, can’t afford to get out of their current situation, forcing them to keep their true identity hidden? Should they have to suffer in silence?
This documentary addresses these issues and more, while proving that despite society’s advances in the gay community, the “bible-belt mindset” still exists in many suburbs in America.
You can view this documentary online for free at Hulu.com.
“A Rallying Point for Rural LGBT Advocates”—Center for Social Media at American University
November 02, 2010
The Center for Social Media “showcases and analyzes media for public knowledge and action-media made by, for, and with publics to address the problems that they share.” The Center recently took a look at the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign, saying that its “effective engagement strategies present fresh insights about the LGBT experience across America.”
See the full report HERE.
“Small Town America Is Revealed”—KBOO Portland Community Radio Interview
October 27, 2010
Previewing the Nov. 4 - 13 OUT IN THE SILENCE Tour of Rural Oregon, KBOO’s Wendy Webb interviews filmmakers Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer - Wendy concludes by saying that “OUT IN THE SILENCE demonstrates the power of film to effect social change.”
More Details: http://kboo.fm/node/24533
“Out in the Silence Builds Bridges on Gay Issues, Bullying and Teen Suicides”—The Paramus Post
October 22, 2010
By Mel Fabrikant — Friday, October 22, 2010:
Out in the Silence, an Emmy award-winning documentary about religious attitudes toward same-sex unions and the struggles faced by gay teens, will be the closing film at the Teaneck International Film Festival. It will be shown at the Puffin Cultural Forum, 20 Puffin Way, Sunday, November 21, at 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $5 if purchased in advance (at http://www.teaneckfilmfestival.org, or at local stores: Animations, Brier Rose Books, and Teaneck General Store) and $7 at the door.
Filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer will follow the screening of their “stunning documentary” (Philadelphia Inquirer) with a Q & A session about inclusion, fairness, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Rabbi Steven Sirbu, of Teaneck’s Temple Emeth, and Jeremy Lentz, Executive Director of TIFF, will participate in the post-film discussion which will be moderated by Sandi Klein (1010WINS).
Out in the Silence touches on one of the most urgent human and civil rights concerns of our time, particularly in this area, where the suicide of a Rutgers student, recent hate crimes against gays, and the debate over marriage equality which began with an announcement in a local newspaper, have been making headlines and sparking discussion and debate. “We’re hopeful that the inclusion of the film in the Teaneck festival will open up dialogue and civil engagement on this topic throughout the region,” said Wilson.
The film, produced in association with the Sundance Institute, premiered in the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at New York’s Lincoln Center and has won kudos at film festivals nationwide, as well as a Mid-Atlantic Emmy award for outstanding achievement in documentary. But Wilson and Hamer are most interested in using it as part of a grassroots campaign to raise LGBT visibility, build bridges across identity lines and morally charged religious divides, and advocate for safe schools.
Wilson and Hamer did not set out to make a documentary about LGBT issues, but after the couple announced their wedding in Wilson’s small hometown newspaper, there was a firestorm of controversy initiated by the head of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, who happened to live in the town.
“In Pennsylvania, as in suburban New Jersey, there are people who try to use religion as a wedge issue to divide communities,” said Wilson. “But as we documented the controversy over three years, it became apparent that many more people wanted to have a civil dialogue and close the gaps that have divided families, friends, and neighbors for far too long.”
Two key figures in the documentary are an Evangelical preacher and his wife who start off as vehement opponents of same-sex unions. After getting to know Wilson and Hamer over several years of filming, and meeting other LGBT people in their community, they have a change of heart and become close friends.
“It was a remarkable journey for all of us,” said Hamer. “It just goes to show the type of transformation that is possible when people on opposite sides of an issue lay down their swords and get to know one another.”
The film also documents the harrowing, and ultimately successful, journey of CJ, a gay teen whose mother contacted Wilson after her son was brutally gay-bashed at high school. Their efforts to hold the school administrators accountable lead to anti-bullying measures being introduced in the school system.
“The recent rash of teen suicides due to anti-LGBT bigotry, bullying, and harassment is a tragic reminder of how far we have to go to counter the intolerance and homophobia that are claiming young lives,” commented Wilson. “We need the sort of courage demonstrated by CJ translated into a national movement for safe schools for all students everywhere.”
The Out in the Silence community engagement campaign has so far conducted more than 200 town-hall-style screenings across the country. The film has special appeal and relevance for youth, who often identify with the spirited gay teen who is a central character in the documentary. The campaign has provided free DVDs and outreach materials to over 200 LGBT student groups across the country.
More Details: http://www.paramuspost.com/article.php/20101022192723103
Sparking Dialogue—Honolulu Star Advertiser
October 20, 2010
The HIFF Film “Out in the Silence” Is Timely Following A Rash Of Suicides By Gay Youth
by Nina Wu:
Sixteen-year-old CJ Bills of Oil City, Pa., was so tired of being bullied at school for being gay that he eventually asked to be suspended so he could be safe at home.
Bills, who at one point was suicidal due to the taunting, is the central figure in “Out in the Silence,” an Emmy award-winning documentary making its Hawaii premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival on Saturday.
Filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer will appear at a question-and-answer session after the screening, which they hope will be a springboard for a dialogue in the community.
The film, produced in association with the Sundance Institute, is timely following recent suicides by gay teens on the mainland, including the death of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi.
“The recent rash of teen suicides due to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bigotry, bullying and harassment is a tragic reminder of how far we have to go to counter the intolerance and homophobia that are claiming young lives,” said Wilson. “We need the sort of courage demonstrated by CJ translated into a national movement for safe schools for all students everywhere.”
Camaron Miyamoto, coordinator of LGBT Student Services at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said more gay students are coming out at younger ages than in the past—in middle school or high school—when bullying is most prevalent, rather than at college. But the bias begins as early as preschool and kindergarten.
Teens who have hidden their gay identity from family and friends can feel even more lonely. A sense of isolation, in addition to the bullying, can lead one down the road to suicide.
“I think too often we experience isolation and silence because of continued harassment,” said Miyamoto. “So I encourage everyone to take a stand together, no matter what your sexual orientation.”
Besides slurs, other, more subtle ways students denigrate gays without necessarily knowing it, he said, is with the use of phrases like “That’s so gay,” the word “sissy” or slang like “no homo.” Many students also are harassed just because they are perceived to be gay, whether they are gay or straight.
It’s important for gay youth to know they have resources to turn to, he said.
“I want every single student to know that they count and not only that things will get better, but they can make it better starting today,” he said. “No one deserves to be harassed or bullied, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.”
National research has linked bullying to suicide in youth, according to state suicide prevention coordinator Nancy Kern, with LGBT youth particularly at risk. But other youth can be targets for many reasons, including race, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion or appearance.
SnagFilms To Stream Live Online Premiere Of “Out in the Silence”
October 17, 2010
SnagFilms To Stream Live Online Premiere Of “Out in the Silence”; Will Feature Interactive Discussion With Film Directors
On Monday October 18th at 8PM EST, SnagFilms will present a live virtual screening to a global online audience of “Out in the Silence.” The film, directed by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, follows the story of a small American town confronting a firestorm of controversy ignited by a same-sex wedding announcement in the local newspaper. During the free, online premiere of the Emmy-nominated film, viewers will be able to join a live discussion with the film’s directors and pose questions on both the film and current events.
“In light of recent events impacting gay and lesbians in small towns and big cities all across America, this online premiere and discussion of ‘Out in the Silence’ provides viewers with a unique opportunity to simultaneously watch a great documentary and participate in a dialogue about the film,” said SnagFilms CEO Rick Allen.
“We’re trying to show this at any place where we can promote dialogue and mutual understanding,” said director Joe Wilson, adding the majority of the reaction to the documentary has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. “I think we were able to demonstrate some of the problems gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender [GLBT] people face in their communities and have had a lot of people come together to discuss them and what kinds of solutions there are.”
BigLive will provide SnagFilms with the live streaming platform that allows for the synchronous stream and live discussion. “The goal of Big Live is to allow people to communicate and connect around a shared video experience. It is our hope that Big Live will be used as a platform to forward the discussion around gay marriage in the United States,” said Big Live Co-Founder and Vice President Michael Rudoy.
Significant Turnout for Film Screening Leads to Healthy Community Dialogue
October 14, 2010
by Amo Miller
Spencer, Indiana – The Spencer Presbyterian Church Cornerstone Hall was packed on Sunday night with a crowd that came out to attend an Out in the Silence Film Screening and Community Dialogue sponsored by White River Valley PFLAG and Spencer Pride, Inc.
Representatives from the two event partners – Middle Way House and Spencer Presbyterian Church – were only some of the more than 75 people that came out for the free event.
The evening started off with a welcome and prayer by a representative of the Spencer Presbyterian Church. Then, Jonathan Balash and Judi Epp – presidents of Spencer Pride Inc. and White River Valley PFLAG respectively – introduced their two groups and the feature film of the evening, Out in the Silence. The film is a critically-acclaimed documentary that focuses on the issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals who live, work, and love in a small rural community. Organizers of the event saw many parallels between the film and our own local community.
Spencer Pride and PFLAG members scrambled to gather more chairs to accommodate the crowd that continued to pour in to the hall, well after the movie had begun. There were representatives of local churches including high school students from a local church youth group, distinguished mental health professionals, educators, and many more members of the Spencer and Bloomington communities. The crowd was diverse in age, ranging from a small baby all the way to many seniors well into their golden years.
“I can’t even begin to express my happiness with our turnout,” said Spencer Pride, Inc. president Jonathan Balash. “We were expecting 25 people, hoping for 50 people, and absolutely amazed with the 77 people who came out for the event.” He noted that only 70 event programs had even been printed.
The film stirred up a lot of emotion among the attendees. At moments there were tears, while at others the sound of laughter filled the room. Most of the audience kept their eyes focused on the screen as the various storylines unfolded. Dinner and dessert – pizza and ice cream cake generously donated by the local Dairy Queen - were provided after the film for those in attendance.
Mary L. Gray, Professor of Communication at Indiana University and author of the recently published book Out in the Country, led the community dialogue that took place after everyone had an opportunity to get food and refreshments. Mary introduced ground rules and then asked the attendees to all rearrange the chairs in to a large circle so that everyone could see one another during the community dialogue. What was planned for a 30 minute dialogue lasted more than 45 minutes. Topics ranged from the film itself to teen suicide to religious perspectives on homosexuality. The crowd represented both sides of nearly every topic, but everyone could agree that discrimination and violence towards youth was unacceptable in our community.
Kathy Talkington, an Advocate for Women at Middle Way House in Owen County, was a proud supporter of the film and conversation. “Many problems today are caused by people who believe it is ok to discriminate against others who are ‘different’ from them,” said Talkington. “To take a stand against discrimination is to take a stand against violence in our country. It is a step in the right direction for all of us.”
One of the early topics discussed was whether the church should even have supported an event about gay and lesbian issues. Prior to the event, Nancy Dean from the Spencer Presbyterian Church’s Community Outreach and Mission Committee had the following to say about the church’s participation: “We feel that peace and harmony within families and communities are best achieved when issues of concern are discussed openly and caringly.”
Quotes were not taken during the dialogue itself to maintain respect for those who participated and to abide by Gray’s rules.
The discussion ended only when Gray brought it to a close and thanked everyone for coming out to participate. “I was struck by the level of commitment from everyone in the room to continue the conversation, even when it was clear that there was disagreement,” Gray explained. “I believe conversations like the one we had tonight bring us one step closer to better supporting LGBT and questioning youth because these discussions help us see the genuine concern we have for each other and our community members. It’s inspiring.”
Epp had the following to say about the dialogue: “Our intention was to start a conversation about being gay or lesbian in the rural Midwest and we certainly did that! The attendees represented a wonderful cross section of the local community and thanks to our facilitator everyone who wanted to speak was given an opportunity to do so.”
Once the dialogue finished the hall began clearing out. Approximately 20 people remained and continued the discussion in smaller groups. Within half an hour the crowd had dwindled to only White River Valley PFLAG and Spencer Pride members who cleaned up, debriefed, and then went home for a long night’s rest after a fruitful evening that had taken them months to organize.
“We hope this is the beginning of a continuing conversation with this community,” Epp said with determination in her voice. She announced that the November meeting of the White River Valley PFLAG would be the next opportunity to continue the important conversation that began that night. The November meeting’s theme will be “Continuing the Conversation: Reflections of Being Lesbian or Gay in A Small Midwestern Town.” As always, the community is welcome to attend the meeting.
And the Emmy goes to… OUT IN THE SILENCE!
October 11, 2010
September 25, 2010
OUT IN THE SILENCE is proud and honored to receive an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Mid-Atlantic Chapter. Thank you so much to WPSU, the Pennsylvania Public Television Network, and all the supporters and friends who made this possible.
Interview on KTEP Radio El Paso’s ON FILM with Chuck Horak
October 11, 2010
October 9, 2010 Out in the Silence - Charles talks with Joe Wilson, co-director of “Out in the Silence: Love, Hate, and a Quest for Change in Small Town America.” The film grew out of a wedding announcement Wilson released in his hometown paper which announced the union of he and his partner (and co-director of the film), Dean Hamer. The homophobia and anger that resulted from the announcement led Wilson & Hamer to visit this small town to explore these issues and to overcome stereotypes. The film will be screened Oct. 11 at Trinity-First United Methodist Church at 7 p.m., and Oct. 12 at the UTEP Union Cinema at 6 p.m.
Prayers Go Unanswered at OUT IN THE SILENCE Screening in Altoona
September 28, 2010
by Scott Muska for The Altoona Mirror - Sept. 28, 2010:
Joe Wilson and his partner Dean Hamer have been traveling all over Pennsylvania for the past year showing “Out in the Silence,” a documentary they made to expand public awareness about the difficulties that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face in rural and small town America.
Their goal is to have at least one showing - followed by a question and answer session - in each of the state’s 67 counties, and their first in Blair County at Penn State Altoona’s Slep Student Center Monday night. About 50 people attended.
“We’re trying to show this at any place where we can promote dialogue and mutual understanding,” said Wilson, adding the majority of the reaction to the documentary has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. “I think we were able to demonstrate some of the problems gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender [GLBT] people face in their communities and have had a lot of people come together to discuss them and what kinds of solutions there are.”
Yolanda Avent, the school’s director of institutional equity and diversity, and Frank Chumbiray, sophomore and president of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, teamed up to bring Wilson and Hamer to the school after they saw the documentary earlier this year.
Avent said she hoped the showing and subsequent discussion would help lessen the ambiguity that sometimes surrounds the GLBT lifestyle.
“If you don’t put a face on something, you can make a monster of it,” Avent said. ” I hope we can break down some of the barriers and borders that sometimes exist.”
The film focuses very heavily on the problems a 16-year-old boy faces in a rural town in western Pennsylvania, something Chumbiray hopes may help others come out confidently in the future.
“In past years, in my high school, it was something you couldn’t really talk about, and I hope his story helps another 16-year-old come out and maybe have not as many issues,” he said.
A prayer service held by members of the Faith Baptist Church of Altoona and led by Pastor Gary Dull outside the Slep Center prior to the showing was one of only three similar occurrences in more than 80 showings, according to Hamer.
About 15 members gathered around a picnic table and prayed that “nobody at all” would show up to the event and referred to any act of homosexuality as “wicked and sinful.” They also prayed that a mishap like the projector failing to work would prevent anyone from seeing the documentary and also that the film’s footage would be replaced by the “gospel appearing on the screen.”
Dull said one purpose of the peaceful prayer vigil was to pray for people to realize that real happiness is found in accepting Jesus Christ, and not in illicit sex.
After speaking briefly on camera with Wilson and Hamer, Dull and the others left before the showing, something Wilson had hoped they wouldn’t do.
“The fact that they can’t even be open to discussion and that people misuse religion to promote that mentality is to me shocking and painful,” Wilson said. “I think since they wouldn’t even listen to what we have to say, that just shows what they’re really about.”
Out In The Open In Small Towns - South Dakota State Collegian
September 16, 2010
by Frederic Cone:
The SD Film Society’s yearly film series got off to a big start last night when it showed the film “Out in the Silence,” a documentary from directors Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer. Immediately following the film there was a panel discussion with the two directors.
Wilson and Hamer are currently on a national tour to promote not only the film but also their campaign and bring awareness to gay rights and issues to small rural towns.
“The main message we are trying to get out is lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people are deserving of fair and equal treatment under the law everywhere in the country, whether they live in big cities or small rural communities,” Wilson said. “We need to figure out ways to support people who live in small towns and communities and help them to create places that are fully inclusive and welcoming of all and where everybody is treated with dignity and respect.”
The documentary is about the life of a boy in a rural community who is harassed after he comes out of the closet and openly admits that he is gay. The director is from the same small town and when he and Hamer had their wedding announcement published in the local newspaper, there was a huge backlash from the announcement but the commotion caused some good as well.
“The inspiration for the film was a letter I received from the boy’s mother explaining the situation and how she had nowhere else to turn,” Wilson said. “I knew that we needed to go there and film it and use it as a way to bring awareness to this issue.”
Their hope is that through the tour and the film, they will be able to open up communities to not only accept the issues but also create environments accepting to those struggling with hiding their true selves for fear of harassment and ridicule from members of their families and communities.
“One of our goals is to speak to the whole community and let everyone know they are responsible for making the needed changes for all members of the town to feel welcome and safe with who they are,” Hamer said. “We also want to let those who are gay, bi-sexual, lesbian and transgender and are living in those small towns in the closet for fear of retribution, that there are allies and supporters out there to help them. We want them to trust in their hope for a better and safer environment to live in.”
Prior to the film being shown, there also was a dinner with the directors at Pizza Ranch, hosted by the Gay Straight Alliance from SDSU.
“Our hope is to bring awareness and let the public know that we’re here and to respect us and accept us into the community,” said Lawrence Novotny, senior chemist at SDSU and the advisor for the Gay Straight Alliance.
Presidents of the Gay Straight Alliance, Josh Bell, said overall SDSU and the Brookings community are very supportive and welcoming. However, instances of verbal and physical harassment occur from time to time. The Gay Straight Alliance has support campus-wide from various other organizations such as the Campus Women’s Coalition and the Society of Agnostic, Atheist and Free Thinkers (SAAFE).
“The Gay Straight Alliance is a growing organization and our focus is to create safe environments and a supportive atmosphere for our members,” said Josh Bell, the current president of the organization. “Our meetings are held on Thursday nights at 7:00 p.m. in The Student Union. We also have a Facebook group under the name GSA.”
Oil City Council Proclaims Day of Recognition for “Fair and Equal Treatment for All People”
September 15, 2010
Oil City, PA Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010
Proclamation Signed by Oil City Council
City council members signed a proclamation Monday night that designated the day (Sept. 13) as Joe Wilson Day. The tribute refers to former Oil City resident Joe Wilson who with his partner Dean Hamer, directed and produced the award winning film “Out in the Silence.”
The film celebrates diverse lifestyles and was shot in Oil City and the surrounding area.
“Joe Wilson’s film shows Oil City to the rest of the country as a town capable of positive change and documents progress in fair and equal treatment for all people in this community,” notes the proclamation.
Council was asked in June by local resident George Cooley to adopt a formal human rights policy and to embrace Wilson’s film on tolerance in small towns. The documentary tells the story of a gay high school student and explores small-town reaction to same-sex marriage.
Joe Wilson interviewed on Dakota Midday - South Dakota Public Broadcasting
September 09, 2010
OITS Co-Director Joe Wilson interviewed in the lead-up to South Dakota grassroots tour, launching at the South Dakota Film Festival in Aberdeen on Sept. 11 - (segment begins at 33:40)
“Bible Believing Christian’s Response to OUT IN THE SILENCE” Promotes Anti-Transgender Violence
September 01, 2010
A Dispatch from Coudersport:
by Joe Wilson, August, 31, 2010:
Diane Gramley sat peacefully behind Robert Wagner in the Coudersport Public Library as the retired physician shared his views on transgender individuals with the assembled audience. “I’m gonna put a ball bat in my car,” he said, “and if I ever see a guy [Wagner refuses to use proper pronouns] coming out of a bathroom that my granddaughter’s in, I’m gonna use the ball bat on him.” Moments later he added: “In the good old days, before ‘she-males’ existed, they just called such people perverts.”
Gramley is no stranger to such ideas. As President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Family Association, a ‘traditional family values’ organization based in Mississippi, she spends much of her time planting similar seeds of suspicion about the dangers posed by “men who think they are women,” her disparaging term for transgender females. She also crusades relentlessly against what she and the AFA call the “homosexual agenda” and the type of legal protections that her and Dr. Wagner’s threatening rhetoric suggests are needed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Gramley was in Coudersport, a small town of 2,600 residents in the sparsely populated north-central part of the state known as the Pennsylvania Wilds, as a special guest of Dr. Wagner for what he titled “A Bible Believing Christian’s Response to OUT IN THE SILENCE,” my documentary film about the quest for inclusion, fairness and equality for LGBT people in the small town where I was born and raised, Oil City, PA, just a two-hour drive from Coudersport.
Gramley, who also happens to call the Oil City area home, plays a central role in OUT IN THE SILENCE as a result of the firestorm of controversy she helped to ignite in opposition to the publication of my same-sex marriage announcement in the local paper. It was that controversy that compelled my partner, Dean Hamer, and I to go back to my hometown with our cameras to document what life is like there for LGBT people, and to show hopeful and inspiring stories about the growing movement for equality.
The film was produced in partnership with Penn State Public Broadcasting, received support from the Sundance Institute, premiered at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, screened in Tribeca Cinemas Doc Series, and has been broadcast on PBS stations around the country. We’re now using it as an educational tool in a grassroots campaign to help raise LGBT visibility and to bring people together in small towns like Oil City and Coudersport to begin building bridges across the gaps that have divided families, friends, and entire communities on these issues for far too long.
As part of this campaign, OUT IN THE SILENCE had screened just a month earlier for a standing-room-only crowd in the Coudersport Public Library despite vehement opposition from Dr. Wagner and the efforts of the local Tea Party and a small group of fundamentalist preachers to shut the event down and have the library ‘de-funded’ for making its space available for such a program.
Wagner’s “Bible Believing Response,” he told the crowd of approximately 60 local church people, “was intended to expose the filmmakers’ real agenda and to question the directors’ assertion that the community should tolerate alternative lifestyles.”
During the two hour program, Wagner asked special guest Gramley a few questions about her experiences as a minor subject of the film, but he used her more as a prop, seated silently behind him, providing an odd sort of legitimacy as he put forth offensive theories and mischaracterizations about LGBT people, including that “AIDS is the gay plague” and “gays can’t have families.”
Dean and I were in the library for the presentation. We made the six-hour drive to Coudersport from our home in Washington, DC because I wanted to bear witness to this event, to experience for myself, if only for a few hours, what it feels like to be so close to such willful ignorance and brazen cruelty.
As I sat there, listening to ‘amens,’ snickering laughter, and even a roar of approval from the people around me when asked if they agree with the AFA assertions that there “should be legal sanctions against homosexual behavior” and “homosexuals should be disqualified from public office,” I felt a sadness unlike any I have known before. A sadness for those who fall prey to such bigoted and hostile bombast, who carry the feelings these things stir into their homes and family relationships, and for the communities that suffer the sometimes-violent consequences of such mean-spirited divisiveness.
But as I looked at Gramley, unmoved next to Wagner, condoning the ugliness without a word of protest, I thought of all the courageous people who have attended OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign events over the past many months in far flung places, including there in Coudersport, who refuse to be silent anymore, who are working for change in their communities against great odds, and I was inspired all over again.
It is in their spirit that we will continue our campaign to speak out in the silence and to help build the movement for fairness and equality in small towns and rural communities across America.
I hope you’ll join us! Learn more at OutintheSilence.com
Daily Kos: “An Amazing Project That Has The Potential To Open Many People’s Minds”
September 01, 2010
Horrifying: “Bible-believing Christian” Spews Anti-LGBT Venom, Threatens Violence
by Chrislove—Sep 01, 2010 at 09:50:48 AM PDT
And to think, I was having a pretty good day.
I got on the computer a few minutes ago, checked my Facebook newsfeed, and I saw a link to a video clip (I’ll share it below). I watched it, and I’m just…I don’t know what word I’m looking for. Angry? Sad? Maybe just disturbed. Probably all three.
A little background before I share the video. The video was taken at an event in Coudersport, Pennsylvania (which really contributes to my emotional response to the video, since Coudersport is a small town just a hop, skip, and a jump away from where I live) held by Robert Wagner, a self-described “Bible-believing Christian.” The meeting was meant to be a response to a screening in Coudersport of the film Out in the Silence, a documentary telling the story of a teenager in Oil City, Pennsylvania, facing extreme bullying because he was gay.
Full Story Here on Daily Kos
“Out In The Silence” is a Powerful Documentary - The Huffington Post
August 20, 2010
By Joan E. Dowlin:
Last Tuesday night I attended a screening of the film Out in the Silenceat a local library in Stratford, PA. It was a very moving and transformational evening. The movie was very powerful in its message as was the question and answer discussion afterward.
The documentary by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer chronicles the journey of Joe to his boyhood home of Oil City, a small town in western Pennsylvania, after declaring his wedding to Dean, his gay partner, in his hometown paper. Wilson shares the written reactions he received, mostly negative from the hometown crowd. But one letter particularly caught his attention.
It was from Kathy Springer who asked him for help in dealing with the abuse, physical and emotional, that her openly gay sixteen year old son, CJ, was receiving from his classmates at Joe’s old high school.
Joe and Dean decide to travel to Oil City and document the experience. What was produced is a provocative film shining a light on small town America and the harassments that openly gay teens and citizens have to endure.
Besides exposing some unpleasant prejudices, it is also a documentary that is filled with hope for a transformative future. The friendly relationship that develops between Joe and a previously borderline homophobic Pastor Nickos and his wife, Diana is uplifting. It shows that it is possible to open the hearts and minds of those who have been influenced by evangelical thinking.
Also inspiring is the story of Roxanne and Linda, two lesbians who live in the house right next to where Joe grew up. As community activists who began neighborhood “clean up days,” they gained the respect and support of many in the town. When they bought an old theater with dreams of renovating it, they experienced some opposition from Diane, the Head of the PA Chapter of the American Family Association who ran a radio campaign against them. The amazing thing is that many neighbors came to their support and helped out with the renovations. It was a joyous occasion when they opened the new theater to a sell out crowd. Linda was so moved she could hardly speak.
As for CJ and his mother, after receiving the cold shoulder from the local school board, they presented their story to local representatives and were encouraged to go to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). Eventually, they won a court settlement against the school officials and board.
What struck me in this film is CJ’s appealing personality. He is a typical teenager who likes sports and cars who did not deserve the abuse he had to endure.
At the screening, we were introduced to another local teen activist, Joey Kemmerling and his mom, Joyce Mundy, who shared some of his difficult experiences about being openly gay in high school.
I stood up and thanked him for coming out and shared that when I was in high school “gay” was a word that was never spoken. It took me until I was 29 to accept that I am a lesbian and I regret those years that I wasted living a lie in the closet. We have come a long way since then and I am so appreciative of the courage that Joey and CJ have displayed.
I was also moved by the support shown by the large number of straight people in the audience. Many were from PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). I never fully realized until that evening how important group support is. Having heterosexual allies for gays today is similar to white activists backing blacks during the turbulent civil rights struggles of the 1960s. It is powerful to feel that support and be recognized as a human being and reminded that we are all one.
All in all, it was an encouraging event and a film I highly recommend seeing. It shows that no matter how far we have come in our human rights campaign, we have more work to do. And if we approach others with an open mind, inner strength and humility we can change the world, one soul at a time. This movie has a “happy beginning.”
Huffington Post: Proposition 8 Dispatch From the Culture Wars Front
August 19, 2010
Intro by Bill Lichtenstein:
The US District Court decision on August 4, overturning California’s Proposition 8 and its ban on same sex marriages was a watershed moment for proponents of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans.
Within hours of the landmark decision, pundits ranging from MSNBC’s liberal Rachel Maddow to Fox’s ultra-right wing Glenn Beck, began postulating that the ruling signaled a new “post-homophobic” era in America.
Maddow, who among news anchors may well be America’s most trusted lesbian, led her show for the two nights after the decision with celebratory coverage of the ruling. She went so far as to taunt GOP leaders for being uncharacteristically quiet during the 24 hours after the US District Court decision.
Speaking presumably to Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and John Boehner, among others, Maddow asked at the top of her August 5 program, “Where were the outraged Republicans? Where are you? You guys used to be so good at this.”
At the same time, Glenn Beck, who is to liberal causes what “Mikey” was to breakfast foods in the 1970s Life cereal ads (“he hates everything”), turned heads by telling Fox’s Bill O’Reilly that “I don’t think marriage, that the government actually has anything to do with . . . [what] is a religious right,” and then added a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?”
In the wake of the decision, both sides held their breath as Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker gave opponents of the ruling six days to appeal it. On August 16, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals left in place Prop 8 and its same sex marriage ban in California, as the case winds its way through its appeal process toward the Supreme Court, where it may ultimately be decided. Depsite forcing Golden State gay and lesbian couples to put their nuptial plans on hold, this delay has one possible plus for same sex marriage proponents.
Loyola Law School professor Richard Hasen told the LA Times , that “If this case takes another year to get to the U.S. Supreme Court, there could be more states that adopt same-sex marriage and more judicial opinions that reach that conclusion.”
In fact, despite the dramatic victory in the federal court, the battle over same sex marriages in the US continues to rage at the state and local levels.
Streak of “31 Straight Victories” Brought to an End
Over the past decade, gay marriage opponents have racked up an impressive winning streak of 31 straight victories against no defeats when the issue of same sex marriages has been on the ballot in state elections. Loss number 31 was in Maine, on November 3, 2009, when voters repealed a law that had allowed gay unions. The 31-0 streak was brought to an abrupt end by Judge Walker’s Prop 8 decision.
As recent events have been developing in San Francisco, filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson have been traveling the country with their feature documentary film, Out in the Silence. The film captures the remarkable chain of events starting with the announcement of their wedding, which ignited a firestorm of controversy in the small Pennsylvania hometown Wilson left long ago.
The documentary tells the story of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights in rural America, and premiered at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, was broadcast on PBS stations across the country, and has been shown at over 400 community and school screenings accompanied by public discussions.
Currently, Dean, who has worked for the past three decades at the National Institutes of Health, and received international attention after the journal “Science” published his research in 1993 that he had identified a “gay gene,” and Joe, a human rights activist and native of Oil City, Pennsylvania, where the documentary takes place, are traveling with the film through all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, a state that prohibits same sex marriage.
The following is Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson’s “dispatch from the front” regarding the latest battle in America’s 2010 culture wars:
The images of the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case standing on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco during the trial, were typical of the now standard media portrayal of gay America: out, proud, comfortably middle class, living in a big city or suburb.
But there is another side to gay America that is rarely seen. It takes place in conservative, often deeply religious small towns and rural communities where those who are found, or even perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, strive to fit in rather than to stand out. For these people coming out means risking their families, friends, jobs and livelihoods, their safety and at times even their very lives.
Our documentary film, Out in the Silence, focuses on the harrowing, ultimately successful battle waged by a 16 year-old gay student and his mother against recalcitrant school authorities when the teen was brutally gay bashed for courageously coming out at his rural high school.
We’ve reached half of our goal of screening the film in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, and most of the events have been greeted with enthusiasm. But in Coudersport, a town of 2,650 people along the northern border of the state, we received an email from Keturah Cappadonia, a town librarian just two days before the scheduled screening informing us that the event would have to be canceled. The reason, as the Harrisburg Patriot-News, later reported, was that ‘after several hours of people pointing their fingers in her face and telling her she was going to hell, Keturah Cappadonia cracked, and was reduced to tears by the experience.’
The controversy resulted from, no surprise, an alliance between fundamentalist Christians and right-wing conservatives. Pastor Pete Tremblay of the Coudersport Free Methodist Church told a local news web site that the film was ‘designed to get people to give up their convictions based on the word of God and accept these practices as equivalent to God’s design for human sexuality. It is propaganda.’
Pastor Tremblay went on to request that people ‘call the library…and in a Christian manner inform them that this event is not a benefit to our community, and ask that it be canceled.’
He was joined in his condemnation of the film by George Brown, president of the Potter County Tea Party, who said he was upset at having to be ‘attacked for our beliefs at a public library we support with our tax money. This is wrong and cannot be tolerated.’
Brown also told the web site that $1.5 million of local taxes was used to support the library (the actual number is $42,000), and went on to say that ‘Should this agenda be continued, we may need to ask if the library should be defunded.’
That appeared to be one threat over the line for the library board. Following a quick phone meeting, they unanimously decided that the screening would go ahead as originally planned and issued a public statement for the library patrons:
The mission of any public library is to serve a diverse community with varying opinions about what is and is not objectionable material . . . We believe the library would fail in its mission if it did not provide information about ideas or topics that each of us might find uncomfortable at some level . . . American libraries are the cornerstone of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere.
And so two days later, on the evening of July 28, 2010, a standing room only crowd gathered in Coudersport’s public library, made up of mainstream members of the community along with lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual, transgender and cisgender, young, middle-aged and senior citizens, together with a goodly handful of reporters, all gathered together in a public place and ready to talk about a subject that had divided their community for far too long.
As soon as the film was over, one of the opponents in the room quickly rose and read from a long list of objections to the film, including that ‘most homosexuals are very well off.’ Another spoke at length of his belief that homosexuality is against ‘God’s word.’
But then, gradually, slowly and often in tears, the LGBT folks and their family members, friends and allies began to recount their personal experiences.
A teenager described how he had been harassed at school when his classmates discovered his father was gay. ‘I didn’t understand why my friends turned their backs on me,’ he said. ‘To accept everyone is the only way to go about living.’
Then the teen’s father - a local business owner, Episcopal Vestry member and former Republican Party Chair - spoke of the acceptance he has quietly gained over his 30 years in the town.
Another young man, visibly nervous, publicly announced for the first time that he was proud to be both gay and Christian, even though his church had rejected him. That prompted a local minister to stand and announce that her church was supportive of LGBT people and would serve as a resource for those who wanted a welcoming spiritual home.
When a woman with a small child in her arms offered to make a financial donation to the library to offset any losses due to the screening, she was greeted by a solid burst of applause.
The topic of marriage equality was never even mentioned. But audience members did circulate a sign-up sheet for people who wanted to work with one another and Equality Partners of Western Pennsylvania to try and make Coudersport a more welcoming and tolerant place. By the time the event was over, the majority of the people in the room had signed up.
While it was painful, even frightening to observe the open hostility of the handful of individuals who attempted to stop the meeting from occurring, and then to disrupt the conversation with angry diatribes and personal attacks, people in the community have told us that it was actually useful that it all took place in full light of day because it revealed the seriousness of the problems that LGBT people face, often alone and without any networks of personal or legal support in such an environment.
The other screenings throughout Pennsylvania, which has a law on the books prohibiting same sex marriage, drew good crowds of local LGBT people and allies including educators, social workers and business owners, but only one minister showed up, in Emporium, PA. After watching the movie he took off his white collar and placed it in his shirt pocket. ‘Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be associated with the clergy in this area,’ he said. ‘My religion is about faith, not about hate.’
Film Draws Supporters of Non-Discrimination Ordinance - Main Line Times
August 19, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
By Cheryl Allison
The community room at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute was standing-room-only last Friday night for the screening of a new documentary film.
But that wasn’t the most remarkable thing about the 100-plus turnout for Jason Landau Goodman, whose organization, Equality Lower Merion, hosted the event.
For the Main Line, “this was the first community LGBT event they could ever recall,” Goodman said of the audience, a diverse group that included different ages, some same-sex partners, but probably just as many or more heterosexual couples.
For Goodman, the Bala Cynwyd college student who last month urged the Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners to adopt an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, it was a big step forward in the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues here.
Goodman and others have asked the township to join a growing list of Pennsylvania municipalities that have adopted local ordinances, in the absence of statewide law, prohibiting such discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation.
Pennsylvania’s 55-year-old Human Relations Act bars discrimination based on a number of factors, including race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex and national origin, and empowers a state human-relations commission to receive, investigate and enforce complaints.
Despite recent proposed legislation, it remains silent on sexual orientation and gender identity, although it empowers municipalities to enact their own non-discrimination ordinances.
This week the borough of Doylestown did just that. Its council voted unanimously Monday night to adopt an ordinance like what Goodman has proposed, making it the 17th government in Pennsylvania to do so.
As a result of their discussion last month, Lower Merion commissioners directed township staff and the solicitor to draft an ordinance for review this fall.
Since the issue was introduced in Lower Merion, Radnor Township has also been considering a non-discrimination ordinance. Either could be Number 18.
The event Friday night was a screening of the documentary “Out in the Silence,” followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers about their project and discussion of the Lower Merion initiative.
Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer made the film after Wilson was contacted by the mother of a 16-year-old boy in the western Pennsylvania town of Oil City. She had written to him after reading the announcement of his wedding to Hamer in Wilson’s hometown newspaper, where it sparked a storm of controversy. Her son had been tormented at school after he came out as gay, and she didn’t know anyone to turn to.
The film chronicles her fight to get reluctant school authorities to institute policies and training to stop harassment, anti-gay attacks against a local lesbian couple struggling to restore the downtown’s historic theater, and Wilson’s debates and eventual friendship with a local evangelical preacher in a move toward tolerance.
After the screening, Jo Anne Glusman, director of the Main Line Youth Alliance in Wayne, spoke about the organization’s programs for local LGBT youth. Glusman emphasized that intolerance is not just a problem of smaller towns like Oil City.
“This is not Oil City. This is the Main Line. We like to think we are in some ways above Oil City. In some ways we are, and in some ways we’re not,” Glusman said. For area teens and young adults, “it depends on the house they come from. We do have kids on the Main Line that are kicked out of their homes” when they come out as gay or transgender, she said.
An audience member acknowledged there’s a tendency to think discrimination is not an issue here. “So many people I talk to say they think this is over, that we’re in a different world. It’s important that we talk to people around us and say this is happening,” he said.
“Almost at every screening, we’re reminded why this is needed,” Wilson said of the ordinance.
Others in the audience suggested that perhaps the effort for Lower Merion should be broader — that an ordinance stating that discrimination based on race or other factors won’t be tolerated here.
In fact, the ordinance that Doylestown just adopted is comprehensive; the human-relations commission it establishes would be able to receive complaints on other factors, even though Pennsylvania law already provides protection.
Goodman said the idea of a comprehensive ordinance was considered, but that the feedback he had received was that commissioners might prefer a narrower focus. In the discussion last month, there was concern about the role and authority of a human-relations commission, and whether creating one might cost the township money.
In an interview this week, however, Goodman said that he and other members of Equality Lower Merion would push for a comprehensive ordinance.
Goodman also said he had hoped the draft ordinance might be brought forward for discussion as early as the board’s first meeting in September.
Township Public Information Officer Brenda Viola said, however, that no date has been scheduled, and that a draft ordinance is “projected for October.”
Goodman said Equality Lower Merion will hold its next meeting Sept. 7 at the Lower Merion Academy in Bala Cynwyd.
At the screening, Wilson said, people who have seen the film always want to know, “What’s happening in Oil City now?”
He didn’t mind throwing out a “little challenge” to his Main Line audience.
Recently, Wilson said, a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance has been brought to the city council for consideration.
“Wouldn’t it be awful,” he wondered, if Oil City passes a law sooner?
Screening of Documentary Draws Debate - Potter Leader-Enterprise - Coudersport, PA
August 05, 2010
By Brent Addleman, Leader-Enterprise Editor - Aug. 4, 2010
There was little silence following the showing of the documentary film “Out In The Silence” on Wednesday evening at the Coudersport Public Library.
A heated question-and-answer session emanated from the middle of the library that featured plenty of vitriol being thrown around the room in the form of questions of acceptance, deterring discrimination and even attacks on the library in the form of patrons no longer donating to help fund the organization because the film was shown.
About 80 residents attended the showing.
The film documents the struggle of a gay teen in rural Pennsylvania and was shown to a packed house that drew moments of laughter during the movie and moments of tension following.
Coudersport resident Bob Wagner opened the question-and-answer session with statements regarding the standing of gays and lesbians in society.
“I think the lesbians, gays, transsexuals and trans genders are doing quite well in America,” Wagner said. “June 21, USA Today talks about the gay teen girl that couldn’t take her girlfriend to the prom. She was honored in the White House by Barack Obama. The week before you were honored in New York with the annual gay parade endorsed by the mayor, and, of course, you have one in San Francisco endorsed by the mayor. You have the highest per capita income of any group in America. I don’t think you’re doing too bad. Are you ever going to be happy?”
While Wagner stated what he feels is a good standing of gays and lesbians in the community, he also made it clear he disagreed with their lifestyle choice.
“There’s quite a gay community in Coudersport and I think they are doing quite well,” Wagner said. “In spite of my statements here, I think you will find most of them I am on speaking terms with even though I disagree with their beliefs.”
Drawing the ire of the crowd, Wagner gave one final comment regarding his own plans for a forum.
“I am renting the Coudersport Public Library and I will be speaking and giving some more insight to the other side of the agenda,” Wagner said.
According to Wagner, everyone is invited to attend the event.
Joe Wilson, co-director and co- producer of the film, made a valiant attempt to calm what was quickly becoming a volatile environment.
“There seem to be some who do not want an open, public forum,” Wilson said. “That is what we are trying to deal with. We are going to try to be patient. We’re going to try to be respectful and make sure that everybody that wants to join in this conversation has the opportunity to do so.”
A woman from the crowd stated she felt what the library and Wilson and his partner in the film, Dean Hamer, have done in purveying a clear message is a good thing, inciting clapping from the capacity crowd.
“The film speaks to the issues many young people, in particular, experience in our school systems,” Wilson said. “The big question is how are the schools, parents, community equipped to address the situation. I don’t know what the situation is here in Potter County.”
Marty Montgomery, a pastor from the First Baptist Church of Roulette, then questioned Wilson and Hamer about the film and their ideals.
“I understand you folks want to improve the dialog between the gay and lesbian community and those who are not – at least I assume you do,” Montgomery said. “What I saw was what I consider gunpowder-type rhetoric. You said the library and yourselves were attacked and threatened. Would you tell me exactly what [occurred?]”
Wilson responded, “We read there were reports people were threatening to have the library de-funded.”
Montgomery then questioned Wilson as to the library losing funding being a threat to which Wilson gave a one-word answer, “Yes.”
On the issue of discrimination happening in schools and being a problem in Coudersport, Jessica Bonczar was quick to offer her own life experiences growing up in town.
“I’ve grown up here and I went to high school with several people that were gay,” Jessica Bonczar said. “I would like to say [discrimination] is an issue here. While I might not be gay, I watched some of my closest friends be bullied, harassed, threatened, treated like garbage. It is an issue here. It is. It is an issue everywhere. It is a human rights issue. This sort of thing is about intellectual freedom. People should be able to come together and have this sort of forum and discussion in a very civil manner. It is an issue here.”
Bonczar also addressed the library funding issue that was raised prior to the showing of the film.
“I have raised money for this library actively for years now, and it is a threat to have it de-funded,” Jessica Bonczar said. “We are struggling to stay afloat here. It is a threat.”
For Jaimi Bonczar, the film could be the starting point of understanding what gays and lesbians sometimes go through in small towns and teaching tolerance and acceptance.
“I went to high school here probably, well, 10 years ago,” Jaimi Bonczar said. “I also went to school with people who were harassed. This is a public forum. We all chose to be here. I think this could be a great place to start talking about this, how we can better support our own community. Be open-minded, be friendly to everybody. Our small town is just as important to me as the rest of the people. In our community, we care about each other – all of us, not just some of us. I really appreciate what you’ve done.”
Montgomery then interjected his own beliefs that homosexuality is the rejection of God’s word.
“In order for me to concede that the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable, then I have to decide that God’s word must be rejected,” Montgomery said. “That is the decision. I am referring to the Bible. Nobody is going to be able to take the Bible and say homosexuality is sin – you just can’t do that. All you can do is reject it or say, ‘Well I don’t take it literally.’ This is what I am asking. Is it OK with you, if I continue to believe God?”
Hamer fully supported Montgomery’s statement.
“Yes, absolutely, and if you do not want to be gay yourself and you do not believe in homosexuality for yourself or for people at your church, that is absolutely fine,” Hamer said.
Wilson then interjected that during the showing of the film storms that had passed through the area produced a rainbow.
Rev. Evon McJunkin, who has served in the area for 23 years at the First United Presbyterian Church, offered support to those seeking literature on homosexuality and Christianity.
“If there are folks that would like resources in support of homosexuality, I have them for you. I believe that God loves and accepts gays and there is evidence of scripture of that,” McJunkin said.
For Don Caskey of Austin, the plight of being homosexual in a small town is one that caused those he called friends to turn their back when they learned of his lifestyle choice.
“I grew up in Austin and I grew up as a gay man,” Caskey said. “I can’t believe I just said that out loud because there was a time in my life that was the worst thing I could have ever said.
“I told one other person that I was gay, and like what happens in small towns it went through a wildfire throughout the town. I grew up very active in the Methodist church there. I have lots of friends. I was very active in that church. A lot of people supported me, but the people that considered themselves the most religious wrote me horrible letters.
“ The people who I considered some of my closest friends who were very active in that church showed their love for me by not coming to the funeral when my parents died, by not talking to me for 25 years simply for the fact I am gay. I stand before you saying you can believe whatever you want, but you are not showing your love, the love of Christ, unless you are reaching out to everyone – and that includes those who believe differently from you. I would encourage everybody to reach out and love everyone.”
For Kevin Eukon of Coudersport, he wouldn’t change his choice of growing up and living here.
“I feel very fortunate that I come from a town like Coudersport,” Eukon said. “I grew up here and came out of the closet in 1982, 1983. There have been moments of discrimination in my life, but one thing I have noticed about this town that makes it such a unique, wonderful place to live is when things started to get out of hand the town fathers always pressed them down.
“ I don’t see the discrimination here. There are pockets of it here and there are pockets of it anywhere. I think one thing Coudersport has is a decent community full of decent people and when the discrimination or the nastiness gets too out of hand there has always been a town father that has helped me through it or helped take care of it or addressed the situation. I think we are very fortunate to live in a town like Coudersport.”
For one local youth, being the son of gay parents was a trying experience, but one he wouldn’t trade for the world.
“When I was a kid up until sixth grade everything was cool and my parents were just my parents,” the boy said. “At the end of the sixth grade, we got the word ‘gay.’ Then my parents became ‘gay’ parents and my friends stopped being my friends. They call me gay. I didn’t understand why my friends turned their backs on me. But, there is nothing I can do to change my parents. They are gonna be gay and I have to let them be gay. I’m not gonna be like, ‘Dad, I hate you.’ I’m not going to change them. To accept everyone is the only way to go about living. You can point the finger all you want, but it isn’t going to get you anywhere in the end.”
Tredyffrin Library to show film on anti-gay harassment - Main Line Times - Chester County, PA
August 04, 2010
By Blair Meadowcroft for The Main Line Times
The award-winning new documentary “Out in the Silence,” which tells the story of a popular teenage athlete who is attacked and tormented for being homosexual in a small rural Pennsylvania town, is making its local debut at Tredyffrin Public Library Aug. 10 at 7 p.m.
The film, which has won many awards and gained much recognition, is being brought to the library with the help of local activists Anne Todd and Joey Kemmerling, according to filmmaker Joe Wilson.
Wilson was introduced to the story of this teenage athlete after the printing of his own same-sex wedding announcement in his hometown city newspaper was met with huge controversy.
“The film emerged out of the circumstances that unfolded around my own hometown of Oil City, Pa., when my partner and I placed our wedding announcement in the paper,” said Wilson. “Out of that I received a letter from a mother whose teenage son was receiving horrible reactions to being gay at his school, and that nothing was being done by the school authorities.”
Wilson went on to explain that this mother had reached out to him because there was no one else she could talk to. After learning of their story, Wilson and his partner, Dean Hamer, who had no prior film experience, went to meet the family and in response the film unfolded.
“When we heard their story, we knew we had to join with them to document their courageous struggle,” said Wilson. “If we didn’t help tell this story, it wouldn’t get told. We picked up our camera and started to do it as best we could. We followed this family along with others for over three years, and the documentary is their journey.”
According to Wilson, who was a grant-writer who worked on human-rights issues before making movies, this film exemplifies a loving family who demonstrates the importance of speaking up in their community when no one else is doing anything to help.
“Kathy, the mother of this young teenager, continues to speak out on the issues facing her son,” said Wilson. “There was an exciting moment when the film premiered in New York at Lincoln Center; Kathy came to the event and it was so overwhelming to see her there. Living in a small town and speaking out on these issues, Kathy’s voice is not always welcome, yet in New York she got an overwhelming ovation from hundreds of people. It was very powerful to see.”
The film has been played on public-television stations as well as many film festivals across the country, but even more important for Wilson and his team is that the film is being used at the grassroots level to help make the issues that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community faces more visible.
“In many rural communities, the lives of those who associate with being LGBT are not easy, and their issues are not highly visible,” said Wilson. “Showing this film and hosting discussions help bring an end to the negative attitudes that put the lives of LGBT people at risk every day. It is through these discussions that people can share their stories.”
Wilson went on to explain that through the general narrative about gay people’s lives in this country, it is understood that it is easier to migrate to bigger cities where the LGBT community is more accepted, but, he said, “the city isn’t for everyone.”
“That shouldn’t be the only way for LGBT people to have a life,” said Wilson. “They shouldn’t have to leave their family, home and community to survive. They should be able to stay where they want and be happy, safe and free of harassment and discrimination.”
For Wilson and his team, presenting their film and discussion in a library is ideal as it’s a place where all are equal and welcome, and where all types of educational programs are offered.
“Many people who identify as LGBT are going through these struggles in a dominant culture that isn’t always accepting, and it is helpful to have a film like this to identify with or learn from,” said Wilson. “The film comes with a discussion guide and resources to help with discussions. There couldn’t be a more perfect setting for this than at the library.”
While Wilson and his team are excited about the continuing interest in their film, they are most enthusiastic about the film’s ability to help communities become involved in the struggle of human rights.
“This is blossoming in Pennsylvania, so we are starting to work in other states at the grassroots level, and have tours across the country,” said Wilson. “We’ll see where this takes us. There is no end in sight because we’re just at the beginning of trying to bridge the gap of what is happening in small towns and rural areas. We hope to play a small but important role in the emergence of this movement.”
The film will be played Tuesday, Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. at Tredyffrin Public Library, 582 Upper Gulph Road, Wayne, and will be followed by a Q&A session with filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, Chester County resident Anne Todd and special guest Joey Kemmerling, GLSEN Ambassador and founder of Bucks County-based The Equality Project.
Potter County Library Faced Protests Over Gay Documentary - Harrisburg Patriot-News
July 31, 2010
by Donald Gilliland for The Harrisburg Patriot-News:
Published: Saturday, July 31, 2010
After several hours of people pointing their fingers in her face and telling her she was going to hell, Keturah Cappadonia cracked.
In tears, the 28-year-old librarian in this rural town of 2,500 people typed an e-mail to Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer canceling the planned screening of their award-winning PBS documentary about the challenges of being openly gay in rural Pennsylvania.
Wilson and Hamer are traveling the state with their film “Out In The Silence,” and Perry County is on the list of future venues.
The film recounts the men’s return to Oil City after a plea for help from the mother of a gay high school student being bullied at school.
It has been reviewed favorably by the American Library Association and Christianity Today, but it’s getting resistance in some of the rural counties where Wilson and Hamer think it most needs to be seen.
Several churches in Potter County launched a campaign to force the local library to cancel, and the president of the Potter County Tea Party called for the library’s funding to be revoked if it didn’t comply.
The 58-year-old library board president, Jane Metzger, decided she would have none of it.
Regardless of what she thought of homosexuality, she was not going to compromise the library’s mission “because of the very loud voices of a few folks.”
“Basically we’re looking at intellectual freedom,” said Metzger. “That’s the bottom line. That’s what a library is for.”
A quick series of calls to the other members of the board resulted in a unanimous decision: the screening would go forward as planned.
The leader of the Potter County Tea Party, through a local blogger, claimed the library was allowing conservative Christians to be “attacked for our beliefs at a public library we support with our tax money. This is wrong and cannot be tolerated.” Later, he apologized for using the Tea Party name to express his personal opinion.
In the meantime, the filmmakers issued a press release, and the local blogosphere lit up in a bonfire of anonymous comments and accusations.
By the time people began to arrive for the screening two days later, Cappadonia looked shell-shocked.
“I don’t like controversy,” she said. “I know it’s a conservative community, but I never imagined it would get such a knee-jerk reaction.”
Some were saying Christian views would never be allowed an airing at the library because of separation of church and state. But the the library has six shelves of Bibles and Christian books in the non-fiction section, and Christian fiction is “wildly popular,” said Cappadonia.
Many Christians in Coudersport support the library. One said, “This is not a town that burns books.”
Cars quickly filled the library parking lot. Then they filled the lot for the neighborhood park next door. Then they began pulling onto the grass.
When the lights went down, all seats were full. People were sitting on the floor, sitting on bookshelves, standing between the stacks and against the wall. Many could not see the screen, but stayed just to listen.
As the film neared its conclusion an hour later, there was a flash of lightning outside, a sharp clap of thunder, and a double rainbow filled the sky.
Inside, a few opponents of the film offered their brimstone and walked out.
Applause erupted when a woman told the library board, “I think it’s good what you’ve done here.”
Some attempted to speak at length about “God’s Law,” and expressed frustration when they were asked to let others talk, too.
Openly gay members of the town — teenagers, adults and senior citizens — spoke briefly. Some said they felt embraced by the community and lucky to live there; others much less so.
Walter Baker, former chairman of the local Republican party and a member of the vestry at the Episcopal church, has owned a hotel in the center of town as an openly gay man for over 30 years.
“The people here are probably the most friendly people around,” he said. “They’ve been more than generous to me knowing who and what I am.”
A man from a town nearby said his church was very important to him, but when he came out of the closet “the people who considered themselves the most religious wrote me horrible letters.”
The discussion got loud a few times, but the consensus afterward was it was worthwhile.
When everyone was gone, Keturah Cappadonia locked the door.
Library board member Terri Shaffer sat on the floor and began ripping up the tattered duct tape patching the carpet.
The carpet “was good stuff when it was put in,” said Metzger. “June 1973 to be exact.”
Although the local Tea Party claimed “$1.5 million of local taxes” go to the library, the reality is its total budget last year was $117,000 - with less than $42,000 from local governments.
“I think it was a good experience,” said Shaffer. “Who cares if people get a little loud and speak their mind?”
Maybe the experience will bring in some donations — “especially from Harrisburg” she quipped.
Just then, there was a knock at the door.
It was one of the local ministers who spoke against the “homosexual lifestyle.”
When Cappadonia opened the door, he apologized to her.
“I feel badly about people coming in and badgering you,” he said.
Then he addressed Shaffer, saying “Terri, I hope I didn’t disappoint you too much.”
“It’s not my job to judge you,” she said with a smile.
Pa. Tea Party Issues Public Apology for Documentary Controversy - The Advocate
July 29, 2010
By Jeffrey Gerson for The Advocate:
George Brown, president of the Potter County Tea Party, has issued a public apology for his protest of the acclaimed documentary OUT IN THE SILENCE when it screened at a local library on its tour throughout Pennsylvania.
In an interview with The Advocate, Joe Wilson, codirector of Out in the Silence, explained the project’s mission: “The purpose of the whole tour was really to use this film to raise awareness and visibility about the lives of LGBT people in rural communities and small towns and help strengthen the ability of LGBT people in these communities to begin organizing for change.” The tour has so far covered over half of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Yet upon setting up shop in Coudersport, Pa., Wilson and Dean Hamer, his partner and codirector, met with controversy.
The film was set to be screened at the public library, Wilson explained, emphasizing, “just as any community group can do, or any citizen can use the public library for a program.” All was well until the duo received a call from the library director announcing that the event would have to be canceled. “She was receiving angry calls from local pastors for having scheduled a gay and lesbian program at the library. They were making threats that they were going to call for the library to be defunded,” Wilson said
An article that ran Monday on CoudyNews.com provides quotations both from Pete Tremblay, pastor of the Free Methodist Church and the Tea Party’s Brown. Tremblay issued a request for people to “call the library ... and in a Christian manner inform them that this event is not a benefit to our community, and ask that it be canceled.” Brown took a different approach: “Should this agenda be continued, we may need to ask if the library should be defunded.”
The library’s board of directors ultimately supported the film, saying they would not be threatened. The event was a success, Wilson reported: “It was the largest event in the library in a long time. We had a very supportive crowd from high school students all the way up to elderly people. There were conflicting viewpoints present during the discussion, though Hamer believes these were positive as well, as it made it clear how challenging it can be to be LGBT in that kind of environment.”
Brown issued an official apology for his actions Thursday, stating, “The Tea Party is not concerned with a gay movie, but I as a person was concerned with the library being the venue for the movie, and frankly that had little to do with our Tea Party mission either. In retrospect I should of used my personal email to voice my opinion.”
“Film Critic’s Pick of the Week”—The New York Times
July 09, 2010
by New York Times Critic Neil Genzlinger:
Dean Hamer and Joseph Wilson are bringing “OUT IN THE SILENCE,” their documentary about a gay teenager, to the big city this week, but they are far more interested in showing it in small towns. The film looks in on Oil City, Pa., Mr. Wilson’s hometown, telling the story of a gay high school student there named C. J. who was being harassed mercilessly. When in 2004 Mr. Wilson and Dr. Hamer, though living in Washington, ran their wedding announcement in the Oil City newspaper, C. J.’s mother saw it and contacted them to see if they could offer help or advice.
That sent Mr. Wilson back to Oil City with a camera, helped by Dr. Hamer (who works at the National Institutes of Health). What they caught on camera was more than the expected small-town hostility toward gay people, though there was plenty of that. “It’s much more complex and nuanced than people really give much thought to,” Mr. Wilson said.
Their documentary is showing on Monday at Tribeca Cinemas, but Mr. Wilson and Dr. Hamer have also been screening it in small towns. They are halfway through a commitment to play it in every county in Pennsylvania. Who do they most hope sees it? “I’d like it to be some gay guy who was born in some little town like Oil City and had to leave there,” Dr. Hamer said. “And he sees it and thinks, ‘Maybe I could go back to my little town and start something.’ ”
Monday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m., Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick Street, at Laight Street. (212) 941-2001; $10.
Variety highlights OITS screening at Outfest - “stories of world’s most diverse minority”
July 06, 2010
The announcement of a same-sex marriage doesn’t go over well in small town America.
OUT Magazine Feature
July 05, 2010
Filmmakers Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer discuss how the simple act of placing their wedding announcement in a small-town newspaper led to making their PBS- and Sundance-sponsored film.
More Details: http://www2.out.com/detail.asp?page=1&id=27092
“Inspired To Help”—Moving Pictures Magazine features OUT IN THE SILENCE
July 04, 2010
Moving Pictures: the stories behind the movies
Gay Talk Live Radio Interview Feature on OUT IN THE SILENCE
July 01, 2010
Listen to a podcast of the dynamic discussion about OITS and the movement for fairness & equality for LGBT in rural & small town America here:
More Details: http://www.queerpublicradio.com/2010/07/17/gaytalk-live-028a-podcast-joe-wilson/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+qprpodcasts+%28Queer+Public+Radio+%C2%BB+qprpodcasts%29
“A touching, compelling documentary”—The Advocate Hot Sheet
June 26, 2010
Hot Sheet: Cruise, Shears, and Hate Crimes
Tom Cruise, Jake Shears, the Indigo Girls, and a touching documentary about a 16-year-old boy who is brutally attacked for being gay make up this week in film, music, and books.
By Advocate.com Editors, June 25, 2010
Out in the Silence — A harrowing account of an intensely personal battle waged by the mother of a popular 16-year-old boy who is brutally attacked for being gay at his small-town high school in Oil City, Pa. This compelling documentary premiered in New York June 21 at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and more screenings and PBS broadcasts are scheduled around the nation.
indieWIRE Spotlight on OUT IN THE SILENCE
June 25, 2010
by indieWIRE (June 25, 2010):
In this week’s SnagFilms spotlight, partners Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer explore what life is like for LGBT individuals residing in a small Pennsylvania town. Follow the link below to read the full interview on how professional and personal partnership lead them to making “Out in the Silence”...
“Oil City Urged To Adopt Human Rights Policy”—The Derrick
June 23, 2010
Headline Article in The Derrick newspaper of Oil City, PA, June 23, 2010:
Community also asked to embrace Joe Wilson’s ‘Out in the Silence’ film
By JUDITH O. ETZEL Staff writer
Oil City Council has been asked to embrace a film that explores tolerance in small American communities, specifically Oil City and Franklin, and recognize it as a major marketing tool for the community.
At the same time, local resident George Cooley urged the city to adopt a formal human rights policy and create a city events office to promote the arts and community activities.
Cooley, a West Second Street resident who operates an Internet business in his home and is an active member of the Oil City Arts Council, took the city to task for ignoring what he believes is a great opportunity to promote itself via the film “Out in the Silence.”
The award-winning 2009 “Out in the Silence” documentary tells the story of a gay high school student and explores small-town reaction to same-sex marriage. The film’s director is Joe Wilson, an Oil City native whose 2004 marriage to his partner, Dean Hamer, was announced in The Derrick. The announcement stirred controversy in the community and eventually led to the film that tells the story of a gay Franklin student who came out to his classmates and faced discrimination.
The film, supported by the Sundance Institute, the Pennsylvania Public Television Network and Penn State Pubic Broadcasting, also explores various aspects of the Oil City and Franklin area as the Wilson tries to connect with church and community leaders who are strongly opposed to homosexuality and finds others who are supportive.
Last month, the American Library Association reviewed “Out in the Silence” and recommended it for all viewers, noting “it deserves a place in all library collections, particularly those libraries serving small and rural communities.”
The film, said Cooley, “may be the most successful art project to ever come from Oil City ... (and) is a great public relations tool for Oil City” as it lobbies to bill itself as a community trumpeting its arts revitalization successes.
“Positive energy developed by this movie for our town is priceless, and much larger communities would pay a great deal for what we are getting for free,” Cooley told council. “Unfortunately, Oil City seems to have all but ignored this great opportunity.”
In describing Wilson and his film as supporting a movement “for fairness, equality and human rights,” Cooley said the arts council intends to recognize Wilson for his art and invite him to show the film in Oil City. There have been two recent showings — one private and one public — in the city.
In urging city council to “grab ahold of this opportunity,” Cooley suggested the city should honor Wilson in a “key to the city kind of recognition.”
Wilson’s message on the need to safeguard human rights should also be incorporated into Oil City’s organizational framework, said Cooley. He recommended council adopt a “statement of fairness, equality and human rights for all people” and create an ordinance to that effect.
Finally, Oil City should create an events office that would coordinate community activities. The new department should include a film office to coincide with the “Out in the Silence” film fame as well as the region’s Digital Film Festival and other local video projects. Initially, the events coordinator could be the city manager, said Cooley.
Mayor Sonja Hawkins told Cooley she and other city and school district representatives met with Wilson prior to a film showing here. Noting they had “a great conversation,” Hawkins suggested council should talk further about Cooley’s proposal.
Hiring an events coordinator would be fantastic, said council member Lee Mehlburger.
That was tempered by caution offered by council member John Bartlett.
“We share some of your desires,” Bartlett said to Cooley. “But, we face the reality of how to pay for it.”
“A Fresh and Inspiring Approach”—New York Magazine Critics’ Pick
June 22, 2010
New York Magazine Review of OUT IN THE SILENCE:
The most illuminating aspect of this fine work, in which Wilson returns to his Pennsylvania hometown to help a tormented gay teenager, is the filmmaker’s interactions with a local pastor who holds “traditional values.”
No more silence
Wilson’s choice to ditch the Michael Moore antics in favor of a civil face-to-face discussion with his opponent, through which a sort of enlightened friendship develops, models a fresh and inspiring approach to this heartbreaking issue.
More Details: http://nymag.com/listings/movie/out-in-the-silence/
“These Stories Need To Be Told - and Seen and Heard”—SF Bay Times Review
June 21, 2010
Review of OUT IN THE SILENCE by Gary Kramer for the San Francisco Bay Times:
A touching, inspirational documentary, Out in the Silence (Friday, June 25, 7:00 pm, Roxie) is a sobering portrait of a conservative small town rocked by the actions of queer natives. Joe Wilson prompted a hate debate when his hometown newspaper in Oil City, PA printed his same-sex wedding announcement. Wilson and his partner Hamer travel to Oil City to confront the negative attitudes they encountered only to discover other stories of discrimination. These include CJ Bills, an openly gay sixteen year-old who is verbally and physically abused in high school, and Roxanne Hitchcock and her partner Linda Henderson who faced bigotry and intolerance when they restored a local art deco theatre. Out in the Silence presents these stories in a very honest, heartfelt, and unpretentious way. When CJ admits that he wished he’d never come out because he hates being in public, it’s emotionally devastating. Yet Wilson deftly contrasts such sentiments with eloquent testimonies from several straight men that used to queer-bash, which is quite moving. What Wilson and Hamer have done here is not only address small-town small mindedness, but more importantly, they have shown grassroots activism at its best. Through their film, they have opened dialogues with members of the community and even changed minds. The style of their film may be a bit crude, but the messages are powerful. These stories need to be told—and seen and heard.
More Details: http://www.sfbaytimes.com/?sec=article&article_id=13159
Daring to Be Gay in Small Town USA - IPS News Agency
June 21, 2010
By Amanda Bransford for the IPS News Agency:
NEW YORK, Jun 21, 2010 (IPS) - Washington, D.C. residents Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer weren’t expecting to become filmmakers when they placed an announcement of their wedding in Wilson’s hometown newspaper.
A similar announcement they had placed in the New York Times garnered only congratulations, but in Oil City, Pennsylvania, the reception to a same-sex wedding was not so warm.
“It was a fascinating contrast,” said Wilson, when the Oil City paper received angry letters instead of good wishes.
Wilson went through high school closeted and had long felt unwelcome in his hometown, so the chilly reception to his happy news was no great surprise.
Then Wilson received something that did surprise him: a letter from Kathy Springer, the mother of CJ, a gay Oil City teenager who had been harassed so badly in his public school that he had quit in favour of home schooling and barely left the house.
The school board refused to help CJ, and his mother didn’t know where to turn. “I was the only openly gay person she knew of,” said Wilson.
The movement for gay rights has tended to focus on urban areas, said Wilson, and, though Wilson and Hamer had not made a film before, they wanted CJ’s story to be told.
“We realised that if we wanted this documented, we should start filming,” said Hamer.
Over the course of three years, the two men traveled frequently to Pennsylvania to shoot, eventually receiving a grant from the Sundance Institute.
In the process, Wilson and Hamer were struck by the silence in which GLBT people in small town U.S.A. are forced to live. CJ had become a target by daring to break that silence and come out in high school – something no one did when Wilson was growing up in Oil City.
The increasing visibility of GLBT people has had mixed results for teenagers like CJ, said Hamer.
“The good side is that kids like CJ know that they’re not the only gay person in the world, but the bad side is that there’s been a backlash as a result,” he said. “It’s made bullying even worse as a way to tag kids that are gay.”
Oil City’s vocal conservative Christian community was making life especially difficult for GLBT residents.
Hamer says while that the anti-gay activists in Oil City may have seemed like an extreme fringe group, “They have power because no one wants to make them upset.”
Despite the efforts of these activists, Wilson and Hamer were surprised to find an accepting community in Oil City that Wilson, growing up in silence himself, had overlooked.
“I was terrified of beginning to understand who I was,” said Wilson of his adolescence. “The general dominant culture said that this was not good, and I was not seeking a community out.”
Returning to document CJ’s story, though, Wilson, along with his husband, forges relationships with lesbian neighbours he never knew he had who are facing their own struggles. He is even able to find common ground with some of those who had complained about the wedding announcement.
“It changed my perception of my home town,” Wilson said.
Wilson and Hamer have now become unlikely ambassadors of a sort for struggling Oil City.
They took their finished film to the city council, said Wilson, and told them, “Either you can deny this all happened, or look at it as a tool to show what a great place Oil City is becoming. They did the latter.”
A subsequent screening at the local community college sold out, and the filmmakers have brought “Out in the Silence” to other towns in hope that Oil City’s progress can serve as a model.
“This is not just film for film’s sake,” said Hamer. “It’s a powerful tool for community activism.”
Human Rights Watch expressed interest while Wilson and Hamer were working on the project, and the film will screen Jun. 21-23 at the Film Society of Lincoln Centre as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.
“Human Rights Watch saw that this isn’t just a domestic political issue as people sometimes see gay rights. It’s tied into the global struggle for equality,” said Wilson.
More Details: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=51897
OITS Featured On NBC Nightly News
June 21, 2010
In a brief video clip with host Chuck Scarborough, Andrea Holley, Director of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, talks about the program of 30 films, from 25 countries, highlighting OUT IN THE SILENCE.
“A Brilliant Piece of Filmmaking”
June 21, 2010
“Out In The Silence” Shines Light On LGBT Rural Youth
By David Mixner on the blog Live From Hell’s Kitchen:
Pride month always sees the releases of top notch LGBT documentaries. Already we have seen the stunning “Stonewall Uprising” and “8: The Mormon Proposition” hit the theatres. Each year the films are more professional, highest quality and enlightening. This week gives us another amazing documentary with the release of “Out in The Silence.” The film premieres this evening a the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. For those who can’t make it, the film will also premiere on WNET on June 27th at 11:30PM.
“Out in The Silence” reminds each and every one of us the plight of the LGBT community in small town America. We watch with stunned silence as blatant and brutal discrimination is directed toward the small LGBT community in Oil City. The story of young teenager CJ Springer and his mother is especially poignant and harrowing. This brave, handsome and courageous teenager comes out in high school. One day he is a basketball and baseball jock and the next day he is the school ‘fag.’ As teachers and administrators knowingly look the other way, the brutal reaction forces him to leave his high school for his own safety.
The film was conceived by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson after their wedding announcement in the Oil City, Pennsylvania newspaper created a stir. From the announcement, they received a letter from CJ’s mother who was frantic with concern about her son’s emotional and mental status given the terror he had experienced in high school. With camera in hand, Hamer and Wilson head to Oil City to tell us initially the Springer’s story but eventually the story of all LGBT people in this town. The filmmakers wisely let their subjects tell their stories and avoid intruding into the film. As a result, “Out in the Silence” reveals itself to be a top-notch film with spectacular storytelling that yields truth.
Papers are filled with talks about the cultural wars. But as you watch this amazing film, you realize that ‘cultural war’ in middle America is an inadequate tagline to mask real human suffering, fear and courage such as we see taking place in Oil City.
The movie takes us from the deep valley of hatred and discrimination with the town bigots organizing against anything related to LGBT issues to the heights of redemption and victory. Watching this movie you know that America is filled with CJ’s and his mom, the powerful lesbian couple helping to renew Oil City and brave people willing to change. Also we are reminded in a disturbing way the depth of hate in small town America toward LGBT Americans.
Think we are close to victory? Think we can compromise on freedom and justice? Then I suggest you take just over 70 minutes and watch this brilliant piece of filmmaking. We owe a huge thanks to Hamer and Wilson and all involved for shining light on the work that still needs to be done in our struggle for freedom - especially for young Americans in rural areas.
“It’s Simply A Matter Of Trying To Understand Attitudes in Small Town America
June 21, 2010
Coming Out in Smalltown USA: Documentary explores a Pennsylvania town’s attitudes about homosexuality
by Mark Moring for Christianity Today:
When Joe Wilson got married, he put an announcement in his hometown newspaper in Oil City, Pennsylvania. Nothing unusual about that, except that Wilson had married another man—and a picture of the two of them appeared in the paper. Angry, even hateful, letters to the editor poured in; one said that it would’ve been better for Wilson not to have been born. Wilson responded not in anger himself, but by revisiting his hometown, with his partner and a couple of camcorders, to look into the town’s attitudes.
The result is Out in the Silence, a 65-minute documentary that ends up following four main subplots in Oil City. First, a gay teen who was verbally and physically abused at the local high school, and the quest that he and his mother take to confront those attitudes and the school district’s refusal to make things right. Second, a lesbian couple that buys a crumbling downtown art-deco theater and renovates it into a functioning civic showcase again. Third, a woman representing the American Family Association who seems to be on a crusade against gays, more anxious to speak out against their “agenda” to take the time to meet or listen to any of them.
Fourth—and likely most interesting to CT readers—a local Christian pastor and his wife who had written one of the letters to the editor decrying homosexuality, only to later show tolerance and love toward the filmmakers as they got to know them in the months ahead. The pastor didn’t compromise his biblical beliefs at all; he continues to believe that homosexuality is a sin. But, for the first time in his life, he actually gets two know gay people, and by the end of the film is calling them friends. There’s some interesting dialogue between the two “sides” as their unlikely friendship unfolds throughout the film. It’s really a Christlike response from the pastor.
Though the film is made by two gay men, it doesn’t seek to promote a “gay agenda” or to stereotype the “religious right.” It’s simply a matter of trying to understand attitudes in small-town America. The filmmakers end up advocating for the teenager to the school board and in a civil rights lawsuit, and the local school board ends up admitting they should’ve done more to help the boy who was abused; they incorporate staff training as a result. Despite some initial opposition, the two women end up re-opening the theater to a warm reception of both gays and straights. The AFA rep never changes, and refuses to look the gay men in the eye or even have a conversation with them. And the pastor and his wife seem glad to have made new friends, though they clearly disagree with their lifestyle.
The film is showing at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York today, followed by broadcast on New York’s two largest public television stations, WLIW (June 26, 3 p.m. ET) and WNET (June 27, 11:30 p.m. ET).
“An absorbing documentary”—GregInHollywood
June 20, 2010
Countdown to Outfest 2010: The absorbing “Out In The Silence” gives us a picture of small town bigotry and bravery—by Greg Hernandez
What They Call An Agenda, We Call Our Lives
June 20, 2010
by Cynthia Fuchs, director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Film & Video Studies, at George Mason University, for PopMatters:
CJ Bills lives in Oil City, Pennsylvania, where the Allegheny River and Oil Creek connect. At only 16 years old, he’s already got a slew of memories about the place, most of them painful. “I hate it around here,” he says, as you watch him shooting baskets by himself. He hates being harassed by classmates, the name-calling and the threats to “have my house burnt down and stuff because I’m a faggot.”
This first scene in Out in the Silence lays out CJ’s dilemma: smart and self-aware, confident and athletic, he’s endured relentless abuse since he came out. “I was slammed into lockers, hit with stuff, being yelled ‘faggot,’” he says, standing outside his former high school’s front doors. Worse, the kids’ ignorance and aggression were tacitly supported by teachers and administrators who “always gave a deaf ear and a blind eye, they never said a word.”
CJ is sharing his story with filmmaker Joe Wilson, who also grew up in Oil City, but moved to DC before he came out. Wilson’s documentary, premiering on 21 June at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York, sets his experience alongside CJ’s, noting the startling lack of change in this “small town with small town values,” while trying to provoke at least a little change. With his new husband, Dean Hamer, manning the camera, Wilson sets to interviewing locals in hopes of learning why they remain so closed-minded.
To that end, when he learns that CJ also “want[s] to make videos,” Wilson gives him a camera too, hoping he’ll use it “to show what life was like for him as a gay teen.” The resulting documentary is something of a hybrid, part investigation, part self-portrait, and part advocacy project, including a third story as well, about Roxanne and Linda, a couple trying to reopen an historic theater in town amid anxieties that they’re doing so to promote their “agenda.” As Wilson discovers that he’s making some assumptions of his own, his film presents an earnest, sometimes meandering, case for open discussion.
Wilson and his new husband, Dean Hamer, undertake to interview not only Kathy, who wrote a letter to Wilson in response to his wedding announcement, published in the local newspaper, but also the writers of other letters that were predictably hateful and angry (“It makes me sick to my stomach,” “Better for you not to have been born,” etc.). Unsurprisingly, Wilson doesn’t find many people willing to talk to him on camera, though he does meet with Pastor Mark Micklos and his wife Diana. Introduced here as they walk over a rolling green lawn with their dog, the couple invites Wilson and Hamer into their home, then explain their hard line against gay marriage: “If I grant two men the right to marry,” Micklos says, “what’s wrong with incest or polygamy? It would just expand.” The wife supports the case by noting that, in plumbing, the “design” calls for both male and female fittings.
Sighing metaphorically, Wilson confesses here that “talking to people” isn’t yielding exactly the results he hoped for. He’s further daunted when he learns the Mickloses were inspired to write their letter by an email blast from Diane Gramley, a local radio talk show host and state director for the American Family Association (AFA). Determined to uphold the “natural family,” Gramley rejects Wilson’s requests for an interview, but finds herself on camera anyway, when she participates in an anti-gay marriage protest during Oil City’s “Oil Heritage Parade.” As Wilson walks with her, they pass a uniformed cop who remembers Wilson from back in the day (“Hey Joe! How you doin’?”), and she pronounces, “There have been homosexuals throughout society, but they have not attempted to redefine marriage and family as they are today.” She argues that homosexuals can be teachers, for instance, but they can’t be out, because that would be “promoting their lifestyle.”
Such moments help to make a primary point in Out in the Silence, that times are already overtaking throwback phobes like Gramley. Her certainty and visible anger repeatedly look unthoughtful and mean-spirited here, as when she and Kathy both speak at a city legislators’ hearing on what Gramley calls a “special rights bill.” By the time Kathy is done describing the violence against CJ, the black men on the panel are nodding their heads in sympathy, plainly rejecting Gramley’s argument that the civil rights movement was not the same as calls for protections for students like CJ, because African Americans could not “change” their race. One of the legislators offers to put Kathy in touch with the ACLU so she can press her case against the school board who refused to help her son, the camera watching them walk off stage together. A cut to Gramley shows her refusing to participate in more discussion on camera, “because of the roads that that will open.”
But hers is a losing cause. As loud and scary as the vitriol of the right may be, Out in the Silence demonstrates that it can’t compete with people’s lived experiences, alongside queer neighbors, local businesspeople, classmates, and relatives. Micklos shows up at the hearing in support of CJ and Kathy, admitting to Wilson that he used to be “that type of person at one time,” the type who would “put people like CJ at risk,” by stereotyping and closing down conversation. Now, Micklos sees himself and others differently: “Sometimes we’re not what our first impressions are.”
“Surprising Scenes of Honesty and Individual Introspection”—Slant Magazine
June 19, 2010
Slant Magazine review by Bill Weber:
A report from the middle-American front of the battle for LGBT citizens to lead uncloseted lives, Out in the Silence overcomes some stilted framing—gay man from the sticks returns home with camera, 25 years later, to fight undiminished homophobia—with surprising scenes of honesty and individual introspection. D.C.-based filmmaker Joe Wilson placed an announcement of his same-sex wedding in the newspaper of his northwest Pennsylvania hometown: Oil City, a depressed “back hills” community of shuttered refineries and dimmed hope. In the wake of letters to the editor decrying the “homosexual agenda,” Wilson received a plea for help from an Oil City woman who’d withdrawn her son, car-loving jock CJ Bills, from the local high school in the face of daily abuse from students and “a blind eye and a deaf ear” from the staff; Wilson and his partner (co-director Dean Hamer) soon set out for the boondocks and made a three-year study of the dynamics of 21st-century small-town tolerance.
Along with his overly earnest liberal-activist moves (like booking his transgendered folksinger friend to play a gig in town), Wilson supplies the isolated, cyberschooled CJ with a video camera with which he records neo-Jackass stunts, self-rallying monologues, and an interview in which he asks pioneering “gay gene” researcher Hamer, “If it’s only a gene, why can’t we destroy it and just be straight?” Besides Kathy Springer, CJ’s salt-of-the-earth, energetic mom who takes her crusade for diversity education to a state legislators’ hearing and the ACLU, the doc follows a lesbian couple’s efforts to restore an old, decrepit downtown theater to a semblance of its former glory; with twinkling good humor, both handywomen speak of the comparative size of their chainsaws. All three find a nemesis in “family values” radio host Diane Gramley, a rep of the conservative Christian group American Family Association, who ultimately evokes more pity from the filmmakers than rage.
Perhaps the most heartening strand of Out in the Silence finds Wilson strikling up a friendship with an evangelical pastor and his wife who wrote (at the behest of Gramley’s organization) in protest of the paper’s wedding announcement. Clearly not hateful monsters, the couple’s personal exposure to a polite but forthright gay person permits them to bring the love they speak of in their church into broader practice. This feel-good turn, however, doesn’t saturate this complex story with unalloyed optimism; asked if he ever regrets coming out at 16, CJ replies, “Every single day.”
Out in the Silence will play on June 21, 22, and 23 as part of this year’s Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. For more information click here.
“Coming out trumps staying in the closet.”
June 12, 2010
Facing Foes and Fears on Film. Review by Seth J. Bookey for Gay City News
Eye On Human Rights - Film Journal International review
June 10, 2010
Eye On Human Rights: Annual Film Festival Illuminates Wide Range Of Social Issues
by Marcia Garcia for Film Journal International - June 10, 2010
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival (HRWFF), in its 21st year this summer in New York City, screens at a time when most New Yorkers are preoccupied with record-breaking unemployment, cuts in funding to public institutions, and sliding real estate values, the latter one of the pillars of our urban economy. New Yorkers, like other Americans, hold bankers, Wall Street executives and developers responsible for the city’s belt-tightening, but we remain newly shaken from our equanimity, unaccustomed as we are to the city’s vulnerability.
In the rush to assign culpability and dispense justice, will we seize this opportunity to reshape our city, to introduce reforms that may make her less susceptible in the future and, more importantly, that reflect our progressive values as New Yorkers? Every film at HRWFF, whether it illustrates terrible crimes committed in Cambodia and Sierra Leone, or injustices here and abroad, appeals to our humanity—to acknowledging victimization, but also to examining our complicity.
Nineteen feature-length documentaries and narrative films, all of which were in consideration for HRWFF’s Nestor Almendros Award, and organized around three themes—accountability and justice, development and migration, and societies in conflict—screen at the Walter Reade Theater June 10-24. The winning documentary, Enemies of the People, about the 1970s genocide in Cambodia, will have its New York premiere on June 18. Co-directors Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath take home the cash prize, named for a founder of HRWFF. The festival’s sidebar, “Youth Producing Change,” screens 11 shorts by young people from countries as diverse as Kenya, Slovenia and the Occupied Territories. HRWFF opens with 12th and Delaware, about the ideological battle over abortion, and closes on June 24 with Presumed Guilty, which follows a case before Mexico’s criminal court.
For New Yorkers, many of the films shown this year will seem as distant as the geographical and cultural divide which separates New York from Fort Pierce, Florida, or Freetown, Sierra Leone, but the message of accountability resonates nonetheless. In the recent rash of hate crimes across the New York metropolitan area—motivated by race, sexual preference and class—we see in microcosm the roots of civil conflicts across the globe. Resolution lies in the just assignment of blame, but also in a reconsideration of the values of any society which creates fertile ground for these crimes. In this year’s festival especially, when the economy is forcing many New Yorkers to re-evaluate their own lives, it will be difficult to meet the moral challenge of HRWFF’s human-rights filmmakers. We had the privilege of speaking with six them about their courageous work in far-flung parts of the globe and here at home.
Out in the Silence, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson
Joe Wilson left his hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania, after high school and never looked back. Six years ago, he married New York native Dean Hamer in Washington, D.C., and last year the couple celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in the Rust Belt town. What happened in between is the subject of their documentary Out in the Silence.
When Wilson and Hamer took their vows, they did what most people do who had long ago left home—they shared the news of their wedding by placing announcements in their hometown newspapers, in this case Oil City’s The Derrick and The New York Times. Eight months of invective followed from readers of The Derrick, along with one letter to Wilson, sent directly to the couple’s home. It was from an Oil City mom despondent over the treatment her gay son CJ was receiving at school.
Wilson, who remained “closeted” throughout his high-school years in Oil City, found Kathy Springer’s letter surprising. He also felt a deep responsibility to CJ. “CJ was ‘outed’ because he defended a kid who was being tortured,” Wilson explains in a telephone conversation from Washington, D.C. “He said he wasn’t going to stand by and watch it. I had a peer in high school who couldn’t hide that he was gay, and I was a witness to his abuse. I did nothing but go deeper into the closet until I could escape.” Wilson decided it was time to go home, and Hamer, a doctor with the National Institutes of Health at the time, accompanied him. “It was a culture shock for me to go to Oil City,” Hamer admits, “but it was also great because I was there with Joe.”
Out in the Silence documents CJ and Kathy’s travails with the Oil City School District, but also the lives of Linda and Roxanne, a couple who live two doors away from Wilson’s childhood home. “We met Roxanne because we noticed her rainbow flag,” Hamer remembers, “and I said: ‘Joe, knock on the door.’” During the course of filming, Roxanne met and fell in love with Linda, and the two purchased and renovated a historic theatre, in part to contribute to Oil City’s revitalization efforts.
An evangelist minister and his wife, the Mickloses, who reached out to Wilson and Hamer, complete the filmmakers’ wistful portrait of small-town America. Every one of their subjects overturns a stereotype, but homespun mom Kathy most surprisingly of all. “I’m glad you mention her in that light,” Wilson says, “as representing that broader notion of what people’s preconceived ideas are of rural areas and small towns, and the people who call them home. She is remarkable.”
Out in the Silence will be broadcast by New York City’s PBS station in late June. “We began this project with the idea that we would paint a portrait of Oil City based on the responses from the newspaper announcement,” Hamer recalls. Then there were four years of filming, during which CJ and Kathy, with the help of the ACLU, sued the Oil City school district for discrimination and won. Linda and Roxanne opened their theatre where they sponsor gay events, as well as performances for which the whole town turns out. And, most surprising of all—at least for those of us who think of the heartland as a backwater—Joe Wilson underwent a healing transformation by going back home. “I have to say that many of us who grow up in small towns and leave them behind,” he ruminates, “vowing never to go back—I think we are losing a lot.”
Giving Voice To The Cause—The Village Voice
June 08, 2010
Giving Voice to the Cause, the Rallying Cry of Human Rights Watch
By Nick Schager for The Village Voice,Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Enraged calls to action over injustice have always defined the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and this year’s 21st edition is no less vocal, laying bare, in more than 30 features from 25 countries, a world still striving to secure equality and justice for all. From the rocky battlefields of Afghanistan (Restrepo) to the small-town communities of Pennsylvania (Out in the Silence) to the farmlands and financial centers of India (Nero’s Guests), the long-running fest’s 2010 edition seethes, laments, and inspires, capturing through a variety of fictional and documentary works the efforts—sometimes noble, sometimes fruitless, rarely painless—of the marginalized and oppressed to reclaim their sovereign voices.
Though surprisingly silent on Israeli-Palestinian tensions, there’s nonetheless no shortage of conflict on display, much of it infused with furious indignation free of didacticism. Director Raoul Peck (Sometimes in April) turns to his native Haiti with the fest’s Centerpiece selection, Moloch Tropical, a Shakespearean portrait of a power-mad fictional modern-day president (loosely inspired by early-19th-century ruler Henri Christophe) ruined by greed, arrogance, and hubris. His story confined to the luxurious hilltop mansion where the poor country’s commander-in-chief authorizes torture and sexual assaults as his political standing disintegrates, Peck’s latest—a spiritual companion piece to Aleksander Sokurov’s Hirohito-in-defeat drama The Sun—is a hothouse study of a man and country crippled by corrupted ideals.
While Moloch Tropical interrogates one individual’s heart of darkness, Presumed Guilty excoriates an entire body politic via the plight of a young Mexico City man who was arrested in 2005 and convicted for murder despite a wholesale lack of evidence. Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith’s blistering documentary exposes a retrograde and rigged criminal justice system in which innocence isn’t assumed but must be established, and where basic legal logic and civil liberties take a backseat to the crooked self-interest of police officers, prosecutors, and judges.
Art proves a piercing vehicle for exposing wrongs and demanding rights in Thet Sambath’s Enemies of the People. Having lost his family to Cambodia’s Killing Fields in the late ‘70s, Sambath, a journalist by day, spent the past decade pointing his camera at those responsible for the atrocities, eventually befriending and coaxing admissions of treachery from rural killers as well as Pol Pot’s right-hand man, Nuon Chea. His documentary is a dogged quest for truth that epitomizes HRW, just as Chea’s cold, obstinate refusal to assume moral guilt for his crimes reveals the continuing need for the human rights struggle and, by extension, for this righteously angry fest.
American Library Association Review—OUT IN THE SILENCE
May 23, 2010
When Joe Wilson decided to place an announcement of his wedding to his partner, Dean Hamer, in the newspaper of the small town in which he grew up (Oil City, Pennsylvania), he inadvertently set off a storm of angry letters to the editor. He also got a very different letter from Kathy Springer, the mother of an out gay teen. In response, Wilson decided to return to Oil City and make the documentary Out in the Silence, which, like Small Town Gay Bar, highlights a poignant picture of gay life in small town America.
Out in the Silence focuses on the struggles of a gay high school student who is living with homophobia and daily harassment, and a lesbian couple who are working to open a theater in Oil City, and facing resistance because of their relationship. However, what makes Out in the Silence most moving are the stories of heterosexuals who transform because of their relationships with GLBT people. Wilson chronicles the development of his friendship with Reverend Mark Miklos, who was one of the people who wrote a letter to the editor decrying gay marriage, and who eventually accepts and embraces Wilson.
Kathy Springer’s story is also powerful, as she is politicized by the treatment of her son and the lack of support from school administrators, and decides to take the issue to the school district and then to state representatives.
Out in the Silence is recommended for all viewers and deserves a place in all library collections, particularly those libraries serving small and rural communities.
Reviewed by: Nicole Pasini
San Mateo County Library
“What they call an agenda, we call our lives”
May 22, 2010
Just Out: QDoc returns with vivid, vital portraits of lives lived queer
More Details: http://www.justout.com/arts.aspx?id=229
Discrimination Casts Shadow Over Progress
May 17, 2010
Letter-to-the-Editor in The Derrick (Oil City / Franklin, PA) - May 17, 2010:
As the directors of “Out in the Silence,” a documentary about the struggle for visibility, justice and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in rural and small town America, we were greatly encouraged by our experiences in Venango County over the four years of making the film.
But as we travel to screening events across Pennsylvania, using it as a tool for community education and dialogue, we are troubled by reports that the problems at Franklin High School that are portrayed in the film continue or have gotten worse.
We are told by people who have first-hand experience that GLBT students at Franklin High continue to be bullied, harassed and violated with little or no intervention by school authorities. Moreover, we are told, teachers and counselors who show any interest in helping these students have actually been threatened by the school administration with retaliation and loss of employment.
This type of discrimination toward any minority group is unacceptable. It’s also a violation of the Pennsylvania Code of Conduct for Educators.
What can you do to help? If you have concerns about or know of any teacher or administrator at Franklin or any school who has engaged in negligent or discriminatory activity, it is possible to file an Educator Misconduct Complaint through the Professional Standards and Practices Commission. All complaints are handled in strict confidentiality.
For more information visit http://www.education.state.pa.us/ or call the Chief Counsel, Pennsylvania Department of Education, 717-783-0201.
As we prepare for the media attention that will accompany the film’s June screenings in the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival as well as national PBS broadcast this spring, we plan to talk about all of the good things that are happening in Venango County, but the situation at Franklin High casts a dark shadow that we simply cannot, will not, ignore.
If one believes in the concept that all people are created equal and deserving of equal rights and respect under the law, then those beliefs must include GLBT people. And if not now, when?
— Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer - Washington, D.C.
“OUT IN THE SILENCE Is A Moving, Enlightening Commentary On America’s Culture War”
May 01, 2010
Review by Kilian Melloy for EDGEBoston - Saturday May 1, 2010
In Out in the Silence, filmmakers—and spouses—Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer return to Joe’s home town of Oil City, Pennsylvania, after a wedding announcement in the local newspaper infuriates the town’s residents—but also inspires Kathy Springer, a single mother whose gay son has suffered anti-gay harassment at school, to write the couple a letter.
The boy is CJ Bills, an openly gay 16-year-old who was regarded as an athlete and accepted as one of the town’s own, until the moment he stood up on behalf of a classmate who was being bullied because he was perceived to be gay. In defending the bully’s victim, CJ outed himself—and from that day forward, his life at school became an unending series of torments. When CJ finally sought help from the school’s administration, he found himself blamed for the harassment he suffered. Worse, he was placed under arrest.
Joe and Dean, intrigued by CJ’s story, visit Oil City on a number of occasions over the next several years, documenting CJ’s story as he and his mother take the school to court. But the focus quickly widens to include Oil City as a whole: a local anti-gay activist, Diane Gramley, heads up the town chapter of the American Family Association, a group that—despite its name—makes a mission out of attacking gay and lesbian people and their families. Even as CJ’s case heads to court and his mother stands up for him in town hall meetings, Gramley is busy sending out “action alerts” and marching in the streets to denounce gays and warn that “They’re Coming to Your Town!”—the title of an AFA video that, without any sense of irony, seems to miss the point that Kathy and CJ are attempting to make: “they” aren’t coming to town… “they” are already here, and always have been.
As a study in the way in which a community is strained by the artificial emphasis placed on natural human differences, Out in the Silence is a moving, enlightening commentary on America’s culture war. (The film’s most priceless moment may be when one of Gramley’s followers whispers to her that Joe, and gays in general, are “brainwashed.”) As a look at the life of a tough, brave—but hurt—kid, the film is a touching personal document: Joe hands CJ a camera and invites him to film himself just being himself, and the resulting footage has more in common with MTV’s “Jackass” than with the Folsom Street Fair (which Gramley, at one point, seems to be referencing as she warns about the perils of gays descending on Oil City with their “agenda”).
Gramley is a fascinating counterpoint to Kathy and CJ. She uses the language of compassion, but her actions speak much more loudly—one of her “action alerts” urges local businesses and residents to boycott the efforts of a lesbian couple working to revitalize downtown. Gramley’s view seems to be that unless gays are routed out and their rights stripped away, straights will be forced to conform to some sort of gay “lifestyle,” and indeed the film includes footage of a local pastor echoing that general sentiment as he preaches against a hate crimes protection law, telling a crowd of followers that religious people will lose their freedom of worship if gays gain such protections.
But middle ground does exist; Joe discovers it when he forges a friendship with a local evangelical pastor and his wife. Neither “converts” the other, but both have their eyes opened to the discovery that they have more to talk about—and agree on—than they would have imagined.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.
Special Jury Prize at Nashville Film Festival
April 29, 2010
OUT IN THE SILENCE has been awarded a Special Jury Prize for Braveness in Storytelling from the Nashville Film Festival.
More Details: http://nashvillefilmfestival.org
The Best Way To Combat Prejudice Is To Speak Out And Make Your Case
April 29, 2010
Miami Herald review by Rene Rodriguez:
CJ Springer is a personable 16-year-old jock who plays sports, loves rebuilding cars and has loads of friends at school. But one day he witnesses some bullies as they taunt a gay kid in his class and intervenes by announcing that he, too, is gay.
His reward is to be instantly ostracized by everyone he knows. Suddenly CJ is hazed by other students and even threatened with serious violence. The situation becomes so bad that his mother Kathy decides to school him at home: In the small, conservative town of Oil City, Pa., homophobia can be deadly.
In Out in the Silence, co-director Joe Wilson, who grew up in Oil City, returns to his hometown to tell CJ’s story, along with the tale of a lesbian couple in the process of renovating a vacant old Deco theater in the downtown district. Wilson’s presence—he’s also the narrator—is awkward: Michael Moore is the only filmmaker who can get away with starring in his own documentaries.
But the film’s exploration of homophobia in small-town America is fascinating, and Kathy’s unconditional support of her son, an immensely likable, funny kid, is inspiring. Their battle against a school curriculum that makes no provision for interfering with gay-bashing has a happy ending. Out in the Silence is proof that the best way to combat prejudice is to speak out and make your case, no matter how daunting the opposition.
OUT IN THE SILENCE on Dakota Midday - South Dakota Public Broadcasting
April 28, 2010
Air Date: 04/26/2010
OUT IN THE SILENCE Co-Directors Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer interviewed by Dakota Midday’s Paul Guggenheimer prior to a screening in Rapid City.
Filmmakers To Discuss Equality For Gays In Rapid City
April 26, 2010
KOTA ABC News, Rapid City, SD:
Last month, South Dakota and specifically Rapid City hit the national spotlight after the Rapid City Police Department outed lesbian Air Force sergeant Jene Newsome.
As a result, it’s likely not a coincidence that the American Civil Liberties Union is sponsoring the showing of the award winning film “Out In The Silence”. Those interested can attend the show at the Elks Theatre Monday night at 6:30 p.m. and stay afterward for discussion with the filmmakers.
The filmmaker, Joe Wilson decided to make film after his same–sex marriage announcement ignited a firestorm of controversy in his hometown. With the help of civil rights organizations, Wilson is taking his film to small towns throughout the U.S. where he says many gays continue to live in fear and isolation.
Kathy Kandt the director of the Black Hills Center for Equality says both the film and discussion are needed and relevant in this community. “The gays who are here are not very comfortable about being out and being who they are even though it has nothing to do with their job performance or anything else. They simply are just not comfortable,” she said.
There will be another showing of the film Tuesday at Black Hills State University.
Video Link Here:
More Details: http://www.kotatv.com/Global/story.asp?S=12379029
Independent Film Airing at Elks Theatre in Rapid City
April 26, 2010
KNBN - NBC News Center Rapid City, SD:
The Elks Theatre is hosting films from the “Voices of the Heartland” independent film series.
Monday night, “Out in the Silence” will be airing at 6:30 P.M., the film is about a struggle for inclusiveness and rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in small towns and rural communities.
The films director says the message is strong for people living in our area, where we are surrounded by small communities.
Joe Wilson, the Director of “Out in the Silence” says, “It’s really a hopeful story about people who had the courage to speak up about their lives and work for change in a small town. What we’re finding is the stories in this film really inspire people in other communities to come together, talk about the issues and hopefully try to create change in their own cities.”
If you can’t make it to the showing on Monday, “Out in the Silence” will also play Tuesday at Black Hills State University at 4:00 P.M.
See video clip at link.
More Details: http://www.newscenter1.tv/stories/5025.aspx
Day of Silence Events
April 16, 2010
Today, the National Day Of Silence, over 200 youth groups across the country screened OUT IN THE SILENCE to help draw attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.
In partnership with GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), OUT IN THE SILENCE DVDs and Discussion Guides were made available to those Gay/Straight Alliance groups at middle and high schools, colleges and universities who sent in the best plans for how to use the screening events to create change in their schools and communities.
The OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign received many moving and imaginative requests from across the nation – from as far north as Anchorage, Alaska to as far south as Petal, Mississippi – from as rural as Garrett, Indiana (pop 5760) to as urban as the upper east side of Manhattan. Many of the youth identified with CJ, and described how they planned to show the film not just to friends and allies but to “the kids on the football team, so they’ll understand what it’s like.”
Every day thousands of students are silenced for fear of being who they are. OUT IN THE SILENCE salutes the courage shown by these young leaders for speaking out to help make schools safer for all students.
PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS(partial list):
Abraham Joshua Heschel High School, New York, NY ~ Angelo State University, San Angelo, TX~ Armijo High School, Fairfield, CA~ Ashland High School , Ashland, OR~ Badger Springs Middle School , Moreno Valley, CA ~ Barren County High School , Cave City, KY~ Bartlett High School, Anchorage, AK~ Bayside High School , Virginia Beach, VA~ Beyer High School, Modesto, CA ~ Binghamton University, Vestal, NY~ Birmingham Southern College, Birmingham, AL~ Burnsville High School, Burnsville, MN~ Butte College, Chico, CA ~ Cambridge High School, Cambridge, OH~ Canon City High School, Canon City, Co~ Carlisle High School, Carlisle, PA~ Central Dauphin East High School, Harrisburg, PA~ Chillicothe High School, Chillicothe, OH~ City High School, Grand Rapids, MI~ Clarke Central High School, Athens, GA~ Clovis North High School, Fresno, CA~ Codman Academy Public Charter School, Dorchester, MA~ Compton High School, Los Angeles, CA~ Concord High School , Belmont, NH~ Council Rock High School South, Newtown, PA~ Covina High School, West Covina, CA~ Danville High School, Danville, PA ~ Delaware Valley Regional High School, Frenchtown, NJ~ Dobie High School , Houston, TX~ East Islip High School , East Islip, NY~ East Pennsboro High School, Harrisburg, PA~ Eastern Connecticut Griswold High School, Griswold, CT~ Erie East High School, Erie, PA~ Forest Grove High School, Forest Grove, OR~ Garrett High School, Garrett, IN~ Germantown High School, Germantown, WI~ GLOW, Ft. Worth, TX~ Greely High School, Cumberland, ME~ Greenhill High School, Dallas, TX~ H.H. Ellis Technical High School, Waurgean, CT~ Harry S Truman High School, Bronx, NY~ Hempfield High School, Landisville, PA~ Henrietta Senior High, Henrietta, NY~ Heritage High School Maryville, TN ~ Hockessin High School, Hockessin, DE~ Hollywood Hills High School, Fort Lauderdale, FL ~ Kershaw High School, Kershaw, SC~ J. Sargeant Reynolds High School , Richmond, VA ~ James Bowie High School, Arlington, TX~ KRCB OutBeat Youth Radio, Santa Rosa, CA~ Lawrence Woodmere Academy, Woodmere, NY~ LBJ High School, Austin, TX~ Leavenworth High School, Leavenworth, KS~ Lebanon High School, Lebanon, NH~ Leo Hayes High School, New Maryland, NB~ Lincoln High School , Ypsilanti, MI~ Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN~ Lin-Wood Cooperative School, Lincoln, NH~ Los Angeles Community College, Los Angeles, CA~ Los Angeles High School for the Arts, Los Angeles, CA~ Los Banos High School, Los Banos, CA~ Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA~ Lower Dauphin High School, Hummelstown, PA~ Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY~ Marymount School of NY, New York, NY~ Meadowcreek High School, Norcross, GA~ Miami Coral Parks High School, Miami, FL~ Miami Sunset Sr High School, Miami, FL ~ Middleboro High School, Middleboro, MA~ Millikin University, Decatur, IL~ Montclair Kimberly Academy, North Caldwell, NJ~ Moreno Valley High School, Moreno Valley, CA~ Millersville University, Millersville, PA~ Northeastern High School, Manchester, PA~ Old Bridge High School, Old Bridge, NJ~ Olney Friends School, Barnesville, OH~ Orestimba High School , Turlock, CA~ Overland High School, Aurora, CO~ Palmer High School, Colorado Springs, CO~ Parish Episcopal High School, Dallas, TX~ Penna Highlands Community College, Johnstown, PA~ Pentucket Regional, West Newberry, MA~ Peoples Academy High School, Morrisville, VT ~ Perkiomen Valley High School, Collegeville, PA ~ Pike High School, Indianapolis, IN ~ Pius Catholic High School, Lincoln, NE~ Pollard Middle School, Needham, MA~ Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN~ Red Lion High School, Red Lion, PA~ Reservoir High School, Laurel, MD ~ Ridgeview High School, Elgin, SC~ Rockville High School, Vernon, CT ~ Santa Paula High School, Santa Paula, CA ~ Schalmont High School, Schenectady, NY ~ Schenectady High School, Schenectady, NY ~ School Without Walls Middle School, Rocherster, NY ~ Shippensburg High School, Shippensburg, PA~ Solanco High School, Quarryville, PA~ Spring Grove Area High School, Spring Grove, PA~ Spring High School, Spring, TX~ Suffield High School, West Suffield, CT ~ Summit High School, Fonatana, CA~ Susquehanna Township High School, Harrisburg, PA~ Tualatin High School, Tualatin, OR~ Taunton High School and Silver City Teen Center, Taunton, MA~ Thomas Jefferson High School , Alexandria, VA ~ University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ ~ University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN~ Upper St. Clair High School, Upper St. Clair, PA~ Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice, Brooklyn, NY~ Walhalla High School, Walhalla, SC~ Wallenpaupack High School, Lords Valley, PA~ Walter Panas High School, Cortlandt Manor, NY~ Webster Thomas High School, Webster, NY ~ Western Connecticut State University, Hopewell Junction, NY~ Westerville Central High School, Westerville, OH~ Westford Academy, Westford, MA~ Westgate High School, Thunder Bay, ON~ Westmount Charter School, Calgary, AB~ Westside High School, Houston, TX~ William Allen , Allentown, PA~ William Penn Senior High School, York, PA~ William Tennent High School, Warminster, PA~ Wyoming High School, Wyoming, OH ~ YCP Lambda, York, PA~ Yorktown High School, Arlington, VA ~ Youngstown State University, Youngstown, OH
National Day of Silence website: http://dayofsilence.org
GLSEN, the Day of Silence organizer: http://glsen.org
Film Aims to Promote Inclusion, Fairness for GLBT
April 16, 2010
By Lebanon Daily News
A screening of “Out in the Silence,” described in a Philadelphia Inquirer review as “a stunning documentary,” will be held at the Allen Theatre in Annville at 6 p.m. Monday, April 19.
The documentary was produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting and was an official selection of the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.
The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, representatives from area organizations and ACLU of Pennsylvania Executive Director Nancy Hopkins. The session will be aimed at engaging the audience in a conversation about fairness, equality and inclusion for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people - or GLBT - in small towns and rural communities in Pennsylvania and across the country, according to a news release.
General admission will be $5, and students will be admitted free by showing their ID at the door.
The screening at the Allen Theatre is co-sponsored by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the LGBT Community Center Coalition of Central PA and Freedom Rings of Lebanon Valley College.
Exploring topics ranging from religion, safe schools and economic development to discrimination, tolerance and understanding, “Out in the Silence” offers a compelling model for civic engagement and dialogue and is an ideal tool for bringing people of all ages together to begin the process of building bridges on issues that divide communities, according to one review.
After Wilson’s own same-sex marriage announcement ignited a firestorm of controversy in Oil City, the small western Pennsylvania hometown he left long ago, “Out in the Silence” follows the stories of a mother who takes a courageous stand for her gay teenage son, an evangelical pastor and his wife who befriend Wilson and begin to rethink their most deeply-held beliefs, and local residents who must decide what their cherished smalltown values really mean, according to the release.
While the film has been broadcast on the Pennsylvania Public Television Network and will be available to all PBS stations this month, Wilson and Hamer are working with colleges and universities, community groups and a variety of civil- and human-rights organizations to take the film to smaller cities and towns and rural communities, where GLBT people often continue to live in fear and isolation, the filmmakers said in the release.
“What better places to promote dialogue and mutual understanding,” Wilson said in the release, “than in public libraries, churches, schools, colleges and universities, community centers and theaters; those great institutions where families, friends and neighbors in small towns and rural communities come together to talk about and develop solutions to the most challenging issues of the day?”
Wilson and Hamer are hoping that the Lebanon County event attracts people from across the spectrum ready and willing to engage in constructive dialogue, including students, parents and educators, clergy, health and social-service providers, civic leaders, and anyone concerned about the well-being of the community.
Previous community and campus screenings of “Out in the Silence” have been successful, according to the release. For example, after a program at the University of Pittsburgh-Titusville, professor Mary Ann Caton wrote, “Several of our students have been deeply touched by the film. I’ve learned that several who went into the auditorium that night went in with some hostility toward the gay community. But these students have begun to rethink their positions as a result of seeing the film and engaging in conversation with the filmmakers and others in the audience.”
At Marlboro College in Vermont, Student Affairs Coordinator Chris Lenois said, “‘Out in the Silence’ demonstrates that polarizing issues are best handled when people are willing to listen to opposing viewpoints without lashing out or retreating into their own moral corner, which is probably the most valuable lesson any young person could learn.”
According to organizers, an encouraging event took place recently at the First United Methodist Church in Lancaster. Sponsored by nearly 20 religious congregations in the area, the screening of the film was attended by more than 200 people and was followed by a respectful dialogue. A clip of that conversation can be seen on the project’s Facebook page at http://Facebook.com/outinthesilence.
More Details: http://www.ldnews.com/valleylife/ci_14897458
ABC News Channel 8—Let’s Talk Live About ‘Out in the Silence’
April 07, 2010
Documentary on Small Town Gay Life Hits Home
April 03, 2010
By Renatta Signorini
LEADER TIMES, Kittanning, PA
Saturday, April 3, 2010
A typical night with friends easily could turn into a gay-bashing session with Brian Bish as the target.
He recalled one night being followed to his Walkchalk home by a group of baseball bat-wielding men in a pickup.
“They were screaming homophobic slurs,” he said.
The message in a documentary shown Thursday night at the Kittanning Public Library resonated with Bish. He remembers abuse from county residents while living in Walkchalk as a gay young adult in the 1990s.
“It’s such a perfect image of what everything felt like,” Bish said.
“Out in the Silence,” created by partners Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, addresses the struggles of gay or lesbian people in rural areas and small towns, based on interviews in Wilson’s hometown of Oil City in Venango County. A crowd of about 30 people attended the library’s screening and some spoke of their own battles with local residents who do not agree with the lifestyles of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender (GLBT).
Bish was not able to attend the screening, but watched it Thursday night twice, once with his partner of nine years. They live in Connecticut.
“It really made it real to see real people in a small town” going through similar situations as what he faced in Armstrong County, he said.
Bish’s niece, Sheena Van Dyke of Natrona Heights, attended the screening Thursday night and was the first to offer comments in a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers. She thanked them for creating the film and said she hopes it will change minds of those who discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation.
“Because I saw what (Bish) went through and I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had lost him due to people’s ignorance,” Van Dyke said.
Bish left the county for Connecticut in 1997 when he was in his early 20s, partly because he wanted to live in a more accepting community.
“I wanted to be somewhere where I wasn’t known as the town queer,” Bish said.
By then, he had come out to family and friends over the course of several years after realizing it himself at age 19 when he was in college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The first person he told was his mother, Bish remembered.
“I’m so fortunate to have my family’s support,” Bish said.
“Out in the Silence” follows a gay teen in Oil City — among other characters in the town — who had to leave high school because of the harassment he received from classmates. Though Bish wasn’t directly targeted in high school or college, he was when visiting at home on weekends and by a former employer after he told others of his sexual preference.
“It just kind of adds to the fear of coming out,” he said.
Bish tried to shield his supportive family from the harassment he said he received.
“I didn’t want them to go through what I was going through,” he said.
As far as advice for others living in a rural community, Bish suggested finding close family and friends to provide support and reach out to organizations willing to help. He is a member of the board of directors for The Trevor Project, a 24-hour crisis and helpline for teens who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning their sexuality.
Though he moved away from Walkchalk, Bish said, “You don’t need to leave to be OK.”
Some people who attended Thursday night’s screening spoke of harassment they’ve been the victim of or have witnessed. Bish said there are more gay or lesbian people in Armstrong County than many would think and threats thrown around by community members can be hurtful.
“It was a nightmare,” he recalled. “It creates that environment of fear.”
Kittanning Library’s Showing of Film on Gay Life Draws Lone Protester
April 02, 2010
By Renatta Signorini
LEADER TIMES, Kittanning, PA
Friday, April 2, 2010
After threats of violence this week and other negative phone calls, a lone protester was the only voice of opposition outside the Kittanning Public Library on last night.
The library had been receiving phone calls about its Thursday night screening of a documentary addressing the struggles of people who are gay or lesbian in rural areas and small towns.
“Every negative call has been offset with a positive call,” said library director Amanda Gearhart.
Gearhart said the single protester appeared outside the library, walked about with a sign for a short while and then left before the showing of the film.
“Out in the Silence” is a documentary created by directors and partners Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer. The film was created after Wilson and Hamer’s marriage announcement in an Oil City newspaper caused controversy in Wilson’s Venango County hometown.
An Oil City mother of a gay teen being abused in school contacted them men after the announcement appeared in The Derrick, and the idea for the documentary was born.
During the peaceful hourlong screening, an audience of about 30 people reacted with groans, laughter and applause after comments from those who were interviewed. People of all sexual orientation and ages attended the screening.
Some had traveled from the Oil City area, Clarion and Pittsburgh to watch the film and others were from the county.
The documentary showed the way teenager C.J. Bills was treated in Oil City after his classmates learned he was gay. Marcelle McMillen of Ford City said during a question-and-answer session following the documentary that pushing acceptance in schools is a good place to start breaking down barriers and discrimination.
Her brother committed suicide last year at 44, she said. He was a gay man with AIDS, a disease of the immune system, who was asked to leave a county school in the 10th grade when classmates found out about his sexual orientation.
McMillen said she watched her brother’s life slip away because “people didn’t love him because he was gay.”
Two others in attendance agreed that schools are a good place to start with an equality message and suggested contacting local school board members.
Two members of Pittsburgh organizations discussed ways county members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community (GLBT) can reach out for help. The Delta Foundation has a Western Pennsylvania Advocacy Initiative and Alliance with the goal of changing minds about perceptions of people who are GLBT.
Ted Hoover of Persad Center, Inc. said he has been charged with creating “safe communities” in the region.
“What we want to do is identify community allies, community leaders, community organizations” and use them as a resource team, he said.
“We can’t do it without Kittanning,” Hoover said “We need you to tell us what our next steps are.”
A Kittanning police officer and others involved with the screening kept watch at the library’s entrance last night. An officer was sent to the event after a threatening phone call made to the library Tuesday at about 5 p.m. The anonymous caller warned employees to make sure their health insurance was “paid up” for last night.
Wilson and Hamer, who live in Washington D.C., have shown the documentary in about 30 small communities in Pennsylvania, most recently in New Castle, Lawrence County, and at Slippery Rock University.
Documentary Shown in Peace
April 02, 2010
by Nathan Lasher for The Kittanning Paper
(OITS Note: The Kittanning Paper is operated by Family Life Church International)
The documentary “Out in the Silence” produced by Joseph Wilson and gay partner Dean Hamer was shown to approximately 35 people at the Kittanning Public Library yesterday in a peaceful atmosphere.
“Things have gone very peacefully,” said Member of the Board of Trustees for the library, Louise Baker. “Everybody is friendly and introducing themselves.”
Only one protester was witnessed demonstrating for a few minutes across the street from the library approximately 15 minutes before the documentary began. However, he soon gave up.
Security for the event had to be increased due to an anonymous phone call that was received Tuesday. “I was sorry to hear that threats had come in,” said attendee Thomas Waters while waiting outside. “Anonymous threats don’t move anyone on either side of the issue any closer together.”
Waters, an avid blogger about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues (thomascwaters.com) was raised in Ford City until the age of five, and his father still lives there. “I invited him to come with me, but he told me that he had other obligations tonight.” Waters said.
When asked about the showing of the documentary, Waters said, “I think it’s really important. The film is a tremendous documentary to talk about small town America and small town Pennsylvania. It opens up a dialogue among people, and the more we talk about these things the more everybody can understand how important it is for everyone to be able to be out and be comfortable living with who they are.”
Oil City Discrimination Declining
April 02, 2010
By: Liz Glazier, The Online Rocket of Slippery Rock University
SRU goes to extensive measures to make sure there’s no discrimination or negative actions done to students, faculty or staff members who are part of the LGBTQI community.
Tuesday night, the university confirmed this by having an open panel about LGBTQI issues on campus and talking about what the community can do to make everyone feel more welcome.
The night began with a movie shown in the Advanced Technology and Science Building called “Out in the Silence,” a documentary by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, a gay married couple who wanted to create a film that would spread awareness about the violence and issues gay people face in today’s society.
Wilson grew up in Oil City, but moved to Washington, D.C., and was inspired to do the documentary after sending Hamer and his wedding announcement into his hometown paper, The Derrick. After the announcement was published, there were numerous letters to the editor asking why such a sin was published and that it was a shame the paper would run the photo of two newlywed gay men. One writer went as far as saying, “It would have been better off if you weren’t born.”
Wilson and his partner decided to leave Washington, D.C., and return to Oil City to begin the documentary.
There they met a 16-year-old boy named CJ Bills, a student at Oil City High School who came out and was immediately harassed, ultimately making him decide to complete his education online.
The movie showed the journey Bills and his mother went through to make sure discrimination in the schools never happened again. They were eventually successful by enacting a diversity workshop and stricter punishment for discrimination acts into the curriculum, and Bills was able to return to school feeling comfortable and more welcome.
After the documentary was completed, a panel of gay rights activists including Wilson; Hamer, and Linda Henderson, a lesbian SRU alumni who also appeared in the movie, talked about the film and answered questions from the audience.
Wilson said his main goal for the movie was to create a tool for activism to take flight in areas such as small-town Pennsylvania and will hopefully expand the movement outside of the state.
“Knowing what is was like to be gay in Oil City at one time, going back and seeing how it had changed made me see that life there was better and there has been progress,” he said. “I celebrate that, yet I am still frustrated with the slow progress.”
A student who was in the audience stood and spoke about how he also grew up in Oil City and commented on how discrimination had slowly gotten better.
“It is slowly changing, but it definitely is getting better since this movie was filmed,” the student said.
Wilson said a big lesson that he, as well as the whole crew, learned while filming the documentary was how attacking people who didn’t necessarily have the same views as them wasn’t the solution and only pushed those people away.
“We naively and arrogantly figured that if we spoke the truth about what we knew, others would listen to us and believe what we were saying,” Wilson said. “That obviously wasn’t the case.”
In the documentary, people who were against gay rights or turned their cheek to discrimination were highlighted. Many times, Wilson tried to confront them about their beliefs but many didn’t want to listen.
He was able to speak with a local pastor and his wife and got them to better understand of why gay people should have the same rights as everyone else. This understanding is something Wilson hopes all people who see the film will have.
“We want to use this film as a tool to create somewhat of a support group for people to talk about these issues,” Wilson said. “It is important in the community we live in to provide these support groups.”
Ashley Ranck, a 21-year-old junior creative writing major, is the current president of RockOut and spoke with the panel about how the gay community is viewed on campus.
“I feel comfortable about being gay on this campus,” she said. “There are definitely things we could change, though.”
Ranck said that last year, RockOut put up flyers about gay rights and several were stomped on and torn down.
“There are always going to be things we can change and improve on campus,” she said. “But overall, the atmosphere is welcoming and I thank Slippery Rock for that.”
Dr. Colleen Cooke, a professor of therapeutic recreation, spoke about the Respect statement issued by the university, saying it was prohibited to deny any LGBTQI member rights that other students, faculty or staff had. Wilson asked the audience to reach out and help the movement towards making LGBTQI members feel more welcome and accepted.
“Make us proud Slippery Rock,” Wilson said. “Join the fight [for] human rights and do what’s best for your community.” © Copyright 2010 The Rocket
Pittsburgh Gay Groups Show Support of Library
April 01, 2010
The Kittanning Paper—(OITS Note: The Kittanning Paper is operated by Family Life Church International)
Several Pittsburgh organizations are planning to be at the Kittanning Library tonight for the showing of the film Out in the Silence.
The film details events that unfold when the announcement of filmmaker Joe Wilson’s wedding to another man ignites a firestorm of controversy in his small Pennsylvania hometown of Oil City.
Gary Van Horn, President of the Delta Foundation that organizes the Pittsburgh Pride festivals, said Armstrong County has particular significance to his organization.
“We’re interested in all 23 counties in western Pennsylvania,” he said. “In Armstrong County, it is legal to discriminate for employment, public accommodation and housing based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.”
Van Horn said his advocacy organization has worked with the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender (GLBT) community in western Pennsylvania since 1995. The Delta Foundation is funded by private foundation money, endowment, and fund raising.
“Several of us are coming to support the folks showing this film,” Van Horn said. “We also want to support local folks that are coming out and have a dialogue to understand the GLBT community. First thing we need to understand is there are different viewpoints in the world. Having the conversation is the first step. It turns some from haters to understanders.”
Van Horn said that he has been in contact with the Library, Kittanning Borough Police and the Pennsylvania State Police.
“He called and offered to pay for police protection if we felt we needed it,” Library Director Amanda Gearhart said.
“We have interest in everything going well. We don’t want to see any violence,” Van Horn said. “We are working with state police and local police to make sure there is enough security in place. There will be police at the event.”
Van Horn said two other Pittsburgh-based groups are also planning to be in attendance when the event begins at 7PM. “There will be a representative from the Steel-City Stonewall Democrats, a political organization that fights on the political end for equality (based on Stonewall riots of New York) and also someone from PERSAD, the second oldest GLBT counseling center in America located in Pittsburgh with a satellite office in Washington and outreaches to Butler and Armstrong counties.”
While no one could confirm the authenticity of phone calls, several groups are alleged to be planning demonstrations in front of the library while the film is being shown.
Gearhart said she is still optimistic the film will lead to a positive dialogue. “For every negative phone call, we have had a positive one today,” she said.
Kittanning Public Library Takes Threat Seriously
April 01, 2010
by Renatta Signorini for the Kittanning Leader-Times:
A Kittanning police officer will be on hand at the borough library for tonight’s screening of a documentary addressing the struggles of people who are gay and/or lesbians in rural areas and small towns.
A threat was telephoned to the library Tuesday at about 5 p.m. Library director Amanda Gearhart said the man on the phone spoke with a worker and said that he hoped employees’ health insurance is “paid up” for Thursday night.
“We have to take it seriously,” Gearhart said. “I’m not expecting problems, but I’m prepared for problems.”
Police Chief Ed Cassesse said his department is investigating the call. An officer will be at the library, he said, “to be safe.”
Previously, an officer had not been asked to provide security at the event, Cassesse said.
The documentary “Out in the Silence” will be shown tonight at the library at 7. It was created by co-directors and partners Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer after their 2004 marriage announcement in an Oil City newspaper set off controversy in Wilson’s Venango County hometown. A mother of a gay teen being abused in school contacted the men after the announcement appeared in The Derrick, and the idea for the documentary was born.
Gearhart said she was sure the threat was related to the screening.
Wilson and Hamer will hold a question-and-answer session following the screening. Wilson said in a Monday interview that he hopes the screenings can change negative perceptions and promote acceptance and equality throughout rural communities, including within schools, churches and families.
Screening Features Documentary on Oil City Gay Marriage
March 30, 2010
By Renatta Signorini
LEADER TIMES, Kittanning, PA
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Despite some thought that rural towns are not home to gay and lesbian people, “I guarantee that there’s quite a large underground, not visible, community there,” said Joe Wilson, who co-directed a film addressing that topic after controversy in his hometown of Oil City in Venango County.
A free screening of “Out in the Silence,” a documentary directed by Wilson and his partner Dean Hamer, will be held Thursday at the Kittanning Public Library at 7 p.m. The film documents the reactions of Oil City area residents in Venango County after the couple’s wedding announcement caused controversy throughout the community.
Library director Amanda Gearhart said Wilson requested a screening and she agreed because of the lack of awareness and support in the area. The closest groups and agencies supporting people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) are in Pittsburgh and Erie.
Because local residents in the GLBT community may be facing the same kinds of problems that Wilson faced growing up in Oil City, Gearhart said she hopes anyone with an open mind or needing support will attend the screening.
“There has not been any kind of event or group that’s in Armstrong County,” she said.
After Wilson announced his marriage to Hamer in his hometown newspaper, The Derrick, in 2004, letters to the editor expressed outrage by community members for about a year afterwards, Wilson said. One contact — by a mother of a gay teen being abused in school — brought Wilson back to Oil City and the idea was born for a documentary of the struggles for GLBT people in small towns and rural communities.
“The film kind of happened organically without a plan,” said Wilson, who lives with Hamer in Washington D.C.
“Out in the Silence,” co-directed by Wilson and Hamer, was produced in association with Penn State Public Broadcasting and the Sundance Institute. The documentary has been screened in about 30 small communities in Pennsylvania, most recently in New Castle, Lawrence County, and at Slippery Rock University in Butler County.
Wilson said yesterday that Kittanning is “strikingly similar” to his hometown, in appearance — both are situated along the Allegheny River — and visibility of the GLBT community. He hopes that community leaders and elected officials attend the screening.
Wilson and Hamer hold question-and-answer sessions following the screenings and Wilson said they have seen diversity in participants and hear stories of prejudice and inequality, as well as acceptance. After living in Oil City, Wilson said he hopes the screenings can change negative perceptions and promote acceptance and equality throughout rural communities, including schools, churches and families.
The couple is branching out to other states with their film and promoting community events to bring attention to the problems of discrimination and inequality, Wilson said.
Featured in the documentary are Oil City residents taking a stand against discrimination or re-evaluating their beliefs in light of Wilson and Hamer’s marriage announcement. The documentary — acting as a tool for civic involvement and dialogue — explores topics of religion, safe schools and economic development, intimidation, discrimination and resistance.
Out in the Silence Campaign featured in THE NATION
March 18, 2010
by JOANN WYPIJEWSKI
This article appeared in the April 5, 2010 edition of The Nation.
I’m not sure where or when I got the idea, but at some point in my childhood I
asked my mother what “homosexuality” meant. “Well, honey,” she said, pausing,
“that’s something sailors do.”
“Like Daddy?” I asked. My father had been in the Pacific in World War II, and his
sailor hats and dress uniforms, pressed and hanging in an attic chest, held for me
the greatest fascination.
“No, no,” she quickly clarified. “Sailors who make a living of it,” or words to that
effect. Later I learned that “venereal disease” too was “something sailors get”: again,
“not Daddy”; those others, who spend endless stretches at sea, a lifetime of manly
togetherness punctuated by ribald Crossing the Line ceremonies and visits to raffish
ports of call. For the longest time I had no idea what maritime life involved but that
it was wrapped in sex and secrets.
Eric Massa, 50, was a Navy man for twenty-four years. A Catholic, like me, growing
up at the same time as me, when the church didn’t speak to its children of sex, let
alone homosex, he followed in the footsteps of his daddy, also career Navy, and
married like his daddy, had children like his daddy. On those long stints at sea he’d
grasp the tired flesh of fellow sailors, offering “the Massa massage.” If former
shipmates are to be believed, he once rousted a sleeping junior officer by pawing the
man’s privates. He climbed up into the bunk of another sleeping mate and tried to
“snorkel him,” meaning he either smothered the fellow with cock and balls or
wanted to blow him, possibly both. Massa was drunk, naturally, and nobody
reported a thing.
The ex-shipmates who are talking now claim they feared retaliation then, and maybe
that’s true, but a cousin of mine who spent years in the Navy and Marines once
remarked that it was common as rain to discover guys on ships canoodling in
remarked that it was common as rain to discover guys on ships canoodling in
closets. Maybe it all just didn’t seem so big a deal until Massa, now former
Congressman Massa, went on TV to say that while in hindsight inappropriate, there
was nothing at all sexual about his groping, wrestling, tickling, tussling and salty-
talking with his young male Congressional staffers, with whom he also roomed.
Certainly nothing gay. “Why don’t you ask my wife, ask my friends, ask the 10,000
sailors I served with in the Navy?” he shot back at Larry King. It was the shot too
To those who may have missed this version of March Madness, Massa is the center
of Washington’s latest sex scandal. Retired military and a lifetime Republican who
quit the party over the Iraq War, he fit the Democrats’ ideal candidate profile and in
2008 won a traditionally Republican seat in upstate New York. Republicans began
plotting almost immediately to oust him, but Democrats weren’t happy with Massa,
either. He supported some of the president’s priorities but blasted others, regarded
Rahm Emanuel as the “son of the devil’s spawn” but was surprised that any of that
should bother anyone. In February one of his male staff complained of sexual
harassment. There had been a wedding, Massa had danced with a bridesmaid, and
afterward, boys being boys, the staffer suggested what Massa could do with the
woman. “What I really ought to be doing is fracking you,” Massa retorted, ruffling
the young man’s hair and laughing. Massa was drunk. Of course he was.
On March 3 the Congressman said he was just “a salty old sailor” and announced his
resignation. Then he went on radio to say that the Democrats had it in for him,
particularly Emanuel, who once poked Massa in the chest and yelled at him for not
being a team player while they were both naked in the Congressional showers. Enter
Glenn Beck, who latched on to the story, not to explore its most intriguing detail—
those curtainless shower stalls and the dick-swinging games of powerful men—but
to demonstrate how “the Democratic Party is out to destroy this man…the future of
this country is at stake!” Massa was bound to disappoint. Nobody had forced him
out, he said, before rambling on about the price of independence, the daily hours
spent begging for cash, his broken spirits, our broken system, his bout with cancer
and, yes, a groping or tickle fight with staff on his fiftieth birthday. At one point
Massa flipped open a scrapbook, pointing to pictures of a 1983 shipboard ceremony
upon crossing the international dateline and telling his flummoxed host, “If you
were to take this out of context today—can you imagine transporting back to this
today? It looks like an orgy in Caligula.”
As with men’s magazines of the 1950s, some see only the bodybuilder, others the
object of desire, others a mix of both. Who can say what Massa sees in his
mementos and male staff? It’s almost always the case with sex scandals, though, that
beyond the rococo, there’s a harsher, unspoken reality, a trap so deeply
beyond the rococo, there’s a harsher, unspoken reality, a trap so deeply
commonplace that nobody calls it scandal. Here call it private life or roughhousing
among men; call it a “relapse” into youthful experimentation or just the things guys
do together after drinking a six-pack or several gin and tonics. Call it anything but
the closet, because if it’s that then it’s sexual, and if it’s sexual then you’re queer, and
if you’re queer you might be toast—still, today, in 2010, let alone when people of
Massa’s generation were at the door of sexual awakening.
While the bottom was dropping out for Massa, 3,000 miles away California State
Senator Roy Ashburn was being arrested for drunk driving, having been stopped by
the Highway Patrol on his way back from a gay club with another man. A few days
later Massa told Larry King it was an insult to gays to suggest that he or anyone in
this day and age might be in the closet, Ashburn, 55, a divorced father of four and a
reliably antigay Republican pol for fourteen years, went on the radio and uttered
“the words that have been so difficult for me for so long”: “I am gay.”
It’s easy to get moralistic about Ashburn, and many bloggers have, but oppression is
not the mask’s companion only in sympathetic cases, those anonymous ones where
people carry secrets and have no staffs, no profile, no power except to hurt
themselves and maybe the people they lie to. The Virginia merchant spending hours
in the basement feverishly texting a paramour—the first he has allowed himself in
forty-five years of living—while upstairs his wife plans the family vacation. The big
old queen in Indiana recently married to a woman he loves—she saved his life, he
says—but spending every waking hour in a gay cafe that isn’t really gay because no
one says the word except in whispers. The queer husbands in Vermont who
somehow can’t come out, or need the wife, need the marriage and the kids, but also
need to tell, so form a small, sad brotherhood of support.
That’s speaking only of men, a handful I know or know of, but everywhere there are
queer men and women who don’t fit the now-mainstream image of pretty young
things forming the Gay-Straight Alliance at school, competing on reality shows,
making it on the Human Rights Campaign’s literature for marriage or military
service. Often they live in small towns in rural areas, places like Corning, New York,
where Massa resides, or Bakersfield, California, which Ashburn represented. It
shouldn’t take petty scandals to remind us that for millions the fundamental
question of life isn’t whether they can legally kill someone in a war or cut the
wedding cake but whether it’s going to take all their courage just to get up every
morning and be who they are.
As the Massa flap was wearing itself out, I was in Columbia, South Carolina, at a
screening of a new documentary called OUT IN THE SILENCE . It’s about a teenage boy in
Oil City, Pennsylvania, who comes out almost by accident, to defend another kid,
and discovers high school is a living hell. It has a happy ending, of sorts: the kid
doesn’t kill himself; his mother fights for him; he’s driven from school but gets a
$4,000 settlement for the loss of his education; there’s a small queer community
that’s now pushing an anti-discrimination ordinance in town. The theater was
jammed, a scenario that greeted the filmmakers, Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer,
earlier in Charleston and Spartanburg and almost every small city and town where
they’ve taken the film. The screenings become forums, places to meet where there
has been no place, to talk where there is a desire to talk but little occasion.
“For the longest time, the gay movement told people in rural areas, Just move to the
city and come out,” Joe said afterward. He was raised in Oil City, and one sister still
won’t talk to him. “That’s not an answer if you’re connected to your family, your job,
your town. And you can’t expect oppressed individuals to take the whole burden of
coming out on themselves.” The closet is still a product of culture; its persistence the
blackmail note waiting to be written for any sexual outlaw, along the arc of the
Kinsey scale, even salty old sailors who just want some fun with the boy
More Details: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100405/wypijewski
Promoting Political Action
March 14, 2010
Tolerance Increasing in Poconos: Following Film Screening Panelists Note an Improvement in the Treatment of Gay, Lesbian Youths
By Dan Berrett
Pocono Record Writer
Tolerance of gay and lesbian young people is on the rise in the Poconos, though work remains to be done before full acceptance is achieved, a panel of speakers said Saturday.
“There are still issues,” said Anita Lee, of the organization Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, of Monroe County. “But the Poconos has gotten better.”
Lee and others spoke after a screening of “Out in the Silence” at Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg on Saturday afternoon; it was attended by about 70 people.
The documentary examines what happens in the small Pennsylvania town of Oil City after the filmmakers place their same-sex marriage announcement in the local newspaper.
At first, outrage arose in the Rust Belt town. One letter to the editor of the local newspaper advised the couple, “it would have been better for you not to have been born.”
One of the filmmakers, Joe Wilson, grew up in Oil City with his gay identity closeted. But he returned to his hometown, in part, because of the reaction his announcement sparked. But, more pressingly, he was summoned by a letter. A mother of a gay son, who lived in Oil City and was being bullied, wrote to him looking for help.
The young man, C.J. Springer, described life in his school as “eight hours of pure hell,” because administrators turned a deaf ear and blind eye as students roughed up the young man in the halls.
Lee, of PFLAG of Monroe County, said bullying remained a concern for students in Poconos schools.
Statewide, more than half of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students reported being physically harassed during the past year. Nearly all said they regularly heard the word “gay” used derisively, according to a 2007 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Still, the panelists noted that conditions locally had improved.
“Years ago, no one was allowed to go to a prom (with their same-sex partner) and now they are,” said Steven Barthold-Rivera, faculty co-sponsor of the Stroudsburg High School Gay Straight Alliance.
The alliance is one of several in local high schools. East Stroudsburg High School North has the longest standing one locally, and progress toward one is being made in Pocono Mountain, Barthold-Rivera said.
The clubs provide a venue for gay and lesbian students who feel isolated and fearful because of their identity. At times, they are suicidal, said Barthold-Rivera.
“There’s power in numbers, there’s unity, and they’re not alone,” he said.
Saturday’s event featured a panel of speakers, each of whom outlined resources for young gay and lesbian students, such as Rainbow Youth, or for their families, such as PFLAG.
“When children come out of the closet, their parents go into the closet,” Lee said.
The speakers also promoted political action. They encouraged attendees to call their state representatives to support bills that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The screening was hosted by Pocono Action Lambda Society, and sponsored by more than 50 businesses, organizations, church groups and individuals.
OUT IN THE SILENCE DVD Available To Watch Now on Amazon Video-On-Demand!
February 27, 2010
The DVD of OUT IN THE SILENCE, with all the special features, will be released March 9, 2010. But you can watch the feature film early on Amazon Video on Demand for just a $1.99! ...right now.. before the release date!
Please share the link with friends and family.
Controversial Film Comes To Patterson Library
February 17, 2010
The Observer of Dunkirk, NY
WESTFIELD, NY - Patterson Library has announced a free screening of the film “Out in the Silence” on Friday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. Funded in part by the Sundance Institute, the movie follows the story of a small Pennsylvanian town confronting a firestorm of controversy ignited by a same-sex wedding announcement in the local newspaper. The documentary is described as illustrating the challenges of being an outsider in a rural community. It takes place in Oil City, Pa., less than two hours from Westfield.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion, including a prominent player in the film, Roxanne Hitchcock, proprietor of the Latonia Theater in Oil City. Also on the panel are Rev. Steve Aschmann of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie, Pa.; Deb Christina, lifelong resident and longtime business owner in Westfield; Beth Robson of the Watchfire Alliance; Marvin Henchberger, executive director of Western New York Gay and Lesbian Youth Services; Bob Reider of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays); and Father Gordon De La Vars of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
According to directors Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, a geneticist and author of “The God Gene,” “The aim of ‘Out in the Silence’ is to expand public awareness about the difficulties that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face in rural and small town America and to promote dialogue and action that will help people on all sides of the issues find common ground.”
The film has won wide recognition for its respectful treatment of both sides of a controversial issue. It covers Joe Wilson’s dramatic journey as he is drawn back to his home town by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being tormented at school. It is a story about the unique challenges of being different in a small town, and the potential for change when the environment for dialogue is created. A subplot is the economic necessity in modern day rural America for tolerating and even encouraging diversity in order to attract and keep talent.
According to Patterson Library Director Eli Guinnee, the film fits perfectly with the public library goal of promoting knowledge, understanding, and mutual respect.
“The film follows a story of firestorm and controversy, but at its heart is a message that when we take the time to get to know each other positive change can occur,” Guinnee said. “The organizers of this event have done a great job of assembling a distinguished panel and I think the panel will do a great job of carrying on the conversation started by this film.”
The free event is scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m. The film runs less than one hour and will be followed by a panel discussion. For more information, call Patterson Library at 326-2154.
Film Is Opportunity To Build Bridges
February 11, 2010
Editorial in the Observer-Reporter, serving southwestern Pennsylvania’s Washington and Greene counties, Feb. 8, 2010:
A documentary called “Out in the Silence” is scheduled to be shown Wednesday at Eva K. Bowlby Public Library in Waynesburg.
The film, produced by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, addresses issues faced by gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.
“Out in the Silence” follows the stories of a mother who takes a courageous stand for her gay teenage son, an evangelical pastor and his wife who befriend Wilson and re-examine their most deeply held beliefs, and local residents who must decide what their cherished, small-town values really mean.
The impetus behind Wilson’s documentary was the announcement of his same-sex marriage that ignited a firestorm of controversy in Oil City, a small Western Pennsylvania hometown he left long ago.
We agree with Wilson when he said what better place to promote dialogue and mutual understanding in small towns and rural areas than in the public library.
Initially, we believed the library should be congratulated for opening its doors to show what many unbdoubtely believe to be a controversial and perhaps uncomfortable subject matter.
But then we thought, “Why not?”
Libraries do not censor reading material, so why would there be any question of censoring film material, assuming the film is not pornographic and counter to established community standards, whatever those might be?
This is an opportunity for people across the spectrum in Greene County, including students, parents, teachers, clergy, health and social service providers, GLBT residents, civic leaders and all those concerned about the well-being of all in their community, to come together and engage in a constructive discussion.
This also is an opportunity to bring people together in a conversation about fairness, equality, and inclusion for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in small towns and rural communities in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Bowlby Library is doing its part by opening its door and providing a place for the documentary to be shown.
Now it’s up to the good citizens of Greene County to show an example to others by coming together to begin the process of building bridges rather than walls on issues that have divided communities.
Copyright Observer Publishing Co.
OUT IN THE SILENCE At The PUBLIC LIBRARY
February 02, 2010
February 2, 2010
AWARD-WINNING NEW DOCUMENTARY
ABOUT THE LIVES OF GLBT PEOPLE IN A SMALL PENNSYLVANIA TOWN
TO SCREEN AT PUBLIC LIBRARIES IN BEAVER FALLS AND WAYNESBURG, PA
WASHINGTON, DC – February 2, 2010 - Community screenings of OUT IN THE SILENCE, “a stunning documentary” (Philadelphia Inquirer) produced in association with Penn State Public Broadcasting and the Sundance Institute, are scheduled for:
- Tuesday, February 9 at 5:30 PM at the Carnegie Free Library, 1301 Seventh Ave, Beaver Falls
- Wednesday, February 10 at 6:00 PM at the Eva K. Bowlby Public Library, 311 N. West, St, Waynesburg
The screenings will be followed by a Q & A session with filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer aimed at engaging the audience in a conversation about fairness, equality, and inclusion for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in small towns and rural communities in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Exploring topics ranging from religion, safe schools and economic development, to discrimination, tolerance and understanding, OUT IN THE SILENCE offers a compelling model for civic engagement and dialogue and is an ideal tool for bringing people of all ages together to begin the process of building bridges rather than walls on issues that have divided our communities for far too long.
After Wilson’s own same-sex marriage announcement ignites a firestorm of controversy in Oil City, the small western Pennsylvania hometown he left long ago, OUT IN THE SILENCE follows the stories of a mother who takes a courageous stand for her gay teenage son, an evangelical pastor and his wife who befriend Wilson and re-examine their most deeply held beliefs, and local residents who must decide what their cherished small town values really mean.
Wilson and Hamer are working with a variety of civil and human rights organizations, including the ACLU of PA, to take the film to small towns and rural communities across the country. The film has already been broadcast on all stations within the Pennsylvania Public Television Network and The Philadelphia Foundation has provided grant support to help conduct these community educational events, free-of-charge, across Pennsylvania.
“What better place to promote dialogue and mutual understanding in small towns and rural areas,” said Wilson, “than in the public libraries, those great institution where the community, in all its diversity, comes together and that represent our highest ideals as a society: knowledge, lifelong learning, freedom, and equal access for all?”
Wilson and Hamer are hoping that the events in Beaver Falls and Waynesburg attract people from across the spectrum ready and willing to engage in dialogue, including students, parents and educators, clergy, health and social service providers, civic leaders, and all those concerned about the well-being of all in their community.
Previous community and campus screenings of OUT IN THE SILENCE have been highly successful. For example, after a program at the University of Pittsburgh-Titusville, Professor Mary Ann Caton wrote: “Several of our students have been deeply touched by the film. I’ve learned that several who went into the auditorium that night went in with some hostility toward the gay community. But these students have begun to rethink their positions as a result of seeing the film and engaging in conversation with the filmmakers and others in the audience.”
At Marlboro College in Vermont, Student Affairs Coordinator Chris Lenois commented that: “OUT IN THE SILENCE demonstrates that polarizing issues are best handled when people are willing to listen to opposing viewpoints without lashing out or retreating into their own moral corner, which is probably the most valuable lesson any young person could learn.”
And a very encouraging event just took place at the First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, PA. Sponsored by nearly 20 religious congregations in the area, the screening was attended by more than 200 people and was followed by a rich and respectful dialogue. A clip of that conversation can be seen on the project’s Facebook page: http://Facebook.com/outinthesilence
A press kit and more information about OUT IN THE SILENCE and the ongoing community engagement campaign, as well as a short trailer for the film, are available on the Penn State Public Broadcasting website: http://wpsu.org/outinthesilence
The filmmakers are available for interviews.
Contact: Joe Wilson
OUT IN THE SILENCE
PRIDE Film Festival Highlights Rural LGBTQ Life
January 26, 2010
NPR story on OUT IN THE SILENCE at the Bloomington, Indiana PRIDE Film Festival. This year the theme is “Steer Queer”, focusing on rural and small town LGBTQ life.
“That’s So Gay”: Anti-Bullying Legislation and LGBT Teens
January 07, 2010
The ACLU of Pennsylvania, a vital partner in efforts to reach and engage people in small towns and rural communities, highlights its work with OUT IN THE SILENCE on its Speaking Freely blog in a post about important legislative work now on the agenda in the state.
Out in the Silence wins Audience Award in Long Island
January 05, 2010
OUT IN THE SILENCE won the Audience Award for best documentary at the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which ran November 12-19, 2009. The screening was followed by a panel discussion that included teen representatives from Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth.
More Details: http://www.liglff.org/nov1409.html#silence
Community Engagement Campaign Receives Major Grant Support
December 12, 2009
The David Haas Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation has awarded a major grant to the OUT IN THE SILENCE Community Engagement Campaign, aimed at conducting events in small towns and rural communities in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to help raise LGBT visibility and promote constructive dialogue in the quest for fairness & equality for all. The Haas Fund support enables the OITS Campaign to offer screening events to qualifying communities in Pennsylvania at No-Cost.
The OUT IN THE SILENCE team is also working with strategic communications firm Active Voice to develop the national community engagement campaign, modeled on the Pennsylvania pilot, for 2010.
For more information, or to request a screening,
“Activists make case for basic human rights”
November 17, 2009
Article in the Herald following Penn State Shenango screening
Out in the Silence wins Audience Award for Best Documentary
November 17, 2009
OUT IN THE SILENCE was awarded the audience award for best documentary at the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival.
Radio Interview with Kim Young on All Things Erie - WQLN
October 18, 2009
“Sorely Needed and Highly Effective”
October 15, 2009
Preview of OUT IN THE SILENCE by veteran critic Floyd Lawrence for the Erie Times-News.
Send A Postcard To The President and Your Senators / Representatives
October 10, 2009
For those of us who can’t, or choose not to, go to Washington, DC for the National Equality March on October 11, it is still important to join together in calls for action in the quest for fairness, equality and human rights for all.
While much of our energy is focused on the hard and necessary day-to-day work still to be done in our communities and in our states, a message to the President, and our senators and representatives, from out here where we are could be an important boost.
So, the idea is simple:
Get a postcard representing your community and send something along the lines of the following message to:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
And your federal senators and representatives.
Dear Mr. President / Senator / Representative,
I live in [name of town, county, state].
Because of the threats of harassment, violence, and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and allies, I am often forced to live in silence, and fear, in my own community.
I’m writing to ask you to confirm your commitment to fairness, equality and human rights for all people, be a fierce advocate for change, and to: pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, expand Hate Crimes legislation, end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act now.
It is time to speak Out In The Silence!
More Details: http://www.facebook.com/OutintheSilence
“The Fight For GLBT Rights In Rural America Is Far From Over.”
September 20, 2009
Review of OUT IN THE SILENCE in a special issue of national news magazine IN THESE TIMES focused on “Taking Back Rural America”
Out in the Silence wins Audience Award and Alternative Spirit Award
August 13, 2009
OUT IN THE SILENCE won the Audience Award at the Hardacre Film and Cinema Festival in the small town of Tipton, Iowa, and an Alternative Spirit Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette feature article - documentary examines homophobia in rural America
July 23, 2009
More Details: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09204/985816-60.stm
“Heart-Wrenching” - Philadelphia Weekly
July 14, 2009
“Stunning” - Philadelphia Inquirer
July 10, 2009
“A Poignant, Personal and Engrossing Story” - Philadelphia City Paper
July 10, 2009
Out in the Silence on GritTV “Got Docs”
May 29, 2009
Out in the Silence was featured on GritTV’s Got Docs with the claim that “the early buzz [for the film] is overwhelmingly positive.”
Out in the Silence Featured in Philadelphia Gay News
February 06, 2009
Out in the Silence was featured in the Philadelphia Gay News article “Filmmakers Roll Tape on Small-town Documentary.”
More Details: http://epgn.com/bookmark/1897815/article
- Presented by Penn State Public Broadcasting.