Tuesday, December 28, 2010



This has been a remarkable 'five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes' for the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign. While the struggling young artists and musicians of RENT measured their years in sunsets, midnights, cups of coffee, laughter and strife, we'll remember 2010 for the thousands of miles traveled, small towns visited, friends made, and hearts and minds changed.

Here are a few of our 'moments so dear' ...


Seth Walsh, a gentle thirteen-year old boy living in the rural Kern River Valley of central California, was one of at least a half dozen LGBT teens who took their own lives this year because of homophobic harassment and bullying. In response to this tragic epidemic, OITS made a special effort to support youth by:

- Holding "End the Silence" events at nearly 200 high schools in 31 states in collaboration with the GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) National Day of Silence

- Making the film and resources available at no-charge to all interested schools

- Facilitating the formation of new gay-straight alliance groups in small towns and rural communities across the country

- Promoting safe school and anti-bullying policies and legislation at the local, state and federal levels

These efforts have had real impact, including in Seth's home town where an OITS screening coordinated by courageous local residents catalyzed the formation of a new Kern River Valley community group that is now working with school authorities and town officials to forcibly address school bullying, harassment and discrimination.


At the heart of the OITS Campaign is our dedication to the idea that small acts of LGBT visibility in places where they are rare and unexpected help to raise awareness and open-up dialogue in profound new ways and create ripple effects and opportunities to organize for change that go far and wide. In 2010, this included:

- More than 300 community events in public libraries, town halls, church basements, book shops, colleges, and universities

- Groundbreaking rural tours across Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania

- Partnerships with over 50 organizations including chapters of the ACLU, Equality Federation, PFLAG, and GLSEN, in addition to Equality Partners of Western PA, Community Safe Zone Project of the Persad Center, Rural Organizing Project, Community of Welcoming Congregations, Freedom To Marry, and dozens of local human dignity groups across the country

- Support for efforts to enact local non-discrimination policies and other activities to make communities more welcoming and inclusive. One of many highlights was a proclamation by the Mayor and City Council that Sept. 13 is OUT IN THE SILENCE Day in Oil City, the beautiful small Pennsylvania town where OITS started and where the stories in the film take place.


We were honored and humbled by several kudos from the film and television world this year, including:

- Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Mid Atlantic Chapter
- Premiere at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
at Lincoln Center followed by screenings at the Tribeca Doc Series, Outfest, Frameline and more than 50 other festivals around the world
- Festival awards including special jury prize for Bravery in Storytelling from Nashville, Social Significance from South Dakota, and Best Documentary from Outtakes New Zealand
- Rave reviews in the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Village Voice, Variety, Advocate, Christianity Today, and dozens of local newspapers
- PBS broadcast to over 80% of the national market


In a recent Newsweek article, It Gets Better Project founder Dan Savage declared that "the culture war is over" and that LGBT people have now achieved full acceptance in the U.S. Apparently Dan has never visited Coudersport, PA, where local fundamentalist ministers and Tea Party activists threatened to defund the public library and fire the librarian simply for hosting a screening of OITS. When those efforts failed, they held their own "Bible Believing Christian Response to OITS" a month later in the same library, expressing their violent views toward LGBT people quite clearly.

Such attacks are still all-too-common. The good news in this case is that the blatant hatred and hostility inspired other local residents, with the help of Equality Partners of Western Pennsylvania, to form a community group that is working with town authorities and mainstream church members to move Couderpsort toward becoming a more welcoming and inclusive community for all.

Such stories, which are still happening in communities across the country, are why we must continue our efforts to make it better for everyone, everywhere, now!


As 2010 comes to a close, we're making even bigger plans for 2011. Already in the works are rural tours in Arizona, Maine, Maryland and California, legislative efforts around employment nondiscrimination, safe schools, and marriage equality, and a dynamic new outreach effort with LGBT youth.

None of this work is possible without your support.


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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yo Dan Savage, We Love You But, It Hasn't Gotten Better For Everyone Yet, So ...

Please stop saying (as you did most recently in a NEWSWEEK interview) that “the culture war is over and done” and that all we need to do is focus on legislative progress simply because we have Glee and Ellen, and now, at least, the repeal of DADT.

Despite tremendous gains in the pursuit of justice and equality, and major shifts in beliefs about and attitudes toward LGBT people, over the past several decades, far too many of us, particularly younger people and particularly in smaller cities, towns and rural communities, continue to live in the shadows, unable to live openly or speak out for fear of losing our families, friends, jobs, livelihoods, personal safety, and sometimes our very lives.

Each and every time we do a community screening of OUT IN THE SILENCE somewhere in the American heartland, we see and hear about this reality. And each and every time we see and hear about this reality, it is shocking, devastating, infuriating, etc., etc., etc. ...

Perhaps you'll be able to join us at one of these events sometime, where courageous local folks are rising up to share their stories, and powerful grassroots organizations are working with them to develop creative strategies to promote understanding, justice and equality for all in what are still very challenging environments.

As your important campaign implies, it does get better, but only when we do the work together to help make it better.

Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer

Thursday, December 16, 2010

To Our Oregon Friends ...

And all those involved with the Rural Organizing Project, Basic Rights Oregon, PFLAG Oregon, Community of Welcoming Congregations, and dozens of community-based human dignity groups across the state:

This is a long-overdue thank you for all that you set out to do, all that you accomplished, and all that you shared with us during our recent tour of beautiful rural Oregon with the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign.

At each stop along the way we were overwhelmed by your warmth and hospitality, fired up by your enthusiasm and hunger for justice and equality for all, and inspired more than words could ever convey by your fearless dedication to the hard work of organizing for profound and sustainable social change.

In what has often been a dark and lonely journey through other parts of the country, you reminded us of the goodness and light that is possible when people and communities come together to build upon what they have in common rather than what sets them apart.

We will carry your example of collaboration and your message of hope for a more just and humane world with us for a long, long time and share them with everyone we encounter everywhere we go!

Yours in gratitude & solidarity,

Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer