Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Role Models and other Glimpses of Self

A Message from Betty Hill, Executive Director of the Persad Center, the nation’s second oldest licensed counseling center specifically created to serve Pittsburgh's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community:

Barbara Grier, lesbian-themed novelist and publisher, died this week. She and 3 other women founded Naiad Press in 1973 “to publish books about lesbians who love lesbians and where the girl is not just going through a phase.”

She was overwhelmed by the volume of orders for her books. While she was surprised at the demand, I am not.

Think about the thrill of a young lesbian who finds a story that reflects how she thinks and feels and loves in the world in the midst of a lifetime of stories and books where she is out of place and cannot relate.

It speaks to me about the need for evidence and reflection that is hungered for by a population of people who are made invisible in their world.

Heterosexism is institutionalized isolation.

In heterosexism, it isn’t just that GLBTQ people are a minority and so you don’t run into them as much as heterosexual people; there is deliberateness about omitting any signs of the minority population’s existence.

It sends the message that there isn’t just fewer of you, “we wish there weren’t any of you.”

GLBTQ people are seeking signs of their existence and of their realities.

You figure out who you are in the world by seeing signs of yourself in others and in aspiring to bring into life what sparks as a glimmer of you in people you admire. Barbara Grier brought stories of lives that were glimmers of hope to the reality and existence of women who love women.

We need visible signs and safe spaces to sort out our way of relating in the world.

This can happen in small and everyday ways where we acknowledge and name the relationship between a family member and his partner, or where we include the possibility that some kids may want bring a same-sex partner to the school dance, or while we watch “Dancing with the Stars” that we talk about the challenges of being transgender, and we make information available to young people about sexual or gender orientation.

Persad works with organizations to help them eliminate institutional heterosexism and homophobia. We can conduct on-site assessments of environments, policies, practices and staff /worker attitudes and understanding, as well as to assist in achieving goals to improve diversity and inclusion.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Designing For Impact: Out In The Silence

from the "Designing For Impact: Social Justice Documentary," a report by the Center for Social Media at American University:

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 even became suicidal.

Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, the filmmakers and the couple in the marriage announcement, know exactly how it feels to be a gay man 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 "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 responsed to obstacles, and used various media and distribution channels to build networks and reach out to a broader audience.

Read the full case study report HERE.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Letter from Indonesia: "I Have Decided Not To Run Away"

We receive many beautiful notes from people near and far who have been affected by the stories in "Out In The Silence." This one from Shila in Indonesia is particularly inspiring:

Dear Joe & Dean,

My name is Shila and I’m from Indonesia, a country known as having the largest Muslim population in the world.

I got the chance to see your movie, "Out In The Silence," a few months ago at Q! Film Festival in Jakarta, and I have to say, it was a life-changing experience.

I lived for a few years in Canada just a few months after I came out as a lesbian. Life got easier because Canada is obviously a very gay-friendly country. I also was very blessed with the fact that my family and friends were very accepting about me being gay. Despite all of the love and acceptance given by my loved ones in Indonesia, I still thought that it’s better for me to live in Canada for good and to never come back to closed-minded Indonesia. I wanted to save myself.

But your movie changed me.

I remember you saying how you respect the people who decided to stay in Oil city and have the courage to live their lives openly in that small town portrayed in the film. I thought, wow, you’re right. These courageous people have probably helped and inspired more young kids like CJ compared to those who choose to live openly outside of their hometown.

And then I remembered my friends who organized Q! Film Festival, the biggest queer film festival in Asia, and the overwhelming size of the audiences this year.

Imagine, the biggest queer film festival in Asia is in the largest Muslim-populated country in the world!

My friends decided to stay, even though they could’ve chosen to live elsewhere in the world, and they have made a huge impact in the lives of people here, gay and straight.

I have always wanted to help create a change in the lives of young gay people. You guys have made me realize that, maybe, I could create a better change if I come back to my small-minded hometown and slowly help the people here build awareness towards LGBTIQ people.

How will I do that? I don’t know. But most importantly, I have decided not to run away to Canada anymore, and I thank you guys for that. I really, sincerely, thank you. I hope this realization would be helpful for a lot of young lives here.

Thank you, again.


Shila A.