Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beautiful Letter from a 15 Year-Old Gay Boy in Canada

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.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kinsey Institute Welcomes Dean Hamer Collection To Its Archives

October 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,” Dr. 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.

Selected Resources to Accompany "Out In The Silence" Events

A list of resources compiled by University of Oregon Libraries' Community Conversations program, the flagship living-learning community within the residential co-curriculum of University Housing.

Gambone, Phillip. Travels in a Gay Nation: Portraits of LGBTQ Americans.
Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010. HQ75.2 .G36 2010 (Knight Library)

In Travels in a Gay Nation: Portraits of LGBTQ Americans, author Phillip Gambone spends 2 years traveling the U.S. to speak with LGBTQ people to honestly discuss what it means to be a LGBTQ person in a heteronormative society like the U.S.

Gherovici, Patricia. Please Select Your Gender: From the Invention of Hysteria to the Democratizing of Transgenderism. New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2010. HQ77.9 .G43 2010 (Knight Library)

Please Select Your Gender: From the Invention of Hysteria to the Democratizing of Transgenderism aims to revise current notions of human sexuality. In doing so, it challenges the theory and practice of psychoanalysis with questions typically addressed only indirectly, but which are themselves transforming how analysis is done, advancing new ideas for the clinic that can be extrapolated to social and intellectual contexts in an effort to engage the broader dialogues of gender and sexuality.

Gray, Mary L. Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America. New York: New York University Press, 2009. HQ76.27.Y68 G73 2009 (Knight Library)

Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America is about the experiences of young people living in the rural areas of Kentucky and gives insight into what gay life is like outside of the big cities. This book describes how they not only use the resources around them in their community, but also the online spaces to help shape their emerging identities. Their trials and successes help bring understanding of just what “queer visibility” is and its political stakes.

Herdt, Gilbert H. Moral Panics, Sex Panics: Fear and the Fight Over Sexual Rights. New York: New York University Press, 2009. HQ76.8.U6 M67 2009 (Knight Library)

Moral Panics, Sex Panics: Fear and the Fight Over Sexual Rights is a work that focuses on case studies ranging from sex education, to AIDS, to race in order to illustrate how sexuality is at the heart of many political controversies. This book attempts to illustrate how moral panics are detrimental to our society.

Nelson, Emmanuel S. Encyclopedia of Contemporary LGBTQ Literature of the United States. Santa Barbra: Glenwood Press, 2009. PS153.S39 E53 2009 v.1-2 (Knight Library Reference)

Encyclopedia of Contemporary LGBTQ Literature of the United States explores contemporary American LGBTQ literature and its social, political, cultural, and historical contexts.

Stein, Marc. Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons/Thomson/Gale. 2004. HQ76.3.U5 E53 2004 v.1-3 (Knight Library Reference)

Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America cover workplace movements, Queer Nation, fashion and clothing, out out and outing, family issues, heath care and clinics, and federal law and policy. Also included are more than 200 biographies, 230 photographs, a 400-year chronology of LGBT history, and an appendix of repositories in the United States and Canada.

Seckinger, Beverly. Laramie Inside Out. Harriman, N.Y.: New Day Films, 2004. HV6250.4.H66 L37 2004 (LIMITED LOAN) (Law Library Video)

Laramie Inside Out is a movie about a town’s response to the death of a Wyoming college student named Matthew Shepard. He was beaten and left for dead sparking a nationwide debate about hate crimes and homophobia. In this movie Beverly Seckinger goes back to her hometown and meets with many people to discuss their views on homosexuality.
Wilson, Joe & Hamer, Dean. Out In The Silence. Qwaves Productions, Penn State Public Broadcasting, Sundance Institute, 2010. (

Following the story of a small American town confronting a firestorm of controversy ignited by a same-sex wedding announcement and the brutal bullying of a gay teen, Out In The Silence will challenge you to rethink your values and help close the gaps that divide our communities.

University of Oregon Libraries
Want more? Visit your library!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism 2012

And The Winners Are ... 
by Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer, Out In The Silence Campaign, Haleiwa, HI
Media Contact: 808-629-9864 or

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.

Special Thanks to Mark Porterfield (in Oil City, Pa. t-shirt) and his group of Guardian Angels from Laguna Beach, CA for their generous support for this year's Award for Youth Activism!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Out In The Silence at the Community College of Baltimore County

A Message to the Out In The Silence Campaign from Morgan Slusher, Professor of Psychology and Rainbow Club Faculty Advisor at the Essex Campus of the Community College of Baltimore County:

I’m happy to report that since last year's screening of "Out In The Silence," the Office of Multicultural Affairs here at the Community College of Baltimore County has become much more intensively active in addressing LGBT concerns and has now established a committee on LGBT issues that has attracted considerable interest among allies. As a result of this, for the first time, CCBC is now “officially” recognizing October as LGBT History Month and putting together a calendar of related events.

Since we had such a success with our showing of “Out in the Silence” last year, we'll be hosting public screenings again this year on each of CCBC's three campuses! Thanks again for producing such a powerful film!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

After Gay Son’s Suicide, Mother Finds Blame in Herself and in Her Church

from The New York Times (8/25/12):

Ridgewood, NJ -- When Tyler Clementi told his parents he was gay, two days before he left for Rutgers University in the fall of 2010, he said he had known since middle school.

“So he did have a side that he didn’t open up to us, obviously,” his mother, Jane Clementi, said, sitting in her kitchen here nearly two years later. “That was one of the things that hurt me the most, that he was hiding something so much. Because I thought we had a pretty open relationship.”

In her surprise, she had peppered him with questions: “How do you know? Who are you going to talk to? Who are you going to tell?” Tyler told a friend that the conversation had not gone well. His father had been “very accepting,” he wrote in a text message. “Mom has basically completely rejected me.”

Three weeks later, he jumped off the George Washington Bridge after discovering that his roommate had used a webcam to spy on him having sex and that he had sent out Twitter messages encouraging others to watch.

An international spotlight turned the episode into a cautionary coming-out story, of a young man struggling with his sexuality and the damage inflicted by bullying. His roommate, Dharun Ravi, was tried and convicted of intimidation and invasion of privacy; he served a short jail sentence. But the trial never directly addressed the question at the heart of the story — what prompted a promising college freshman to kill himself?

It is that question that lingers over the household here on a tidy street in this prosperous suburb.

The Clementis continue to blame the bad luck of a roommate lottery and the cowardice of students who failed to step up and say that the spying was wrong.

But their son’s suicide has also forced changes, and new honesty, upon them. They have left the church that made Ms. Clementi so resistant to her son’s declaration. Their middle son, James, acknowledged what the family had long suspected and said that he, too, was gay. The family is devoting itself to a foundation promoting acceptance with the hope of preventing the suicides of gay teenagers.

Most of all, Ms. Clementi has had to grapple with her own role in Tyler’s death.

“People talk about coming out of the closet — it’s parents coming out of the closet, too,” she said. “I wasn’t really ready for that.”

At the time Tyler sat down to tell his parents he was gay, she believed that homosexuality was a sin, as her evangelical church taught. She said she was not ready to tell friends, protecting her son — and herself — from what would surely be the harsh judgments of others.

“It did not change the fact that I loved my son,” she said. “I did need to think about how that would fit into my thoughts on homosexuality.”

Yet it did not occur to her that Tyler would think she did not accept him. She had long talked with him about how his brother James was gay — though at the time James had not said he was. “Tyler knew we weren’t going to reject him or stop paying for college for him or not let him come home, because James had done all those things and we had a good relationship,” she said.

Tyler’s father, Joe Clementi, characterized the last month in his son’s life as a “rough spot.” But Ms. Clementi said she believed he was “confident, comfortable” in his decision. He left for Rutgers telling his parents about plans to attend events for gay students. He reported having gone to New York with new friends to see plays; his parents took this to mean he was adjusting well.

During a phone call one afternoon he sounded different. “A little sad,” Ms. Clementi said. “I thought maybe it was adjusting to being away. I told him how much I missed him, he got a little teary and told me he’d missed me, too. I thought he’d been away too much.”

That evening, Joe Clementi was awakened by a call from the Port Authority police, saying they had Tyler’s wallet and phone, that he’d been seen — then not seen — on the bridge.

In the months after Tyler’s death, some of Ms. Clementi’s friends confided that they, too, had gay children. She blames religion for the shame surrounding it — in the conversation about coming out, Tyler told his mother he did not think he could be Christian and gay.

“I think some people think that sexual orientation can be changed or prayed over,” she said now, in her kitchen. “But I know sexual orientation is not up for negotiation. I don’t think my children need to be changed. I think that what needed changing is attitudes, or myself, or maybe some other people I know.”

She decided she could no longer attend her church, because doing so would suggest she supported its teachings against homosexuality. And she took strength from reading the Bible as she reconsidered her views.

“At this point I think Jesus is more about reconciliation and love,” she said. “He spoke more about divorce than homosexuality, but you can be divorced and join a church more than you can be gay and join churches.”

What has troubled her most is the thought that Tyler believed she had rejected him.

Joe Clementi argues that his son was speaking with classic teenage exaggeration to a friend, that the remark was taken out of context by people who did not know the family, or the facts. “Just to be clear: Tyler had two parents, and I didn’t have any problem with it,” he said. “He had support.”

But Ms. Clementi can’t dismiss it that easily. “Obviously he felt that way, he needed to tell his friend that.”

Sitting in the courtroom every day during Mr. Ravi’s trial this winter, the Clementis often looked brittle, and rarely spoke. But here in their home, next to the elementary school that all three of their boys attended, they spoke openly. They have also been speaking to school and corporate groups about their experience. And though she supports the prosecution’s appeal of the 30-day sentence Mr. Ravi received on the ground that that it was too short, Ms. Clementi said, “It won’t change my life one way or another.”

It is a relief to have come out of the closet, she said. “It is not something I would have done on my own.”

She thinks often about her last phone call with Tyler, hours before he went to the bridge.

“I was sitting right over there,” she said, pointing to a corner of the kitchen. They had what seemed like an innocuous discussion about whether his parents should take Tyler’s bike to Rutgers for him. It was expensive and beloved, and he had not wanted it stolen.

“He got very teary and wistful — ‘Oh, my bike, I forgot about my bike,’ ” she recalled. “After the fact I think about it in different terms, but at the time, I didn’t. He said, ‘No, keep it at home.’ ”

She cannot recall how they said goodbye.

“It was probably the way we said goodbye all the time,” she said. “ ‘Goodbye, I love you,’ ‘I love you more.’ That was the way we usually ended it. I’m sure that’s how we ended it that time, too.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hawaii Religious Groups Miraculously Escape Paying Fine

from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (Aug. 6, 2012):

In the world of political lobbying, things are not always black or white. Depending on who's doing the lobbying, or the monitoring, there can exist a mighty wide area of gray.

So it is that the Hawaii Family Forum and the Hawaii Catholic Conference have agreed to revise some of their spending reports with the state Ethics Commission and pay $3,000 to resolve complaints about their lobbying activities. It's not a fine, mind you, but payment that goes along with public transparency to resolve charges of improper disclosure of lobbying.

For its part, the Catholic Conference said it hadn't realized it had to separately file lobbying reports for its political activism, and has now done so.

This case "should send a message to others who lobby elected officials to inquire into whether filings are warranted in their particular case," said former Ethics Commissioner Jacqueline Kido. "We have a lobbying law for good reason." Amen to that.

Friday, July 20, 2012

'The Hartford' Builds Awareness through 'Out In The Silence' Screenings and The Legacy Project

(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.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution

by Rich Benjamin for The New York Times:

His dashing ascot billowing, his flat cap perched just so (to hide his bald spot), the cleft-chinned Harry Hay had some impressive head shots. As a student at Stanford in the early 1930s, he had come out to his classmates as “temperamental,” code for “homosexual.” In 1934, having dropped out of Stanford and moved to Los Angeles to try a career in pictures — and having already begun to hone his identity as sensualist and agitator — he joined the Communist Party. Around 1936, he turned up at a Halloween party dressed as “the demise of fascism.” The other homosexual bons vivants were stumped: none were terribly turned on to politics, so none knew what Harry’s costume meant. These men, and others like them across America, had no core ideology, no political groups to join, no leaders. Hay changed that. In 1950, he helped create the Mattachine Society, the country’s first gay rights organization, and demanded that the people it represented “be respected for our differences, not for our sameness to heterosexuals.”

This year, the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest advocacy and lobbying organization for gay, bisexual and transgender rights, appointed Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, as the first national corporate spokesman for its same-sex marriage campaign. “Ameri ca’s corporations learned long ago that equality is just good business and is the right thing to do,” Blankfein says in a Web video. The organization also bestowed on Goldman Sachs its 2012 “corporate equality award.”

How does a movement get from there to here — from Hay to Blankfein? Linda Hirshman’s “Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution” sets out to explain, tracing the history of gay rights from the early 20th century to the present.

Ever since the Enlightenment, when intellectuals articulated the crucial promises of the modern liberal state — security, liberty and self-governance — society’s dispossessed have struggled to claim these rights as their own. The gay and lesbian movement, like the black civil rights and women’s movements, has from its earliest days sought security (protection from violence and discrimination), freedom (inalienable human and group rights) and self-governance (the ability to participate effectively in political and economic life).

Hirshman’s book, drawing from an arsenal of archival records, firsthand interviews, court documents and previous histories, is a sprawling account of juicy trysts, hushed political meetings, internecine movement skirmishes, sudden mutinies and activists turning personal humiliation into rocket fuel. The emerging facts are not new to scholars, but as popular history, “Victory” excels. Hirshman is a nimble storyteller with an agile curatorial eye for what matters: witness her recounting of the zany founding of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund and her contrasting of San Francisco’s disciplined, well-oiled political machine of the 1970s with New York City’s angry, anarchic community pre-Stonewall. See too her exposé of the rivalries between movement factions, like the pro-Black Panther gays versus the get-along gays — and, of course, the lesbian feminists versus the chauvinist gays, who didn’t want expansive rights, just a place at the straight white men’s table.

A lawyer and feminist scholar and the author of several previous books, Hirshman writes with knowing finesse. Harvey Milk, “at 40-something, was almost twice as old as the other cool gays walking down the newly colonized gay Castro neighborhood in their tight jeans,” she explains. “But he did bring his current lover, the perennially younger man of the moment, Scott Smith. Scotty and Harvey opened a camera store in an old Castro storefront, just to do something, not that they knew anything about cameras.” She introduces another historical figure: a “lady like” Dianne Feinstein, “Jewish, conventional, daughter of a doctor and wife (serially) of several wealthy men.” Hirshman’s observations land with that tart humor and piquant irony beloved by gay men. Some call it camp, others call it dish. Hirshman is heterosexual, but this book isn’t straight.

“Victory” transports readers to receding gay worlds, with companionable aplomb. On March 24, 1987, hundreds of Act Up activists, stomping, shouting, chanting — and hanging an effigy of the F.D.A. chairman — put a chokehold on Manhattan traffic and Wall Street. Their aim: to push “a coordinated, comprehensive and compassionate national policy on AIDS.” Two years later, Act Up members logjammed trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange; they chained themselves to the V.I.P. balcony, blew miniature foghorns to drown out the opening bell and unfurled a banner: “sell wellcome.” Days later, Burroughs Wellcome cut its AZT drug prices by 20 percent. For years, Act Up blanketed major cities with its beguiling anticorporate logo, a fuchsia triangle and the phrase “Silence = Death.” Act Up set the gold standard for effective guerrilla activism.

“We’re middle-class white guys, and we’re not used to being ignored,” one early AIDS activist recalls. And in 1986, Jim Pepper, a blue-blooded Southern money manager who had supported the black civil rights movement in the 1960s, agreed to sponsor the first New York AIDS Walk, effectively outing himself to his straight peers. AIDS outed many rich, successful gay men to their powerful circles, loosening the oppressive vise exerted by potent institutions.

The AIDS crisis and a ferocious revival of the religious right during the Reagan years provoked the gay movement to step up its game. During the 1980s and ’90s, the revolution’s critical turn, gay men and lesbians decided: Don’t challenge power; buy and become it. Disciplined, top-down, media-savvy, Ivy League-staffed organizations started mobilizing — the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal. Emphasizing their constituents’ similarities to their heterosexual allies, these organizations swept aside the gay community’s more “radical” elements (trannies, sexual libertines, socialists). The new gay organizations co-opted conventional political weapons: self-selected candidates, political action committees, black-tie fund-raisers, research institutes and lobbyists. The Gay Establishment was born. As any marginalized person in this country comes to learn, aping the mainstream conjoins political and economic benefits. Assimilation pays.

As more gay people came out and were seen in the quotidian roles of citizenship — as respected voters, workers, neighbors and patrons — the more their heterosexual friends and colleagues began to acknowledge the illogic of policies blocking their open access to two conservative redoubts: the military and marriage. Hirshman provides a standout analysis of the military-service and marriage battlefronts. The challenge for the movement was how to square private acts with public identities. To what extent should it pursue libertarian-style privacy-rights appeals over egalitarian social- acceptance ones? More crudely, it was “Get out of my sex life” versus “Codify equal protection for what I do and who I am.” Hirshman offers a crystal- clear legal and philosophical explanation of the constitutional doctrine at stake, particularly in Romer v. Evans, the 1996 Supreme Court decision striking down Colorado’s “Amendment 2” (which had banned state protection for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals), and in a string of state-level legal decisions affecting same-sex marriage rights.

Chief among Hirshman’s strengths is her understanding of power. She gets how mainstream authority in America impels markets, the state, the elite, the media and religious groups to consolidate influence and keep the opposition in check. It follows that she also understands shrewdly how power can be undone.

At times I was unsettled by this exemplary book, which describes a transformation I do remember, but took cover from, sequestered in my psychic closet. I remember, as a high school student, visiting my brother at Yale in 1989 and spotting an acne-faced Yalie sporting Birkenstocks, stringy orange hair and a pin on his satchel: “Homosexual Marriage Now.” I remember seeing on the news gay activists visiting the Clinton White House “welcomed” by Marines wearing surgical gloves. I remember attending the first run of “Angels in America” on Broadway and, even as a dilettante, recognizing that Tony Kushner’s play was a cultural game changer. I remember shouting down a shrugging Amtrak agent after the railroad lost my luggage and, with it, my auto graphed copy of Paul Monette’s AIDS memoir, “Borrowed Time”; six months later, Monette was dead. I remember studying queer theory under the tutelage of Judith Butler, for intellectual calisthenics, not political conditioning. I remember straight friends and colleagues looking me in the face to declare their support for “civil unions,” not “gay marriage,” smug in their “tolerance” yet blithely indifferent that their nonmarital alternative offered less than full equality. Like many gay men who’ve divorced themselves from gay activism, I’ve lived our history as an out-of-body experience, at a remove from its real- time impact on my people and country. For most of my life, I was a parasite to the movement, what Hirshman calls a “free rider,” someone “passing as heterosexual while the out activists labored to make the world a better place.” Having hidden from, or sleepwalked through, the slipstream of gay history, I find “Victory” to be an astute jolt, as remarkable for its emotional punch as for its historical insight.

In the book’s epilogue, Hirshman, sounding pre-emptive and defensive, insists on the title’s accuracy. No one should be fooled. True, were Harry Hay living today, the pearl-clutching Communist would applaud his movement’s success. But “Victory”? There are no federal protections against anti-gay employment discrimination. Same-sex marriage is explicitly forbidden in 38 states. Most Southern states have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. Gay families face codified and implicit discrimination when adopting children. Gay youth across the country are stigmatized by their peers. “Triumphant”?

Barnumesque title aside, Hirshman must surely understand that social movements are not “won,” any more than most social wars (against “terror,” “drugs” and so forth) are “won.” Social progress proceeds in a push-pull ebb and flow of advancement and backlash. America’s women have made enormous strides in political representation, even as their reproductive rights remain vulnerable to the regulatory fiat of the state and the moralism of political paternalists. The labor movement, the immigrant movement, the antiwar movement, the environmental movement, the poor people’s movement: can any say they’ve won? Gay men and lesbians may be winning the culture war at the moment. But they’re nowhere near “victory.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who Inspires You in the Quest for Fairness & Equality?

Submit A Nomination For
The 2012 Youth Activism Award!

The Out In The Silence Campaign is putting out a Call for Nominations for the 2012 Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism. The deadline for submission of nominations is June 30.

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.

2011 Award Winners

Grand Prize ($1,500): Farrington High School Gay-Straight Alliance, Honolulu, HI

Impact Award ($750): Oregon Student Equal Rights Alliance, a statewide coalition

New Group Award ($500): Equality Club at Arapahoe Community College, Littleton, CO

For more details about these groups, see an article in The Huffington Post

2012 Award - Call for Nominations

We're now looking for powerful and inspiring young people, and youth organizations, to be considered for the 2012 Award for Youth Activism!

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, and 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. And we're counting on you to help bring such activism to our attention!

Submit a Nomination, or Apply Yourself, Before the June 30 Deadline!

Just send a brief (one-page max) essay to make the case for yourself, or your nominee, to:

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.

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.”

Thx for Speaking Out for Justice & Equality for All!

Stay tuned for news and updates:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gay Voices Censored By The Huffington Post

On any given day on The Huffington Post, one might see an article promoting a contest sponsored by Wal-Mart, or Apple, or Google/YouTube, or AOL, or some venture capital firm, or even the HuffPost itself, where participants have a chance to win all kinds of rewards and where, of course, the sponsoring corporations get to look mighty charitable and fine.

But, when we submitted an essay to run on our HuffPost blog calling for nominations for this year's Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism, we were told that "The Huffington Post doesn't publish blogs that promote cash giveaway contests,” even though a very similar announcement for last year's award program ran without a hitch!

Now, the purpose of the Award for Youth Activism is not to offer boatloads of cash or other prizes as a way to hook unsuspecting participants into the corporate lair.

No, it's simply an effort to shine a little light on bold and courageous young people fighting against bullying and for equality, dignity and respect, and sometimes their very lives, in too-often forgotten and ignored corners of the world?

Small cash prizes do accompany the awards, but it's really a miniscule sum in the scheme of things, meant only as an honorific reward for the incredible, and unheralded, service these young people give to their schools and communities.

Why would The Huffington Post promote corporate give-aways but not allow mention of a little program aimed at lifting up LGBT youth and their allies, particularly when too many bullies still seem to have an upper-hand?

When we asked for an explanation, we got no response.

But, we will not be silenced quite so easily – And we're hoping you won't either!

Will you please help us overcome these “corporate policies” by joining a grassroots campaign to spread the word about the Award for Youth Activism?

And a sharable jpeg:

Thanks for Speaking Out In The Silence!

Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer

Monday, April 30, 2012

Jamestown, NY Says: "I Love Lucy, But I Don't Love Gays"

Like many rustbelt towns, struggling little Jamestown, NY puts its hopes for a brighter economic future on its ability to draw tourists to sample its charms.

One of those charms, that already draws many fun-loving tourists, happens to be a museum and arts center celebrating hometown girl – comedienne, and gay icon -- Lucille Ball.

Local residents have never seemed too bothered by the fact that their beloved Lucy, when asked about gay rights in a 1980 People Magazine interview, said: "It's perfectly all right with me. Some of the most gifted people I've ever met or read about are homosexual. How can you knock it?"

But, when their openly-gay City Council President, Greg Rabb, recently suggested that Jamestown promote itself as a destination for same-sex couples from other states seeking to get married in New York now that it's legal there, they weren't so amused, even if it might bring in more tourist dollars.

In fact, the local newspaper published an editorial downplaying the idea, then posted a slew of ugly letters and comments from readers attacking LGBT people, the council president, and his revenue-generating idea.

Mr. Rabb starting receiving threats.

How's that for charm, and a Lucy-inspired sense of humor?

Fortunately, many good people in the community rose up and held a powerful Anti-Hate Rally to let it be known that Jamestown would not only NOT succumb to the whims of right-wing bigots, it would in fact be a welcoming, and fun, place for all -- kooky, lovable red heads, as well as LGBT people and their families, friends, and allies!

So, if you're ever in the area, stop by and see the many charms that this beautiful little city has to offer, especially its increasingly visible and vocal LGBT community.  And, by all means, let locals know that your tourist dollars aren't just green, they're pink, and red, and all the wonderful colors of the rainbow.


Learn more at: 


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stand Against Hate in Jamestown, NY - Rally - April 30

Message from organizers in Jamestown NY. This rally is being held in support of openly-gay Jamestown NY city council president Greg Rabb, who has recently become the target of a virulent hate campaign:

There will be a Stand Against Hate in Jamestown rally Monday, April 30, at 6:30 pm (before the city council meeting)  in Tracy Plaza.  This is in response to the Post-Journal's irresponsible treatment of a statement Greg Rabb made about Jamestown becoming a same-sex marriage destination. The resulting ugly response has threatened Greg's safety and made some LGBT people feel unwelcome in their own community. While we know that Jamestown is generally a great place to live, and that the majority of its residents don't harbor hateful sentiments against anyone, we must stand up against this element whenever and wherever it rears its head. It is affront to all of us who believe in the dignity and worth of all people, and we cannot tolerate it in Jamestown.

We are asking all who are willing and able to please join us in making this public statement. We are planning a quiet and dignified event with lots of signs and a few speakers. We hope our numbers will speak for themselves. Dress for the weather, bring your best pro-equality, anti-hate signs (although your support will be just as welcomed with or without a sign), and let's say NO to hate in Jamestown.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Out In The Silence in Central California - March 22 - 25

Three exciting Out In The Silence events coming up in Bakersfield, Fresno, and Chico are aimed at getting audiences fired-up about challenging anti-LGBT bigotry & discrimination and building the local movement for justice & equality for all, with a particular focus on protecting the groundbreaking California Fair Education Act, now under attack by extremist forces in the state.

Filmmaker Joe Wilson will be on-hand for the events with local activists and hopes that a broad cross-section of the public, as well as state and local elected representatives, civic, community and religious leaders will attend to express their support for inclusion, justice and equality for LGBT and all people, particularly youth, who call the communities home.

Thurs., March 22, 7:00 PM - Bakersfield College-Forum East - Sponsored by Bakersfield LGBTQ and BCGSA

Sat., March 24, 1:45 PM - Expression Not Suppression conference - Big Red Church, Fresno - Sponsored by GSA Network

Sun., March 25, 6:30 PM - The Pageant Theatre - Chico - Sponsored by Stonewall Alliance Center, Gender & Sexuality Equity Center, and Cal State Chico Pride

See Bakersfield & Chico event posters below!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Calling All Angels for Youth Activism Award

Last year, we created the Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism to honor courageous young people working to end bullying against LGBT youth and promote safety, inclusion and equality for all in the most challenging schools and communities.

The inaugural effort was a huge success, with over 100 youth groups across the country holding powerful events to raise awareness, offer hope, and create change.

You can read all about it here:
Winners of First Annual Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism Announced

We're now working to turn this program into a prominent annual national award with the attention and support that such amazing young activists deserve. (Pictured at right, Honolulu's Farrington HS GSA, winner of the 2011 Award for Youth Activism)

Out Magazine, The Huffington Post, and Queer Landia are already on-board as media partners, but we need additional support to take it to the highest possible level for kids like Zach, a 16y.o. from York, PA who recently sent this note:

"My dad kicked me out of the house and threatened to kill me when he found out I was gay. But I found new family and friends at my school's 'Out In The Silence' event. Now, I'm not so afraid, and we're working to make it better for other kids like me."

Thank You for your support for the Award for Youth Activism!

If a financial contribution is not possible in these tight times, please help us make connections with other potential media, organizational, and philanthropic partners you think might want to show their support.

All Suggestions Welcome
Contact Joe Wilson at

Thanks for being an Angel for Out In The Silence

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Honolulu Star-Advertiser Promotes Views of Anti-Gay Hate Group

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.

A few important upcoming events include:

Feb. 28
Sponsored by the Lambda Law Student Association
at the UH William S. Richardson School of Law

March 10
Sponsored by the Hawai'i People's Fund
at the Honolulu Musicians' Building - Studio 909

March 16
Sponsored by Pride at Work Hawai'i
Honolulu United Public Workers Union Hall

Learn more at:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Out In The Silence: A Film Everybody Should See"

by Christopher Haight for the Daily Kos - Fri., Jan. 27, 2012:

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. Here's the trailer: