Threats Against LGBT People Persist in Rural America …

One of the most moving moments in OUT IN THE SILENCE occurs when C.J., the gay teen who has been tormented for over a year at his small town high school, says: “This place isn’t like New York or DC where everybody’s liberal.  I get threats to be killed.”

In August, the OITS Campaign was starkly reminded of just how real the threat of anti-LGBT violence is, especially in small towns and rural communities where even a small minority of intolerant individuals can poison the atmosphere of the entire community.

The ugliness took place in Coudersport, a small town nestled in the ruggedly-beautiful hills of north central Pennsylvania.  Despite a series of harmonious and successful events in neighboring towns, the OITS

Campaign was met in Coudersport by a barrage of Tea Party and fundamentalist activists who tried to shut the screening down and called for defunding the public library simply for being the site of an openly-LGBT event.

Fortunately, the library board was not to be intimidated, and the resulting publicity helped to create an extraordinarily well-attended, diverse and productive town-hall event that received national media attention:  Potter County Library Faced Protests Over Gay Documentary (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

But opponents of equality were not deterred.  They quickly scheduled their own event in the same library and invited as special guest film character Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of PA and the activist most responsible for stirring anti-LGBT sentiment across the state.

The event, titled “A Bible Believing Christian Response to Out In The Silence,” was a remarkable display of hatred and intolerance, capped off by these comments targeting transgender individuals from local convener Robert Wagner:

“I’m gonna put a ball bat in my car, 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’ … In the good old days, before ‘she-males’ existed, they just called such people perverts.”

You can see a video excerpt and read our account of the shocking event HERE.

We are confident that this type of brazen and malicious hate speech will ultimately backfire, but only when we organize to challenge and overcome it!

And that’s exactly what’s happening in Coudersport now.  Prompted by the courageous sharing of personal stories and heartfelt pleas for action by audience members at the OITS Campaign event in July, local LGBT folks and their families, friends and allies have begun work with an important new group called Equality Partners of Western Pennsylvania to promote dignity, respect, fairness and equality for all in the region.

… We Need To Keep Speaking Out

With inspiration and important lessons learned in Coudersport, we’re more determined than ever to go to where the silence is on these issues to say something.

Your support is critical to making it all happen!

Please help us to strengthen and expand the OITS Campaign’s efforts to build the movement for change by

Making A DonationBuying A DVD … or Organizing A Screening Event In Your Community.

We know the Campaign is having an impact in Pennsylvania, and we’ll be continuing our work there this fall.  But there is great need for such work in other parts of the country as well, and we’re working with a range of partner organizations to put together a proactive strategy to reach and serve people in small towns and rural communities in many additional states.  Here’s a glimpse of some of the exciting grassroots tours coming up:

South Dakota (Sept. 11-15) – In collaboration with the ACLU of SD, Equality SD Institute and PFLAG, there will be OITS Campaign events in Sioux Falls, Yankton, Brookings, Vermillion, and Aberdeen, with a big launch event in the South Dakota Film Festival (where, it’s just been announced, OITS will receive the Jury Award for Social Significance.)

Texas (Oct. 11-13) – In collaboration with the University of Texas at El Paso, Rio Grande Adelante and an array other West Texas community groups, the OITS Campaign will be doing events to raise awareness about and help defeat a ballot initiative aimed at overturning a pro-LGBT rights law on the books in El Paso.

Oregon (Nov. 4-13) – Coordinated by the Rural Organizing Project and Basic Rights Oregon, the OITS Campaign will be doing a ten-county tour to support the work of human dignity groups in communities across the state – starting with a big kick-off event at the NW Film Center’s “Voices In Action: Human Rights On Film” series in Portland!

Many more events are in-the-works for 2011 with partner groups in Arizona, California, Maryland, South Carolina,  Utah, and beyond.  You can learn more and find out about all of our upcoming events on the OITS SCREENING PAGE.

Thanks for Your Support and Encouragement!
We look forward to seeing you, Out There, somewhere!

Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson