On Tour: Out in the Silence in Lynchburg, VA

14 Nov
November 11, 2011

For us, traveling to Lynchburg felt like entering the belly of the beast. It is, after all, the birthplace of the “moral majority” and the anti-LGBT industry in the United States, and home to the ultra-conservative Christian Liberty University, the largest private non-profit university in the nation. Although founder Jerry Falwell has passed away, his son Jerry Jr. has proven to be even more politically active. It did not ease our apprehensions to be greeted, on the drive into town, by a gigantic LU emblem carved into a hillside overlooking and dominating the entire town.

Our fears were just that. The screening was held in the very hip and happening Riverviews Artspace, a unique living and working community of artists in a beautifully restored shoe factory. And the audience was very supportive, using the event as an opportunity to connect with others concerned about the future of their community in the face of an economically dominant institution with very different ideas about democracy, liberty and justice.

We were delighted to have in the audience local resident Mel White, one of the icons of the LGBT civil rights movement. Mel was raised as an evangelical Christian, taught that homosexuality was a sin, and fought to overcome his orientation for decades, even as he worked as a ghost writer for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Billy Graham and other fundamentalists. In 1993, he came out publicly when he was installed as dean at the Dallas Cathedral of Hope of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and announced “I am gay. I am proud. And God loves me without reservation.”

In 1998, Mel and his partner Gary Nixon formed the activist group Soulforce to directly confront the increasing anti-LGBT tone of the Christian right. In a remarkable show of courage and gumption, they began attending Jerry Falwell’s church services – and 13 years later they are still at it.

During the Q&A session, Mel responded to a question about the impact of Soulforce by stressing the importance of bearing witness and refusing to go away. It was a perfect encapsulation of what drove us to make “Out in the Silence.” Here’s what Mel had to say…

Inspiring words indeed as we head off to West Virginia for tomorrow’s screening in Charleston.

Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson
A Campaign for Justice & Equality


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