On Tour: Surprised in West Virginia

18 Nov

The On Screen/In Person event in Charleston took us by surprise.

During the four-hour drive across the mountains from the previous night’s event in Lynchburg, VA, the only station the car radio could tune-in featured a fundamentalist Christian minister trumpeting his latest book, “complete with flip charts,” debunking “false” religions, particularly Mormonism. And while the scenery was breathtaking, the highway was lined with billboards railing against the EPA and other “job killing” government programs on the one hand, and promoting adult entertainment, “gentlemen’s clubs,” and good time casinos on the other.

So, our expectations for the showing of a film on LGBT issues were not high.

Then, we pulled into town and saw the stunningly beautiful host venue, the Clay Center for the Arts, and were given the warmest of welcomes by the staff, who were all very excited about the event. By showtime the theater was nearly full, and folks seemed ready for a good time.

Though Charleston is West Virginia’s capital and most cosmopolitan urban area, the very engaging post-screening discussion with the audience revealed that the movement for LGBT rights in the city is much more on par with what we tend to see in small towns and rural communities than in other big cities. One of the audience members, Justin Gilmore, had actually seen the film previously in Pennsylvania, where as a small town college student he was one of the founding members of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition.

We soon learned from Justin and other audience members of all the good work that is going on in Charleston and across the State. Fairness West Virginia, the newish statewide civil rights advocacy organization, is fighting hard to introduce equality legislation. Step by Step, a volunteer-staffed community organization, has inaugurated an anti-bullying program. There is a straight and gay faith-based group called SAGA at the local Episcopal church, and as in so many communities the local chapter of PFLAG plays a major role in support, education and advocacy.

Justin Gilmore and Aaron Gumm at OUT IN THE SILENCE Screening in Charleston WV

After the screening, Justin stopped by our information table and asked if it might be possible to obtain a copy of the film to show in some of the schools he’s been working with on the anti-bullying campaign. We ended up giving him 20 copies of the DVD and Discussion Guide. We’re sure it will be a worthwhile investment.


Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson

It’s more than a movie, it’s part of the movement for fairness and equality
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