Dan Savage: It’s ‘never been worse’ for LGBT youth

Founder of It Gets Better Project says higher visibility combined with anti-gay forces can make growing up gay as hard as ever

SAVAGE  LOVE | Dan Savage, shown here at an appearance at the Kessler Theater last year, will appear at UNT on Feb. 7. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Sex-advice columnist Dan Savage, known for his It Gets Better Project, will keynote the University of North Texas Equity and Diversity Conference next week.

“I’ll talk about how it’s gotten worse in some ways,” Savage said.

He said that kids can’t fly under the radar anymore like when he came out in 1981.

“Everyone is hyper-aware in a way they weren’t before,” he said.

He called that a result of the Reagan Revolution, when anti-gay rhetoric became organized.

“Mom and Dad beat up on gay people at the ballot box so it became OK for kids to beat up on gay kids at school,” he said.

This week, Savage said he received a letter from a father whose 13-year-old son recently came out.

“How do I know I’m parenting him correctly?” the dad wanted to know.

As a father with a 13-year-old son himself, Savage gets aggressively protective. He tells parents to make sure there’s a Gay Straight Alliance in school. If the school has anti-bullying policies in place, make sure they’re being enforced and let the principal know you’re watching and “you’ll create holy hell.” And make sure the child has gay role models and friends.

GETTING  BETTER AND BETTER | Dan Savage, right, and his husband Terry Miller started the It Gets Better Project to help LGBT youth. Their original goal was 100 videos but they have more than 50,000 that have gotten 50 million views. (Photo courtesy of Dan Savage)

He advises that when the young teen’s straight friends start dating and they have no other out friends in school, reassure them that their time will come. And don’t be afraid to give an LGBT child the same advice you’d give a straight child. That’s not homophobia, he said. It’s parenting.

But Savage called this “the best of times and the worst of times” for LGBT youth to grow up.

“If you grow up in a rural area, go to a Christian school, are bullied from the pulpit and there’s no GSA, it’s never been worse,” he said.

Savage said that when he began the It Gets Better Project, he and husband Terry Miller hoped for 100 videos. A day after posting that first one, he had topped that number and within a few days had 100 more. He said that at last count there were more than 50,000 It Gets Better videos that have been viewed more than 50 million times. That includes one of the most popular — the City Council speech made by Joel Burns that has been seen more than 2.7 million times.

Two of Savage’s favorite pieces that were included in the book It Gets Better, which will be released in paperback in March, were contributed by A.Y. Daring and Gabrielle Rivera. Daring, who identifies herself as black and queer, grew up in rural Canada. Her simple story tells of moving to a bigger city and entering a university with the oldest LGBT support group in the country. Rivera, a gay Latina from the Bronx, tells youth that, “It doesn’t get better.” But she says that you get stronger.

It Gets Better has been incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Savage said as soon as the videos took off, they trademarked and copyrighted the slogan and “people started throwing money at us.”

“We created a brand,” he said.

He said they’ve had to protect that brand and were able to shut down an anti-gay group that tried to co-opt the phrase.

That money raised has been redirected to GLSEN, the Trevor Project and the ACLU LGBT project. And he would like to see It Gets Better merged into another organization rather than continue as a standalone. Talks with other groups are ongoing.

Savage commented on the presidential campaign and the image of one of the candidates he helped create.

In 2003, in response to an interview in which Sen. Rick Santorum’s called gay sex a deviant behavior, Savage wrote, “There’s no better way to memorialize the Santorum scandal than by attaching his name to a sex act that would make his big, white teeth fall out of his big, empty head.”

As a result, the definition of Santorum that pops up first in an online search of the name has been dubbed the candidate’s “Google problem.”

Savage dismisses Santorum’s campaign, however.

“He’s not running for president,” he said. “He’s running for a Fox News contract just like [Mike] Huckabee.”

On Rick Perry, he wonders how Texans feel about the general impression that Perry’s not smart enough to be president.

“He’s just dumb enough to be governor?” Savage wonders. “I love that Barack Obama is now more popular in Texas than Rick Perry.”

After the George “Rentboy” Rekers scandal, Savage helped popularize the term “lift the luggage” to mean supplying your partner with sexual pleasure. He said studies have shown that homophobic men are turned on by gay pornography.

“Every time a [Ted] Haggard or Rekers comes along, it makes homophobia look gay,” he said. “So we celebrate when they come tumbling out of the closet.”

……………………….

Savage at UNT

The Equity & Diversity Conference at University of North Texas University Union, 1155 Union Circle, Denton. Feb. 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 940-565-2711. Dan Savage will speak at 10 a.m. in the Silver Eagle Suit.

Registration is free for UNT students, $100 for UNT faculty, staff and alumni, $150 for non-UNT students and $275 for others. Onsite registration, available the day of the conference is $350.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Chronicle blogger blames ‘It Gets Better” project for LGBT teen suicides

Kathleen McKinley

Kathleen McKinley

Kathy McKinley is a self-described “conservative activist” who blogs for the Houston Chronicle under the monicker “TexasSparkle.” In a recent post McKinley took the “It Gets Better” project to task for what she believes is their culpability in the suicides of LGBT teens:

“These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.”

McKinnley’s primary confusion about the “It Gets Better” campaign (other than its name) is the assumption that the goal is to encourage teens to come out of the closet, or encourage them to become sexually active:

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet. The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later.”

I would like to encourage Ms. McKinley to watch the “It Gets Better” project’s founder Dan Savages’ video. Please, Ms. McKinley, listen, and tell me if you hear Savage or his partner Terry say anything about teens coming out or having sex. I think what you’ll hear them say is that all of the things that most kids, gay and straight, dream of (falling in love, starting a family, having the support of their parents, co-workers and friends) are possible for LGBT teens. I think you’ll hear them talk about how difficult their teen years were, and about the fears they had that their parents would reject them, that they’d never find success and that they’d always be alone.

Choosing to have sex is one of the most personal decision a person will ever make. For LGBT people, choosing to come out is another. I have not watched all of the thousands of videos from people who have participated in the “It Gets Better” project. It’s possible that there are a few that tell kids to come out right away, or to become sexually active, but I doubt it.

Every video in the project that I have seen has had the same simple message: that the person making it understands how tortuously awful the experience of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in Junior and High School can be, but there is a wonderful world of loving, vibrant, successful, engaged LGBT adults out there and if queer teens can just hang on, just for a few years, they can join it. I doubt that any of the contributors to the project think that hanging on for a few years will be easy. I suspect that most of them remember, with excruciating clarity, contemplating ending those temporary years of terror with a permanent solution and that is why they choose to reach out.

I grew up without role models, where people like Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk didn’t exist . I grew up in a small town where the two men with the pink house were talked about in hushed tones that immediately fell silent when I walked into the room, because it wasn’t appropriate for children’s ears. I grew up in a world where my mother wouldn’t tell me what “gay” meant, where the evening news was turned off if it reported on the AIDS crisis, where I wasn’t given words to describe who I was, and so the only word I could find was “alone.”

I was lucky. My suicide attempt failed.

I was lucky, I survived, and went to college, and found a church that embraced and loved LGBT people. That’s where I met doctors and lawyers and business owners and teachers who were like me. That’s where I met two wonderful women who had built a life together for over 50 years. That’s where I discovered I wasn’t alone and that being gay didn’t mean that i couldn’t have all of those things I’d dreamed of.

That is what McKinley missed in her blog post. In her haste to lay blame on anything other than the overwhelming prejudice perpetuated by schools, churches and governments against LGBT people McKinley missed the fact that kids need role models. In her rush to shove queer teens back into the closet she forgot that human beings need the hope of a better world, lest they give up in despair.

McKinley got one thing right in her post. She titled it “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.” Adults are to blame for LGBT teen suicides. When adults hide the stunning diversity of God’s creation from their children they create a vision of reality that some of those children can’t see themselves in. When adults tell LGBT teens that they should be invisible then it is all too clear who is to blame when those teens believe them, and take steps to make themselves invisible permanently.

To all the LGBT kids out there: it does get better. There are adults who care about you and want all the wonderful things you dream of to come true, but you have to hang on. If you need to keep who are secret to remain safe then do so. If you need someone to talk to please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386).

—  admin

Queer Music News: George Michael to go way gay on new album, but with whom?

The word is out that our favorite former sometimes-Dallasite George Michael is working on an album collaborating with a specific group of musicians. NME reported that “The singer, who is due to tour the UK in the winter with a 41 piece symphonic orchestra, had previously revealed that his next studio album would be made with a collective of gay artists, in an effort to ‘correct the damage’ his recent behavior had caused in ‘letting young gay kids down.’”

Now I’m a fan of Michael, but you know, I was let down too by his behavior and I KNOW his music. Our 19 year-old intern didn’t know much about Michael post-Faith. Come on, George. Us older fans want some of your attention, too.

ANYWAY, with his new vow to work with “either gay or gay friendly artists – possibly unknown ones,” I wondered who would be a good match. Minus bigger queer stars, I went from mid-range down:

  • Uh Huh Her — Sort of like the Pet Shop Boys of the lesbian crowd, this duo has cool pop chops and bring their own brand of sexy to match Michael’s. Vocally, he’d probably own them, but altogether, I’d predict a hit.
  • Big Freedia — I’m not sure if Michael could handle Freedia’s big booty bounce, but it would be fun to see him try to keep up. Michael may be the veteran, but Freedia would shine more.
  • Adam Lambert — This might be an easy call, but I think these two could be phenomenal together. There are enough similarities and differences and each would boost each other to different levels. Lambert’s big but still not huge so I think he’d fit in fine.
  • Diamond Rings — I think Michael could win with Diamond Rings writing his songs. It would bring him to an edgier level. Michael could use that without going overboard and Diamond Rings would know how to do that.
  • Sia — As much as I’d want to say yes to this, I think any collab between them would be a little odd. He’s too polished, she’s too eclectic, but vocally, they could be nice together.

That’s just what I think. Who would you pick?

—  Rich Lopez

Backtracking

THE U WORD | Texan Camila Grey, left, teamed with ‘L Word’ star Leisha Hailey to form indie duo Uh Huh Her.

As they make their way to SXSW, queer duo Uh Huh Her scales back for sophomore release

The dream of most bands might be to find a label and release a well-produced debut album. Hustling to keep it afloat? Not so much. Job security is still a nice thing, even in the music industry.

Uh Huh Her sees things differently. You might even think they just took two steps back after a major leap forward.

“Yeah, we are weirdly going the other way,” laughs Camila Grey, half of the  indie duo. “Our success was immediate: We got picked up by a label right away and had this glossy pop album under our belts.” But despite that welcome mat, Grey and her music-making partner, Leisha Hailey, wanted to work for their success. So they did what any new band starting out would do. They dumped their label.

Uh Huh Her’s 2008 debut, Common Reaction, was a stellar disc of well-constructed songs that hinted at ’80s New Wave with alt-rock sensibilities. Recalling the likes of Ladytron and Le Tigre, UHH was poised to become the Next Big Indie Thing. They were far from hurt by the built-in audience brought in by Hailey, star of the lesbian drama The L Word.

“That was our core fan base because the audience did follow her,” Grey says. “That was also part of the immediate success. But we’ve been able to grow it from there. Now our audience is all over the place, from straight couples to gay kids. And it’s just widening.”

Having been off the radar for most of the past year, UHH is set to release their second full-length album, Nocturnes, later this spring. Grey promises a grittier, edgier, more personal sound.

“The beauty of this album is we did it all on our own,” she says. “I produced and we recorded it in our own studios. I think it’s bringing us back to our roots. We want to focus on this again and give it another go.”

With a liberated approach, Grey didn’t feel the pressures to sound a specific way as “encouraged” by her label.

“We have lives aside from the band and the realistic situation was knowing we can do this on our own terms,” she says.

Grey and Hailey produced an EP at breakneck speed and took it on the road. Six tracks made up Black and Blue, recorded and packaged in less than two weeks to use as a promotional tool for the tour. They have taken their musical destiny into their own hands.

“We work really well under pressure,” Grey laughs. “The whole thing has been labor of love and we put more care into these two things. There’s no pressure from The Man anymore.”

UHH is on the road now, and will play in Dallas after coming off gigs at Austin’s South By Southwest Festival, where they could easily be cited as the next It band if the right people see, blog and tweet them well. But Grey isn’t concerned about being that band; she’s a musician at heart and creating music is her primary goal.

UHH played SXSW two years ago, but Grey is throwing expectations out the window to just have fun. They have four days of gigs lined up before heading to Dallas, where she was born (she grew up in Austin). What surprises her most is the Dallas audience.

“Texas always gives us more love,” she says. “It’s so weird the markets that we’re popular in are more conservative ones. We’ve always had a packed audience with great energy in Dallas. Houston’s the same. You’d think that would be more so in a city like Austin.”

Guess Austin hasn’t cornered the market on knowing good music after all.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

‘Born this Way’ photo essay blog is charming as hell — and has nothing to do with Lady Gaga

Thanks to Brad over at Gilley’s for tipping me off to this (albeit inadvertently through Facebook). He linked to this new photo essay/blog titled Born This Way. In it are images submitted by people who, in hindsight, can see the gay coming in their childhood photos. By the looks of it, the first post was published on Sunday, and already there’s a pretty impressive collection.

Born This Way is Paul V.’s project (and yes, Gaga’s next album title). Paul V. is a DJ based in Los Angeles, but I’m really hoping he sticks to this project. There’s such a heart to the pictures that makes it so super charming and even funny — but in a good way because you’ll likely relate to it.

Paul V. was inspired, if you will, by the recent teen suicides as well as the political movement and rhetoric around Prop 8 and DADT. Initially he thought his idea would be great as a book, but after sitting on it for a while, he told me he just wanted to get it out there. And it’s caught on — like wildfire. “I’m a little inundated but it’s great,” he said. “The first photo (above) was from a MySpace friend. I just thought if any pic ever proved that we feel what we feel and it comes through, this was it. I was heartbroken by the suicides and if  young people find this blog and realize there have been gay kids forever, they see they aren’t alone.”

—  Rich Lopez

Is Garland-raised country star LeAnn Rimes an LGBT ally or a phony hypocritical sellout whore?

From the ones we missed file, above is touching video footage of North Texas’ own LeAnn Rimes performing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles — led by guest conductor Tim Seelig — at a holiday concert last month. Rimes, who grew up in Garland, is overcome with tears as she talks about the gay youth suicide crisis before teaming with the chorus for a beautiful performance of “The Rose.”

Fast forward to tonight, when Rimes is performing again – this time at a fundraiser for (gasp!) House GOP freshmen. As Queerty notes, the fundraiser is being hosted by California Rep. Jeff Denham, who, while a state senator, repeatedly voted against recognition of marriages from other states. And the $2,500-a-plate fundraiser is designed to re-elect lawmakers who undoubtedly will help block consideration of any pro-LGBT legislation — including a federal law to protect gay kids from bullying in public schools — for the next two years.

So, to rephrase the question from the headline, should the LGBT community have learned something about Rimes from her extramarital affair with Eddie Cibrian?

—  John Wright

Marketing pitch: If you don’t fly somewhere and get married, more gay kids will commit suicide

Some may recall that in the wake of 9/11, the marketing folks seemed to be pushing the message that everyone in America should go out and buy stuff because, otherwise, “the terrorists win.”

We were reminded of this Wednesday evening when we received a press release from a company that provides “full-service destination weddings.” The company, which has offices in Dallas, announced in the press release that it’s expanding its focus to include the LGBT community.

And that’s great, but we were a little turned off by this quote in the press release from one of the company’s executives:

“… We support the idea that marriage creates stable, committed unions. We believe that everyone must be supported in building stable, empowering, and respectful relationships. In light of the recent trends of gay teen suicide and bullying happening in the U.S., where most of our clients reside, it is our obligation to demonstrate that happy, committed relationships do exist and are possible for everyone. By providing a flawless destination wedding experience to our couples, we can do just that. … ”

—  John Wright

KLIF loves homophobic bigots

I don’t know how this audio escaped me until now. KLIF drive-time jock Chris Krok ranted about Joel Burns recruiting kids to the “gay lifestyle” complete with prissy lisp. Apparently, while the rest of the nation was praising the honest open-heartedness of Burns’ confession, Krok felt that since “not one gay kid in Fort Worth” had committed suicide, Burns should not have wasted council time talking about “me, me, me.”

Clearly, Krok hates gay people, hate gay kids especially and doesn’t care how many die or are bullied. KLIF thinks this is appropriate entertainment for its listeners and advertisers. I don’t.

Listen to as much as you can; I found it hard to get past about 40 seconds but made it beyond 5 minutes eventually.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Feedback • 10.29.10

Forget “firing” Arkansas school board member Clint McCance or simply “reprimanding” him (“Joel Burns responds to Arkansas school board member who encouraged gays to kill themselves,” Instant Tea, posted Oct. 26). He should be arrested for inciting violence.

He doesn’t understand the uproar because he actually does not believe gay people are “real” people. That is how intense his hate is.

I understand about “free speech,” but if you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater or make terrorist threats on a plane, then you shouldn’t be able to use a high school campus as a platform to tell gay kids they don’t deserve to live.

I grew up in South Arkansas, so I am very familiar with how small towns in the South can serve as a breeding ground for hate and violence against gay people. I thank God I survived. I had no one to turn to, not even my own parents, which is often the case with gay adolescents.

People in Midland who genuinely care about their young people need to march in the streets over this and take advantage of this opportunity to learn and grow and dispel the myths that cause so much hatefulness to be directed toward young gay people. Children do not “turn gay” or “choose to be gay” or “become gay.” They are just gay, and terrified to be honest about it around people who have a lynch mob mentality. And sadly, it is the adults who claim to be Christians who actually pass these violent ideologies and misinformation on to their children.

These comments would never be acceptable if they were spoken about heterosexual students, so why are they accepted when they’re directed at our young gay students? Slap some handcuffs on this person immediately and find something to charge him with — even if he just has to sit in jail overnight — and send a loud and clear message to students on the brink of suicide that Midland School District unequivocally does not tolerate this hate speech and before another amazing student decides jumping off a bridge tonight would be better than going to class tomorrow.

Randy in Dallas

—  Kevin Thomas

Indecent ‘Proposition’

For documentarian Reed Cowan, a gay man raised Mormon, taking on the LDS church became a different kind of mission

STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com




CHANGING FOCUS | Cowan saw a bigger story when his film about Mormon gay youth kicked out of their homes opened up to a world of prejudice by the LDS church detailed in ‘8: The Mormon Proposition.’




Proposition 8: Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Getting a movie into the Sundance Film Festival is an honor in itself, but unexpected consequences always follow. For some, it’s fame and fortune.

For Reed Cowan, director of 8: The Mormon Proposition, it was death threats — a result that was especially surprising since the movie he ended up making was not the one he set out to film.

“I was raised in Utah in the Mormon church and to know that other young Mormon kids were being kicked out of their homes after coming out really pained me,” says Cowan on a recent trip to Dallas. “Ninety percent of the kids on the street in Salt Lake City in the dead of winter are gay kids. I thought, I have a camera and I can shine the light on that. So we started out to do a film about that.
“Then Proposition 8 began to bubble.”

Cowan planned his movie to touch on the initiative though he never anticipated Prop 8 would pass. Then the vote happened.

“So many of us woke up the next morning just feeling like, are you kidding? If we can’t win California, we can’t win anywhere. So many of us — gay or lesbian or people sympathetic to LGBT causes — were sickened by it,” he says. “In a figurative sense, if we were in a battle, I felt like I was sucker-punched and I looked around at my feet to see what stones I had to throw.”

As a response to the vote, Broadway singer-actor Sam Harris recorded a video blog that caught Cowan’s attention.

“He was so incensed because he’d just gotten married and was working to adopt a child and he did this vlog that was so eloquent and so beautiful,” says Cowan. “My God, here’s an artist who’s taking his resources, his music, his talent, his voice and he’s doing something about it the very next morning! What do I have at my arm’s length? I have a camera. I have friends who can edit. So that’s what I began to do.
It’s been an incredible journey.”

The film began sending shockwaves through the church before it was even completed. But perhaps the most amazing development for Cowan was the amount of information that was dropped in his lap — literally, as the box of documents that is one of the movie’s smokingest guns.

“A young man who worked in the LDS church archives came out of the woodwork and approached me directly. [His] father is very high up in the Mormon church and he was allowed access to things that most people aren’t.”

Cowan’s informant learned that high-ranking Mormons put together an internal study about gay and lesbian issues.

“It was 1,500 pages he copied and took off with. I have every one of them,” Cowan says. Those documents have since been submitted as evidence in the trial challenging Prop 8, which began closing arguments this week.

Cowan’s own life has faced destruction on multiple occasions, many directly attributable to his Mormon upbringing. When Cowan was doing his missionary work (which brought him to North Texas), he genuinely believed what he was preaching and he believes even now that many people within the church aren’t motivated by hate.

“Prop 8 wasn’t done with malice. Bigotry isn’t often done with malice. As one of the people who was in my film said to me, ‘But we do it with a smile,’” he laughs. “We do it with a smile! You don’t have to have malice and desire to go slash somebody’s throat to actually do things to destroy their lives.”

After getting married and having a son, Cowan’s wife left him and he finally came out. Today, he has adopted two children with a partner, Greg Abplanalp, whom he’s known since elementary school.

“In high school we had a relationship and one night in our small Utah town I was beaten almost to death, almost Matthew Shepard-style, where they stood over me in disgust, where they had taken me to finish me off. I lived, but my dad was so afraid that he sent me on a mission and told me I was never to talk to that boy again,” Cowan says. “And I didn’t for 13 years.”

Cowan even was counseled by a church leader to write a letter to Abplanalp condemning him, which he reluctantly did.

After reparative therapy, aversion therapy, visualization therapy and other approaches to “cure” him failed, Cowan approached another leader for guidance. That’s when he was told to marry a woman; it didn’t last long.
“I had been divorced a year, had my first relationship, got my heart broken,” he says. “I believe in karma and the person who’d broken my heart kind of just dumped and ran. I thought I was obviously experiencing the pain I caused somebody else.”

He learned that Abplanalp lived two blocks from him while he was married. Cowan wrote him an apology and they decided to meet. The two reunited and began raising Wesley, the boy born from Cowan’s marriage. Two years later, Wesley died in an accident.

“Greg saved my life after the death of my son. He’s the reason we built 25 schools in Africa for AIDS orphans in my son’s name. That’s why I fight,” he says of his decision to make the movie.

“Life taught us we’re braver and stronger and smarter than we ever thought we were,” he says. “But our little boys deserve to know that we’re a family and that the U.S. government sees us as a family and that if they’re going to define families by marriage, which I have my issues with, and give benefits to families that are married, then by damn, my kids deserve that. My kids deserve the same thing.”
It’s a fight he’s willing to pursue even though some want to stop him. Which is where the death threats come in.

“You wouldn’t believe the letters I’ve gotten from religious people,” Cowan says. “Three days ago, a guy calling himself ‘Christian4life’ wrote, ‘God took your son away from you because you’re a faggot. And your son would’ve had a horrible life and that’s why he died.’”

So many people bring his son’s death into their hate-filled letters that he’s made the agonizing decision to move his son’s body to a private grave.
But the film has generated positive feedback, too.

“I’ve had letters from gay people in their 70s that say, ‘Finally you lanced the wound, thank you.’” he recalls. “I’ve had gay kids as young as 12 and 13 contact me. I’ve had religious people say, ‘Thank you, you helped me see things differently.’”

His goal for the film is simple: A complete and total separation of church and state in our country.

“This movie is ultimately for the voter. Look at what happened with your sacred vote. Look at how the blurring of lines between church and state resulted in your sacred vote being used to achieve the objectives of a religion. And look at the danger of becoming a theocracy in history. Do we want a democracy or theocracy?” Cowan asks.

Ultimately, though, he hopes his film brings about change.

“Gay people are tough. We’re resilient. We learned to be from the time we’re in school. Most of us survive, God rest the ones who don’t,” he says. “We lay our own lives down and give our days in the service of kids who are growing up gay to make it better for them.”

………………………………………..

Infuriating brilliance

Reed Cowan’s emotionally charged and ultimately enraging documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition opens today at the Angelika Film Center, almost two years to the day after the first legal gay marriages occurred in California. It’s a fitting release date for a film that so candidly and energetically explores the LDS church’s role in reversing the decision to recognize same-sex marriages.

His 80-minute film delves into the bowels of the church to uncover a history of bigotry and exclusion. Cowan, who was raised Mormon and persecuted for being gay, frequently sought for the Mormon church to tell its side of the story, though he was mostly refused.

Cowan’s connections gained him access to hundreds of pages of private documents as revolting as they are incriminating. 8 is powerfully inspirational and should prompt every LGBT viewer to action, no matter where they previously fell on the subject of gay marriage. Even when it’s at its hardest to watch during scenes of overt condemnation and reenactments of the covert torture of homosexuals within the Mormon church, the revelation of such raw hatred and destruction is impossible to shake.
— S.L.

4 stars
Opens today at Angelika Mockingbird Station.

This article appeared in the National Pride edition in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice