And to think, I was having a pretty good day.
I got on the computer a few minutes ago, checked my Facebook newsfeed, and I saw a link to a video clip (I’ll share it below). I watched it, and I’m just…I don’t know what word I’m looking for. Angry? Sad? Maybe just disturbed. Probably all three.
A little background before I share the video. The video was taken at an event in Coudersport, Pennsylvania (which really contributes to my emotional response to the video, since Coudersport is a small town just a hop, skip, and a jump away from where I live) held by Robert Wagner, a self-described “Bible-believing Christian.” The meeting was meant to be a response to a screening in Coudersport of the film Out in the Silence, a documentary telling the story of a teenager in Oil City, Pennsylvania, facing extreme bullying because he was gay.
I saw the film in Erie, Pennsylvania, and it was very well-received there, but when the film came to the Coudersport Public Library, it was met with a great deal of hostility. Tea Party activists and Christian fundamentalists tried their damndest to shut down the event and defund the library, but they failed, and the film was shown anyway. If you haven’t heard of Out in the Silence, here’s a trailer:
Fast-forward to the event held by Robert Wagner. It was attended primarily by Christian fundamentalists, and the special guest was Diane Gramley (the president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania and a key person in Out in the Silence). Since the fundamentalists couldn’t get the film screening shut down, they apparently decided to hold their own event to vent their hatred for LGBT people. And boy, did they ever vent. Here’s the video taken at the event:
If you couldn’t watch the video for some reason, I’ll go into a little detail.
Particularly disturbing was Robert Wagner’s little rant on transgender people:
I'm gonna put a ball bat in my car, and if I ever see a guy [transgender individual] 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.
Joe Wilson, the filmmaker of Out in the Silence, bravely attended the event and can be seen at the end of the video expressing his sadness at the hate speech coming from Wagner and the general hatred coming from the crowd. As he read from comments made by the AFA’s Bryan Fischer that being gay should be a crime and that gays should be disqualified from public office, many in the crowd shouted “Amen.” How Wilson kept his cool, I don’t know, but he deserves major kudos just for that (not to mention his courage to even show up to a hatefest like that).
It’s just so saddening. To many people, this is a crazy person in rural Pennsylvania spouting bigotry. That’s true. But this is where I grew up. This is where I live now. It’s just mind-numbing that this kind of deep hatred can exist – all around me. This video really brought it home (literally).
Thankfully there are people like Joe Wilson (and his partner, Dean Hamer) who are willing to go to the front lines and fight this culture war. To learn more about Out in the Silence or to lend money or support to the cause, check out the website. It’s really an amazing project that has the potential to open many people’s minds. It’s just a shame that those fundamentalists in the video above didn’t go to the screening themselves…maybe the film and the discussion afterward would have done them some good.