Outspoken Film Series Features LGBTIQ Adventists
The “Outspoken” film series is a collection of short documentary profiles featuring LGBTQ Adventists (most current but some no longer identifying as Adventist) and Adventist parents of LGBTQ children. These short films are being released online the first Friday night of the month in 2017, and the first six have gotten an incredible response. We felt like it was the right time to have short profiles available easily through social media to help share these stories more widely.
The “Outspoken” short film released in July, features Camilo Nazar (http://www.watchfirefilms.com/outspoken), a senior film student at Pacific Union College who also was the president of their unofficial GSA last year and is the new president for the IAGC (Intercollegiate Adventist GSA Coalition). He’s passionate about better media and film representation for queer people of color like himself, and he also makes a powerful argument for why these campus GSAs need to be official.
The “Outspoken” before that (http://www.watchfirefilms.com/outspoken-widmers) featured Pastor Kris and Debbie Widmer talking about their journey once their daughter came out as transgender has been the most watched so far (43,000 views and counting), and several media outlets have picked up their story, including NBC News and Teen Vogue, giving this film a lot of exposure. Several trans advocates have contacted us to say that they are using the film to help parents understand and respond better to their transgender children, and teachers have been writing saying that they are using the film in their classes. All three of the current “Outspoken” films have been widely seen on social media, but I think this one especially resonated and struck a nerve because it’s just such a unique perspective. We so rarely hear from LGBTQ people of faith that their parents are also very isolated and under-heard. The “second closet” that Debbie Widmer talks about them going into is real. As another mom of a queer Adventist said, “Often that second closet is the only door open to us.”
This insight from Debbie Widmer in particular from the extra reporting done in the excellent Teen Vogue article is one I wish every Christian parent could read and absorb: “Initially, I went through a phase of praying for a miracle (which I believe in), but when the miracle I wanted didn’t come, I started questioning my own heart,’ Debbie told Teen Vogue. ‘I spent two years studying only the Gospels, looking for an answer in the life of Jesus. When I quit asking for God to change our 'son' and started to ask God to change me (in whatever way He chose to), then I got my miracle. God began working in my heart and opened up a spigot of love."
Here are several of the articles featuring the film:
• NBC News: “Conservative Pastor Overcomes Struggle to Accept Transgender Daughter” (http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/conservative-pastor-overcomes-struggles-accept-transgender-daughter-n757066)
• Teen Vogue “Religious Parents Open Up About Their Daughter Coming Out as Transgender” (http://www.teenvogue.com/story/religious-parents-open-up-about-daughter-coming-out)
• Refinery29: “Religious Family Accepts Transgender Daughter” (http://www.refinery29.com/2017/05/154368/religious-family-accepts-trans-daughter)
• Spectrum: “Outspoken: Kris and Debbie Widmer Open Up About Transgender Daughter” (http://spectrummagazine.org/article/2017/05/09/outspoken-debbie-and-kris-widmer-open-about-trans-daughter)
• LGBTQ Nation: “Adventist Pastor and Wife Reveal Love for Their Transgender Daughter” (https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2017/05/adventist-pastor-wife-reveal-love-trans-daughter/)
In addition to the broader media coverage, feedback like this has been incredibly meaningful. I also passed this on to the Widmers and their daughter because it is really hard to put yourself in such a vulnerable position to share this story, knowing that some people are going to be critical. But these are the transformations that are also possible.
"I just watched the Outspoken segment featuring the Widmer family. So powerful. Thank you a hundred times. You're changing jerks like me. I remember a time when a trans-gendered person was just a punchline to me. Teagan is God's child just like I am. Thank you a thousand times for your ministry." - A major lay leader in a local Adventist church
Of course, it's always nice to have great media coverage, but that's not why we are so thrilled with all of these articles. What this coverage means is that the likelihood of an LGBT young person (or their parents) coming across these films is higher, and seeing a story like these when you are struggling is a huge help in realizing you are not alone. One of the trans advocates who wrote said directly, "This film will save lives."
We continue to be grateful for the grassroots community that makes these films possible. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to fellowship with our Kinship family earlier this summer for Kampmeeting in San Diego (where we are based now). Love and courage, and a special gratitude to those who are participating in the “Outspoken” series and sharing their stories. Stories really do change hearts and minds. You can find all four of the current “Outspoken” films(http://www.watchfirefilms.com/outspoken) on our website or the SGA Facebook page. (http://www.fb.com/sgamovie)