News - March 1996

Teachers release video addressing homophobia in schools

New York -- The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network released Feb. 16 a new video entitled "Setting the Record Straight."

Made by Philadelphia film maker Jim Caiola (winner of a 1995 National Golden Apple Award for his educational film AIDS: The Next Generation), "Setting the Record Straight" features lesbian, gay, and straight teachers and youth addressing how homophobia damages schools in a dramatic eleven minute video.

GLSTN Executive Director Kevin Jennings characterizes the film as a direct response to anti-gay events such as the U.S. House "Hearings on Parents, Schools, and Values" (held at the behest of far right Traditional Values Coalition in December, 1995) as well as propaganda such as "The Gay Agenda," a video distributed to thousands of churches by far right groups over the past few years .

"We are tired of having ourselves defined by people who portray us as predators and child molesters," Jennings said. "The point of the film is to give local organizers a tool with which they can fight back the next time there is an anti-gay initiative in their community, especially one dealing with youth or schools. Such initiatives can only succeed if their supporters can demonize us. We feel the film does an excellent job of putting a human face on the issue and communicating why homophobia must be addressed in schools."

Jennings reported that the first public showings of the film were in Seattle on January 27 and in Boston on February 8 at events attended by approximately fifty people each, and that he envisions it being used in similar settings across the country by GLSTN chapters and other such groups. "It's basically a tool to start a conversation among friends and communities, hopefully on a small scale, where fears can be addressed and overcome. We plan to use it to win our friends and co-workers over, one heart at a time."

Caiola was moved to make the film after his father, a straight teacher, was given Jennings' book "One Teacher in Ten: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories" by a colleague. "My Dad was so impressed by the teachers in the book, and I wanted to find a way to convey their stories on film," Caiola said. Caiola used footage shot by local GLSTN volunteers and then supplemented it with interviews with GLSTN chapter leaders as well as students who attended a GLSTN conference in Washington to produce the final product.

"The video contrasts hateful things the Right says about gay people in general and gay teachers in particular -- which are presented as text on the screen -- with actual faces and stories of those folks, so that the lies become apparent," Caiola said. "I'm glad we can finally answer some of the rhetoric I've been hearing for years now."

Jennings added that local GLSTN chapters would premier the film over a period of the next two months at public events in over twenty cities, and that the video will also be available for other individuals and organizers to utilize. He added that this is the first of three videos GLSTN will produce, with future projects featuring a training video for school staff on the needs of gay and lesbian students as well as a film on lesbian and gay history designed for high school students. "It's the MTV generation, and we've got to use this medium if we're going to be successful," Jennings said. "If the radical Right can do it with The Gay Agenda, so can we."

With over thirty chapters, and a membership of over three thousand teachers, parents, and concerned citizens, The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network (GLSTN) is the largest national organization working to insure that schools are places where all people are respected and valued, regardless of sexual orientation.

[Note: To order copies of "Setting the Record Straight," send e-mail to GLSTN@aol.com. Videos are in VHS format; price is $29.95, plus shipping and handling; the running time is 11 minutes]

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