I think it’s definitely time we had one of these up here that addressed the frequently asked questions people have or have had about the Stories Project. It’s fairly extensive as I would like to address it all in one easy-to-find location on the site. Let me know if you think of something I should add or if there is anything else you’d have wanted to know before speaking with me if you have already done so.
Summary (click “read more” below to see the answers):
The Who, What, and Why
– What is the Stories Project and what purpose does it serve?
– Who is behind the Stories Project?
– Why is this something you wanted to do?
– Who do you accept stories from?
– I’m not sure I have a story. I didn’t know (X person) very well.
– How did you find out about (X person)?
– Do you have the families’ approval to include their loved one(s) in the project?
– Is this a school project?
– Is the project open to LGBT people who are not hate crime victims but would like to share their experiences?
– Why are unsolved murders part of a project that highlights hate crimes?
– Would you still be interested in speaking with me if I said no before and changed my mind?
– What happens if I initially want to participate and then change my mind?
The Interview Process
– What is the process of acquiring a story?
– About how long is the process between the time we speak and the time we have a final version?
– How does a Stories Project interview work?
– What types of questions will you ask during an interview?
– How should I approach my story, and does there have to be a message?
– Do the stories have to revolve around the person’s LGBT status?
– Why do you tape the interviews?
– Do you keep copies of the recordings or transcripts?
What Happens Next?
– Will I see the story before it is published?
– Why do some of the published stories read like an interview and others like a narrative?
– How do you promote the stories after they are published?
Ethics and Privacy
– Can I use a pseudonym and/or change the names of the people involved for personal or professional reasons?
– When you reach out to people, how do you find a way to contact them?
– Are you connected to the media?
– Will you post the stories anywhere else but here?
– Do you intend to write a book with the stories you receive for the project / publish them in a major publication?
– What happens to the contacts/recordings/transcripts/etc.?
– Do you profit from any of this?
– Who owns the rights to the stories posted on the site?
The Who, What, and Why
What is the Stories Project and what purpose does it serve?
Simply put, the Stories Project exists as a place to showcase the human aspects of LGBT-related murders and suicides that are often lacking from the mainstream media and discussions of them. We speak with the families and friends of the victims and ask them to share their stories.
Who is behind the Stories Project?
The Stories Project is run by two queer women named Meg and Alice.
Why is this something you wanted to do?
We are firm believers in the power of the human story. Meg credits one of the victims spotlighted here with the reason she was able to come out at thirteen and become an activist, as well as the reason she is alive to share her story of being attacked. Alice remembers when several of the stories spotlighted here first broke in the news – including the one that frightened her and her partner so much that her partner went back into the closet for another three years. A single human story changed our lives – perhaps they could change someone else’s as well.
Who do you accept stories from?
As of 2015, we accept stories from:
– The families and friends of those lost to anti-LGBT violence or suicide
– Survivors of anti-LGBT violence
– The families and friends of LGBT people lost to violence whose murders are unsolved
– LGBT people who have survived hardship, discrimination, or violence and would like to share their experiences
I’m not sure I have a story. I didn’t know (X person) very well.
It’s ultimately your call on if you want to participate for whatever reason, but we can assure you that you probably do have a story. We have stories on the site from all kinds of people with all kinds of connections, from the victims of violence themselves and their families and close friends to those who only knew them for a year or two in high school. All who would like to share their story, however much or little they have to say, are welcome here.
How did you find out about (X person)?
We have knowledge of a number of stories, many through just becoming more aware of the prevalence of hate crimes. From learning of one, we would often learn of many more – for example, it was because of Rebecca Wight that we learned of other women who had been killed on the Appalachian Trail.
Do you have the families’ approval to include their loved one(s) in the project?
Yes, we do. For each of the individuals we have collected stories about through the project, we have the approval of their family to do so even if they have elected not to share themselves. In the majority of cases, the families are highly involved in the process from the beginning and some have continued to stay in touch with us long after we had a finished story on the site.
Is this a school project?
No. Though Meg began the Stories Project the summer leading into her junior year of high school, it has never been for credit nor affiliated with the school. Her intent is that the project will extend far beyond the years she is in school.
Is the project open to LGBT people who are not hate crime victims but would like to share their experiences?
As of 2013, yes, it is! While the original focus is still the main focus of the project, we do now accept stories from LGBT people who just want to share their experiences.
Why are unsolved murders part of a project that highlights hate crimes?
No one deserves to sit with the unsolved murder of loved one, especially not for as long as some of the cases here have been unsolved. If there’s something we can do to keep interest in these stories alive until they are solved, we want to. Whether they were hate crimes or not, they are members of our community who fell and we should care about their stories.
Would you still be interested in speaking with me if I said no before and changed my mind?
Absolutely. We will never turn anyone away who wants to share. We understand and respect that people feel different ways at different times. We hold no ill feelings toward anyone who declines and will treat them the same way we treat all participants if they later change their mind and do want to be involved. The only thing is, if you’ve declined in the past and now want to participate, you will have to initiate the contact with us – out of respect, we don’t reach out to anyone further after they’ve said they aren’t interested.
What happens if I initially want to participate and then change my mind?
Like we said, we understand and respect that people feel different ways at different times. If you change your mind after initially wanting to participate, we’ll respect that. If a recording or transcript has been made or we have started the editing process on your story, we’ll keep it on file in case you ever want to come back to it.
The Interview Process
What is the process of acquiring a story?
One of us (either Meg or Alice) typically make the first contact – often through email, though we have sent physical Stories Project letters. If you are interested in sharing, we will probably exchange a few emails, as there will probably be things you want to know about the project or us before agreeing to speak. If you share your story via email, you skip the interview and transcribing stage. If you decide to speak over the phone, we will set up a time. Both women answer emails but Meg conducts all interviews and conversations that occur by phone. After that, we will transcribe the taped interview, and then we will pull the transcript into a story. We will edit very little for clarity, and then we’ll send it back to you for editing. When you have a final version that you are happy with, we publish it.
About how long is the process between the time we speak and the time we have a final version?
Two to six months is the average length of time between when we speak and the time we have a final version. Very rarely does it take less than two to six months – we’ll put it off for a bit, you’ll put it off for a bit; it just happens. It’s surprisingly hard to want to go back to it after doing the interview! Some take longer – we’ve had cases where almost a year or more passed in between the initial contact and the final story – and this is okay. We have no time table and encourage people to take as long as they need on it.
How does a Stories Project interview work?
If you decide to share your story via email, we may just use what you tell us initially, or we may ask a few questions more. If we speak over the phone, we will have questions written out; it will be an interview but also a conversation, as we take cues on how and which direction to proceed from you. Unless you do not want to be recorded, we will tape what is said so that we can go back later and pull your words into a story. It’s a simple process that usually takes between forty-five minutes to an hour.
What types of questions will you ask during an interview?
We take cues from you. We have some general questions written out ahead of time, but we also model the interview based on what you want to talk about. In general, we will start and end on a variation of the same question (what do you want to get across in telling your story?). We also typically ask about the memories that stand out the most in your mind about the person you knew, and how their death affected you – but one of the first things we ask is, “Is there anything I shouldn’t go into?”
How should I approach my story, and does there have to be a message?
You can approach your story however you see fit; each one is different. Some people merely want to share their memories of the person they know, others want to impact a larger statement about hate crimes, or justice, etc., others still want to keep the interest alive in a case that’s gone cold. They often do carry a message, but they don’t have to.
Do the stories have to revolve around the person’s LGBT status?
Not at all. For some people, their status as an LGBT person is a defining aspect of who they are, but for many others, it’s only a small part of who they are. Our goal is to share the human aspects of these stories; we want to hear whatever it is you want people to know about the person you knew. There are several stories on the site that reference opposite-sex partners or stress that they don’t want the victim to be remembered just for their sexuality.
Why do you tape the interviews?
We tape the interviews because we want to let your words speak for themselves, not our interpretation of your words. It’s very difficult for us to write up your story in your voice just from taking notes during a conversation by phone or Skype. If you are uncomfortable with us taping the conversation, please let whoever is speaking with you know up-front – we will use alternative methods if necessary.
Do you keep copies of the recordings or transcripts?
We often do, but we will delete them upon request after we have a final version of the story. We keep the transcripts in order to see what we need to improve on when we conduct the next interview, but we have no real need to do so, and will certainly delete them if you would prefer it. As of 2014, we delete the recordings as soon as we reach the editing stage.
What Happens Next?
Will I see the story before it is published?
Absolutely. You are part of the editing process the entire time (you *are* the editing process – the last thing that we do is pull the transcript into a story and minimally edit for readability) and you have complete control over what ends up in the final version. We won’t argue with or change the version you send back that you are satisfied with.
Why do some of the published stories read like an interview and others like a narrative?
We use both formats. When pulling the transcript of the interview into a story we can publish, we decide which one will better stay true to the essence of the story with the least amount of editing of the words. If we can’t decide, we will send both versions for you to make a choice (you can also alter the format in the editing stage.) Interviews where the ideas smoothly transition from one to the next often take the narrative form; ones where the ideas are less fluid often retain the interview form.
How do you promote the stories after they are published?
We utilize social media in its various forms, link to the stories on other LGBT and feminist-oriented websites, direct people to them when we give presentations about activism or hate crimes, and present them in other ways where and when the opportunity arises to do so.
Ethics and Privacy
Can I use a pseudonym and/or change the names of the people involved for personal or professional reasons?
Yes. Though we haven’t had many people use this option, we have no problem with those who would like their name or the names of the people they are connected to obscured for personal or professional reasons. Eve X, a young woman who is a survivor of domestic partner violence, abuse, and rape, is an example of someone who obscured both her own name and the names of those she referenced in her story.
When you reach out to people, how do you find a way to contact them?
If we’re interested in speaking to someone specific and decide to reach out to them, we can usually find an email address to contact them at just by using Google. Sometimes we are also given names and email addresses from the people who speak with us. We don’t dig, just do a quick search and use what is already out there. As of 2015, we have largely switched from the former method to the latter.
Are you connected to the media?
No, we are not. We are not journalists and we neither work for nor have an interest in working for the media. Meg started these projects because of a personal investment in the stories and Alice joined the team for the same reason. All of the effort that goes into running this is on our own time, and we are not financially profiting from them. We’re not here to exploit the pain of those who experienced losing a loved one to murder or suicide.
Will you post the stories anywhere else but here?
At times we will post links to the stories on other websites, but no, we will not copy and paste and post the stories in full on another website. This to us is a breach of trust and ethics – when you agree to participate in the Stories Project, you are granting us permission to post your story here, not elsewhere.
Do you intend to write a book with the stories you receive for the project / publish them in a major publication?
No, we don’t. When the idea was new, Meg considered writing a book as the final form of the project, but that is not the goal any more. Because of the ongoing nature of the project, there is no true “final form” and thus no way to do this. Additionally, some of the people who have shared their stories with us in this form have stated they would not give permission to publish them in a book or major publication.
What happens to the contacts/recordings/transcripts/etc.?
Contact information is purged as soon as the answer is no and a month after receiving no response. As of 2014, recordings of the interviews are deleted as soon as we have a working story version. We usually keep the transcripts of the interviews so we can see how to improve but will delete these as well upon request.
Do you profit from any of this?
Absolutely not. We refuse to profit from the deaths of LGBT people and we refuse to build our careers on the backs of hate crime victims. We gain nothing financially from running these projects; the immense value this work gives to our lives is more than enough for us. We do at times take donations, but they are always given to a (typically LGBT-related, typically local) charity or organization of our or the families’ choosing. Scholarship money won on the Stories Project is handled in the same fashion.
Who owns the rights to the stories posted on the site?
You own the rights to your own story – it’s your story and your words. We do not claim to own any of the stories or pictures we share here. They belong to you and we just use them with permission.
First and foremost, this space is a place for LGBT people and their allies to learn and share. This space is a place for the victims and their loved ones to tell their stories. This space is NOT a place for a debate about the humanity of LGBT people or abuse. This space is also NOT a 101-level course where questions that intentionally miss the point will be treated with respect and politeness. All comments are moderated and subject to Meg and Alice’s discretion. Constructive criticism is welcome. Acting like an asshole is not. Our blog, our rules, and we feel no obligation to give you a platform if your ideas are harmful to those this space was created for.