The Week of Action 2016

TW: Murder and anti-LGBT violence, specifically: Rebecca Wight.

Dates: May 9 – May 15, 2016

This is our official announcement for the Week of Action 2016, which is coming up in just a few short weeks. After a chaotic start to the year, we are now in FULL PREPARATION mode as we move forward into May. If you’re interested in what we have planned for this year’s event, read ahead, or check out our posts from years past under the “Week of Action” tag to the right!

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New Year, New Theme, New Team, and More

TW: none.

It’s hard to believe it’s already April of 2016, yet here we are – and we’re more than halfway through.

I’ve been trying to write this post at various moments since January, and each time I’ve sat down to type it out, I’ve lost the words. It’s been a hard year for the Stories Project Team, and the personal crises and hardships we’ve all endured in recent months have kept our attention from the project and the website. But we are undeterred. We can only move forward from where we are, and we accept that we needed this time the past couple of months to focus on the living members of our community and ourselves.

With that said, we’re at the end of April and it’s almost May, which means our 5th annual Week of Action is right around the corner! In the upcoming two weeks, we’re going to be posting a bunch of information about what we’ll be doing, and what you can do if you choose to take the challenge with us. Though we could have tried to do something grand for the five-year anniversary, we’ll actually be doing the opposite, in the spirit of the very first WoA we ever ran: a small, low-key event for personal growth and reflection. It will run May 9 – May 15.

So much has changed since the last time I updated the blog! The new year has brought with it a new theme, new team, new opportunities, and more. We changed our URL to “the-stories-project.org” last October to reflect the shifting focus of our work, and after a lot of thought and careful consideration of our options, we ultimately decided to switch to a more modern, more mature site theme. We additionally revamped the about pages and the layout so everything is easier to locate and access. The stories we’ve archived are no longer under “About the Stories Project” – they have their own tab where you can read all of them.

The team of women working behind the scenes on these endeavors has grown from two to four. Joining Alice and myself are Taliyah, our new social media coordinator who has years of experience fighting state violence, and Maya, our new outreach coordinator whose background in queer theory makes for oodles of fascinating conversations. We introduced them on the Facebook page a bit prematurely a few months back – they will start to really make themselves known during the Week of Action this year!

If you take a look around the site, you may also notice that we’ve added a few projects, including our collaboration with an incarcerated LGBT artist named Kery who specializes in the creation of beaded jewelry and leather goods, and the Stories Project Emergency Fund, which we’ve talked about doing in various forms over the years. Our portion of the funds we receive through our collaboration with Kery will be put into the fund, which we plan to award to members of the LGBT community experiencing emergency situations and financial need as we have the resources. Our first gift in the amount of $1500, paid for by the team and our generous families and friends, was given this past January to Aurora J., a lesbian, genderfluid artist, poet, and photographer, to help her leave a situation which is becoming increasingly abusive and dangerous.

In spite of the fact that we’ve been quiet these past few months, we’ve actually had quite a few opportunities to spread the word about the projects and connect with others doing similar work! We’ve been focusing our energies on becoming more established as an organization and networking, and we definitely feel like it’s paying off. I’m amazed and humbled by all of the creative, dedicated individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with over the past year through speaking engagements, LGBT film festivals, and events large and small. Because of the encouragement of a few of these people, TSP has a “gig” this June – we will have our own booth in a local Pride festival, and it will be our first. Additionally, because the LGBT film festivals have proven time and time again to be such a rich ground for genuine connection between like-minded people, I’ve signed up to be on the film selection committee for one near me this summer. I’m looking forward to being involved with this group, and I’m looking forward to the new heights we hope to take our own projects to in the near future.

The last thing of note I have to report is that, depending on our financial and work situations next summer, Alice and I are talking about taking a group of people back to Michaux State Forest and camping there. Though I said in 2014 I wasn’t sure I would ever go back, after I returned from that trip, a number of lesbian and bi women expressed that they never would have thought to do that on their own, but now they’d be interested in going too if I ever went back.

So you know what? Let’s go back, together.

Author: Meg

An Emergency Grant from TSP

TW: mentions of abuse, transmisogyny.

If you’ve followed the Stories Project for very long, you know that many of our efforts focus on those who are no longer with us. We reach back ten, twenty, thirty years into the past and forge connections over memories and legacies. We take well-known names whose rich and complex lives have been reduced to their violent ends and we seek out the stories which remind readers every one was a human being before they became defined only as a hate crime victim. We’re the last people who would deny how important it is to reflect on the past in order to create change in the present.

However, we remind ourselves from time to time that it’s important not to become so fixated on those who have passed that we don’t pay attention to the needs of the members of our community who are still alive. Financial support is just one of many ways we can accomplish this, but it is one of the most tangible with the most immediate effects.

With that said, the Stories Project Team is awarding an emergency grant in the amount of $1500 to Aurora J., a lesbian genderfluid artist, poet, and photographer who needs to leave a situation which is becoming increasingly abusive and dangerous. Aurora describes herself as a “lover of arts, music, fantasy, imagination, creativity, poetry, [and] nature,” frequently thanks those in her life who are kind to her for existing, and has expressed a desire to give back to the community through books and art once she is in a better situation.

Her mental health and safety are in danger as long as she remains in her current environment. She faces emotional abuse from the family she lives with, and her physical and mental disabilities along with the job discrimination she has faced since coming out as transgender have prevented her from being able to support herself. She has additionally faced violence and her life has been threatened. After watching some of her story unfold on social media, we reached out to her and her long-distance girlfriend Patricia and offered to cover the remaining amount she would need to feel comfortable moving elsewhere.

This post exists not as a reason for us to pat ourselves on the backs, but as a form of public accountability. We chose to do this as the Stories Project, and when we attach the name of our project to certain actions and promises, we believe it’s important that people feel they can trust us to follow through. Transparency is something we owe to all of the people who have supported us over the years and all of the people who have trusted us with their stories. By making this public, we are leaving a record affirming that we offered this. If we would for some reason fail to deliver on a promise, there would be no way anyone could argue we never promised anything to begin with. Though we would never pledge to do something we knew we couldn’t deliver, we will always be willing to state publicly what we offer in private.

We can’t do anything now for the people whose lives we remember somberly each year, but we can all work to create a world worthy of their memories. For Alice and myself, this involves taking care of the members of our community who are still here and helping them meet their needs as necessary. We wish Aurora and Patricia all the best moving forward and we hope this grant proves useful to them in their endeavors.

Author: Meg

Thoughts on “In the Hollow”

TW: none.

Note: I recommend skipping this post if you haven’t yet seen “In the Hollow” and are planning to. Though I’ve intentionally tried to leave out specific details about elements of the film, I’ve also left the comments from someone who was with me unedited.

“In the Hollow” is a short documentary-narrative hybrid directed by Austin Bunn which is currently making its way around the festival circuit. The film, which combines traditional interviews with images of events past and events present, follows Claudia Brenner as she returns to Michaux State Forest for the first time since the shooting which wounded her and claimed the life of her then-girlfriend, Rebecca Wight. It additionally tells the story of how the crime and Brenner’s activism in the years that followed helped lead to the creation of the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, the first piece of federal legislation to require the collection of data on acts of anti-gay violence.

Alice and I were both present at the premiere screening of “In the Hollow” in Toronto this past spring, and I recently took a group of people to see the film when it screened at the Dayton LGBT Film Festival. We never posted our thoughts about the film, though we highly recommended it and talked about it extensively among our inner circles. When I learned “In the Hollow” won the Audience Award for Best Short Film in Dayton, I wanted to share a bit not only about what I and my group thought of the film, but about what it was like to be in the audience in Dayton. The impact “In the Hollow” had on that audience was immediately seen and felt and absolutely clear from the opening scene, through its fifteen-minute run, until well after the film had ended and the next had started.

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The Stories Project: Mary Wilson’s Story

Mary Wilson was a friend and peer of Rebecca Wight at Virginia Tech. All words below are hers unless specified otherwise.

TW: only brief mentions of death.

I don’t have too many memories with Rebecca. I lost touch with her after I moved to the West Coast in 1981. We went to school together when we were undergrads and then we went different directions. I’d see her around town and campus and we’d stop to chat sometimes. I can still see her now with her long black hair and big round glasses. I think she went by Becky back then. That’s the name I have in my mind when I think about her.

Becky was a good person with a good heart. She didn’t deserve what happened to her. Mostly what I remember is how fun she was to be around. It was hard not to like Becky. She was a little social butterfly. She had a lot of charisma. She was easygoing and open-minded – she’d try anything once! I admire the way she knew how to look at a situation, take a breath and say, “You know, it’s gonna be okay. It isn’t the end of the world.”

You’d never have been afraid of Becky. There’s no way anyone would’ve felt nervous to talk to Becky. She was so chatty and friendly. She wasn’t “Rebecca Wight” then, you know. Wait, that sounds silly. Of course she was always Rebecca Wight. What I’m trying to say is she wasn’t Rebecca Wight the icon, the symbol. She was a person like you and me. She was just Becky, just Rebecca. If you wanted to talk to her you could. She’d talk to you. She wasn’t unapproachable.

Okay, this is a silly memory. I have no idea why I thought of it. It has nothing to do with who Becky was as a person. For some reason I remember she thought oatmeal was disgusting. She didn’t like it and she wouldn’t eat it. I have no idea why I remember that! Maybe it’s because she was so open-minded. There weren’t many things she openly couldn’t stand. That was one of them I guess. It’s funny what you remember over the years.

I had no idea Becky died for a long time. I would’ve never guessed she died in such an awful way. I wish I’d stayed in touch with her, but I’ll always keep the memories I have with her close to my heart.

The Stories Project Call-Out

TW: brief mentions of murder, anti-LGBT violence, suicide.

Hey everyone! We at the Stories Project are so happy and humbled to be celebrating our third anniversary. Over the past three years, we have grown from one director, no stories, and an uncertain idea of what the project was or what we wanted it to be to two directors, twenty stories, and a much more solid understanding of what impact we want to leave as we move forward, thanks to the many people who have taken part and supported us along the way.

BUT…moving forward, we need your help.

We’re at a point where we’re not exactly sure who may be interested in participating. The first year, it was fairly easy to think of some names and reach out to those people; three years later, we don’t really like to do it this way, for a number of reasons. So in order for us to keep the momentum going, we’re going to need a little help. That’s where you come in.

We’re posting this call-out in our inner spheres and are asking anyone who thinks someone in their circles may be interested to do the same. You can share this post, write up your own, or reach out to someone specific; you can share our names with them or their names with us (but make sure the latter is okay first). We are specifically interested in speaking with:

– 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, loss, or violence and would like to share their experiences

We speak to all who want to share, whether you are the survivor or the victim’s sister or their friend from high school. If you have something to share, you have a story.

The general link to our website is here, FAQs can be found here, stories already shared here. Facebook page is here. We’re more than happy to speak one-on-one with anyone who would like to know more. If interested, contact Meg or Alice at the.stories.project.lgbt@gmail.com and we will be in touch.

Authors: Meg and Alice

Self-Care Masterpost 2015

TW: Most of the links are described enough to warn what will be in them, but just so you’re all aware, the post starts off with a list of suicide and crisis hotlines.

My last act for the Week of Action 2015: a huge masterpost of resources for when times are tough, divided into eight categories: crisis and support hotlines, some nice websites, self-care ideas and things you can do when you’re feeling down, disorder and situation-specific things, stress relief, some cute things, some quotes, and some things to restore your faith in humanity.

I recommend not trying to look through the entire thing at once, but rather skimming through the categories and subheadings to see what will help you right now. You can always bookmark it for later if you think you will need it again. 🙂

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