In mid-February of this year, Hofstra University where I have been a faculty member since 1992, gave me permission and approval for my team to begin filming a documentary of my recently published book, Talk it OUT/No More Gay Shame on Amazon.com.
The studio is booked, the crew is set to go, and the cast list is set with more men asking to be a part of the film every week since I first starting talking about this documentary with friends and colleagues. I even submitted my grant proposal to the Office of the Provost for their approval but was unfortunately denied, fortunately, I have received support everywhere else. The Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement has shown the strongest interest in the film and have been very supportive and encouraging enough to suggest their potential financial support for the film.
This documentary marks a culmination of all my work with my book, my radio show, and articles I have written for Edge Magazine and here on the "Gay Voices" section of The Huffington Post where I was a featured columnist for more than five years. And, it is with all my work in mind that I decided to pursue this most recent endeavor to produce this film and be group leader of these men and students in the film. The game plan of this documentary is to tell my story and that of others, toward "shedding a light" on gay shame and its often detrimental effects within the LGBT community.
As implied by the title of the documentary and book, the focus of the film is on the subject of gay shame and on the statistically high number of gay men who have lived their lives with a proverbial "gorilla on their backs!" Through the art of storytelling, along with their personal videos and photographs, the documentary will allow for the telling of the eight to ten men's life experiences and those of several LGBTQ Hofstra students to show how gay shame played a detrimental effect on their lives.
An example of that shame is also exhibited by many members of our community often feeling forced into leading a "double life" based primarily on lies about one's true sexual identity. Recent statistics have shown high numbers of gay men with either sexual addiction or substance abuse for that "quick fix," often as a result of feelings of shame for who they are and, feelings of guilt simply for being sexual with another man.
Most importantly, the problem with constant bullying (both in our youth and present day) will be shown to be a primary reason as to why many gay men have often chosen to their lives in secret for fear of either being humiliated, or at its worst, injured or killed. I, for one, was bullied as a child for whatever reasons the bullies thought was justified, which led to feelings of low self esteem and fear of self discovery. The subsequent result, was a sexual addiction which I found help with in supportive 12 Step groups primarily with other gay men at the LGBT Center in NYC.
Another momentous experience which helped me come to terms with my sexuality, was in college when I went to a gay club meeting which eventually, led me to my finding a gay Catholic priest who supported and comforted me enough to go to my first Gay Pride March in Albany back in 1972; three years after the Stonewall Riots. As a result, I felt like one of the early pioneers in the gay liberation movement and subsequently, a role model for others; including two of my gay cousins.
This documentary will provide the men and students involved the permission to tell their stories openly within a supportive group environment where the stories of their personal experiences with gay shame will be shared both within the group and, in front of the camera. Along with my professional capacity as a trained drama therapist/psychotherapist, the plan is to "play out" some of those experiences through dramatic role-play;a drama therapy technique where the group participants will have the opportunity to "act out" significant moments in their lives when feelings of gay shame were experienced.
Present plans are to have the documentary completed by June of this year with a screening of the documentary to be shown to students and faculty soon after along with the endorsement of the administration at Hofstra. Consequently, I will be more than a little anxious over the next few months that everything goes according to plan as I continue to teach my classes, produce and host my weekly radio show at WRHU and promote the film. Wish me luck and I pray many will be emotionally affected by what they see and hear and will result in an increased awareness on gay shame and a hopeful decrease in self destructive acts worldwide.