Central PA's LGBT News Source

All the crimes of one in small towns

The power of storytelling and story sharing

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When Nathan Manske spent a weekend in Harrisburg during the 2010 Central PA Pride Festival filming peoples’ stories, he told Central Voice he thinks about “all the armies of one fighting for civil rights in their small town.”

He was referring to the legions of LBGT people he’d met on his four-month, 50-state tour of 170 municipalities that shapes his work with I’m from Driftwood, first a website, then a 166-page book with the same name that portrays first-person stories of gay people across the country.

Inspiration stems from Harvey Milk

The story of why and how Manske created IFD is as interesting as any of the stories he’s collected over a decade.

“The morning after I watched Milk, would you believe I was inspired?” he explained. Although impressed with the movie, what inspired him more was Harvey Milk the person.

An image Manske recalled wasn’t even in the film. It was a photo of assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S., riding on the hood of a car in a San Francisco Gay Pride march, holding a sign that reads, “I’m From Woodmere, N.Y.”

Gay folklore says the sign was intended to show how far people came to attend the San Francisco rally, but the sign meant something more to Mankse. “It meant that there are gay people in every small town and every big city across America and the world. I responded to Harvey’s sign with I’m from Driftwood.”

The tale of Manske’s film project has the feel of a Hollywood story itself. His brother drove the vehicle and they accomplished their goal on a leanly budgeted business plan. Every bit of their challenging journey was worth it he says because “another theme emerged, that it’s not easy living in a big city either. It’s not always the Mecca a troubled young person may think it is,” he says.

The stories on film and in the book show anti-gay people and organizations “we’re not all that different after all. We all have stories and problems and loves and lives just like everyone else. So maybe we should all be treated like everyone else, too,” Manske says.

IFD celebrated its 10th anniversary

“We are elated to reach this milestone in our organization’s history,” Manske said.

“Our goal from the beginning was to share stories from people of every age, race, gender, identity and culture to increase empathy, deepen understanding of LGBT experiences, and empower individuals to live authentically. The stories are also meant to move people to action in their own lives and in their communities, including coming out, advocating for LGBT people, and supporting LGBT elders and youth.”

Wildly successful, the organization has been invited to be a permanent part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In August of 2019, IFD will donate artifacts, stories, and thousands of photos from its Story Tour to the Smithsonian. Prior to making the donation, Manske will display artifacts, photos, and stories in pop-up exhibits in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Austin during the month of May.

To gay teens the message is “you are not alone.” We want our peers to know other people have dealt with similar situations, families, communities and churches, and have overcome. They live happy lives,” Mankse says.