August 6, 2010 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Gay filmmakers face opposition in Pa. town

Gay filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer encountered opposition when they screened their documentary 'Out in the Silence' at a Coudersport, Pa., library last week. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Washington, D.C., gay couple who made a documentary of gay life in the Pennsylvania hometown of one of the men attracted controversy when they held a screening of the film at a public library on July 28.

Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer’s 2009 movie “Out in the Silence,” which follows an Oil City, Pa., gay high school student named C.J. Springer as he navigates his life and education in the town the filmmakers say was often hostile to gays, was screened last week at Coudersport Public Library in Coudersport, Pa., a small town in north-central Pennsylvania. The men are on a tour, seeking to have the film screened in all 67 counties in the state. They’ve shown it about 50 times so far but say the Coudersport controversy, in which a local pastor and a Tea Party activist attempted to halt the screening, was the most opposition they’ve encountered.

“This was probably the biggest blow-out to date,” Wilson said. “We’ve had some opposition on one or two other occasions. The common denominator is that in most places it goes off without a hitch but in places where there are fundamentalist activists based there, they start to stir the pot.”

The news site CoudyNews.com reported that Coudersport Free Methodist Church was calling for “a peaceful phone-in protest” and that Pastor Pete Tremblay urged supporters to “call the library … and in a Christian manner inform them that this event is not a benefit to our community and ask that it be canceled.”

It almost worked. The library waffled and at one point planned to cancel the screening.

“There was some back and forth,” Wilson said. “I said it’s at exactly times like this when the library needs to play its important role in the community that all are welcome and a diversity of programs must be offered.”

Wilson said things got somewhat heated after the screening, which played to a packed house of about 80. He guesses about 25 Coudersport residents appeared in opposition.

He said one minister “started shouting and demeaning” a woman who spoke after the film “reducing her to tears.”

Tremblay, initially reluctant to comment to the Blade, said the experience has left him frustrated.

“They haven’t heard anything we’ve said or answered any of our questions,” Tremblay told the Blade. “It’s obvious to me there’s not interest in a discussion, there’s only interest in vilifying people who disagree.”

Tremblay said he objects most to the film’s assertion that all gays should embrace their sexual orientation.

“I know people who are not comfortable with [same-sex desires] and want to seek healing,” he said. “But if all we say is you have to come to grips with it, those who feel this is not appropriate, there’s no place where they can go. We have to disagree that this behavior should be presented as normative.”

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

9 Comments
  • James Carville is right when he says that Pennsylvania is Philadelphia in the lower right, Pittsburgh in the lower left, and Alabama right up the middle.

  • I am not surprised. There is still a loooong way to go before the GLBT community will be accepted in rural PA.

  • Rural PA should be excised from the state and annexed to W. Virginia.

  • Rural America has a long way to go. But, we are making progress. The filmmakers echo only what we all know. Coming out helps not only our causes, our futures, and our families, but yes even ourselves.

  • Why is it that whenever anything to do with gay issues or gay relations…You have these preachers who rally their community to protest when in reality alot of those in their churches are gay themseleves..Its also a fact that this thing called “healing of gays” is a
    certainly a farce…Being gay is not a virus or cold that you can just take a pill and boom you are cured and now straight…now you can go out and find a wife!!
    Plezzzzzzzz you are who you are and all the hiding in the world will not change that. The movie was about a teen and his struggles and there were many more like him wanting to see how he handled his situation so that they too could overcome the social anxiety…and
    lurid comments and family disputes….Preachers stay in your church and preach…leave the information police alone.

  • I applaud these courageous gentlemen for their work. I have seen this movie and the hateful things that were done to that young man were psychologically very damaging. It’s too bad that the religious haters in this country don’t go back into their pews and pray for forgiveness in interfering in other people’s lives. They are going to get what’s coming to them though, our Constitution doesn’t give these people the right to legislate their version of morality and oppress us through the law. The overturning of Proposition 8 and it’s ramifications for our freedom are awesome. The only thing the religious haters have on their side is hate, fueled by dogma that can’t withstand the witness stand. They can shout and scream in the pulpit, but they can’t lie in court.

  • And most people do not realize this === Pennsylvania does not have a non-discrimination law for the LGBT community. Ask people in Pittsburgh and Philly, and they think such a law exists. Remember, it was a regressive legislator in PA who blocked a Domestic Violence Awareness Month resolution because it didn’t explicity limit the recognition to heterosexual couples.

  • From the picture I can’t possibly figure out how Dean Hamer could be away from his Botox clinician long enough to tour rural Pennsylvania. I guess though that the evidence would suggest if there is a way to leverage controversy and publicity to further his narcissistic self absorption he can find a way.
    There are plenty of enlightened people(and really good colleges and universities)throughout Pennsylvania but with shale oil production threatening the water supply, etc. they have other matters top of mind rather then Dean’s self promtional tour. Dean Hamer, film maker, indeed! Once a hack, always a hack.

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