February 4, 2015 at 2:30 pm EST | by Peter Rosenstein
Barney Frank’s ‘Improbable Journey’
Barney Frank, gay news, Washington Blade, Democratic Party, Massachusetts

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Last week, Roll Call reported that “Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler, the documentarians who filmed former Rep. Barney Frank throughout the Massachusetts Democrat’s final year in Congress, have launched an online fundraising effort to help spread their still-in-need-of-fine-tuning project nationwide.”

There is no doubt this film is a work of passion for the filmmakers. Chandler cites Frank as his motivation for making the documentary, titled “Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank.”

“As Barney Frank puts it, ‘There are things that a civilized society needs that we can only do if we do them together.’” The film looks at Barney’s legislative record but also explores how Frank overcame the challenges of being closeted to become a leading voice for LGBT rights.  “For me,” Frank says in the film, “it’s been a disparity between a very satisfying public career and a private life in turmoil.” Through his story, Canavan and Chandler delve deeply into the meaning and sacrifice of a life devoted to public service.

Those fortunate to know Barney, and I am honored to be one who does, understand the impact his commitment to public service made on his private life. It is the story of so many in the LGBT community who live hidden lives in constant fear of people finding out who you really are and how that could stop you from building the career you want. Although many endure this in relative obscurity, Frank went through it as a public figure. This is one of the reasons so many in the LGBT community and our allies believe this important film needs to be seen by as many people as possible.

Frank (D-Mass.) has become an icon in the LGBT community but not everyone knows he was also considered the smartest member of Congress during his many years there. He had an uncanny ability to focus with laser-like precision on issues of importance and then become the most knowledgeable person in Congress on them. He has a rapier wit. He can take down opponents with a one liner but can laugh at himself. Sometimes it is hard to remember Frank had a career before he was elected to Congress. According to Wikipedia, “In 1964, he was a volunteer in Mississippi during Freedom Summer. In 1968 he became Boston Mayor Kevin White’s Chief Assistant, a position he held for three years. He then served for a year as Administrative Assistant to Congressman Michael J. Harrington. Frank later graduated from Harvard Law School, in 1977, where he was once a student of Henry Kissinger while serving as Massachusetts State Representative.”

While Barney started coming out to friends before he entered Congress he was not ‘out’ in a public way. As so many others, I came out during Frank’s time in Congress. His then very public coming out and his speaking for the community led to my becoming an LGBT activist. He was fearless and at times took the slings and arrows of his own community as he fought for our civil and human rights. Frank’s 2007 speech on the floor of the House of Representatives that led to the passage of ENDA in that chamber brought tears to my eyes and to those of so many Americans.

So we all need to help make the dream of a wider audience for this film a reality. The documentarians need $85,000 to cover the cost of moving this film beyond the festival circuit. We need to help them as a thank-you to Barney. Just go to the Indiegogo campaign site today and make as big a donation as you can afford.

According to Roll Call, “Canavan and Chandler are so sure that we will all respond they are already looking forward to showing the movie far and wide, mapping out plans to dovetail with Frank’s forthcoming book tour by plotting screenings in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and, of course, the District of Columbia.” The current plan is to show the film in the District the week of March 20.

Please join me in making this possible. Barney Frank has dedicated his life to making our lives better. He fought for the rights of the LGBT community; he fought to redress the wrongs visited upon the Japanese American community during World War II; he fought to make the banks and Wall Street more responsive to the people; he has spent his life making a difference and we need to share his work and his life as broadly as possible to inspire others to the kind of selfless public service Barney Frank’s life continues to represent.

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