October 6, 2010 in City

Tour ‘doing what we can to help gay youth’

I’m From Driftwood shares LGBT stories
Chelsea Bannach The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

Film director Marquise Lee and project creator Nathan Manske, left, talk Tuesday at Olive It Café about stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth they’ve collected.
(Full-size photo)

Everyone has a story to tell, but there is not always someone to listen.

A team of three is trying to change that. They set out to collect and share true stories from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities all over the United States.

Spokane was Tuesday’s stop on the I’m From Driftwood Fifty State Story Tour.

The purpose of the tour is to prove “gay people are everywhere,” said project creator Nathan Manske.

“It’s really just to let LGBT youth not feel so alone,” he said. “No matter who you are, what you’re going through, or where you’re from, you are not alone.”

Manske’s inspiration for the project came after he watched the movie “Milk” and recalled a photograph of Harvey Milk in the San Francisco Pride parade holding a sign that reads, “I’m From Woodmere, N.Y.”

To Manske, it meant there are gay people in every small town and big city across America.

Manske is joined on the tour by director Marquise Lee and logistics coordinator Nick Manske. The four-month tour, which will visit all 50 states, began last month.

“We’re just the little gay engine that could,” he said. “We’re just chugging along across the nation doing what we can to help gay youth.”

Nathan Manske was also inspired by his own experience growing up in Driftwood, Texas, where the tour began. His family was supportive of his sexuality, but he still felt alone in the rural town, he said.

“Even to this day, I’ve never experienced homophobia to my face,” he said. “But I have felt alone. When I was younger I just didn’t have anyone to relate to or talk to about it. I just didn’t know anyone that was gay.”

While on tour, the crew will collect hundreds of stories, on video and in writing.

“That’s the point of the story tour – to get these stories in front of people,” Manske said. “Based on the feedback, I know these stories do help people.”

The crew began raising money for the tour in 2009 and will hold fundraisers along the way. Right now, they do not have enough funding to finish the tour, Manske said.

“It’s all very grass-roots right now,” he said.

They have stretched their dollar by crashing on supporters’ couches.

“It feels kind of like crowd surfing,” he said. “People pass us along to the next community or town. No one has dropped us yet.”

The crew chose what towns to stop in based on online suggestions from project supporters.

The reason Spokane was chosen is simple: “The reason we’re here is it’s on the map,” Manske said.

While their reasoning may seem too simple, he said, it shows they really can go anywhere in the world and meet members of the LGBT community.

“It doesn’t matter where we go,” he said. “There are going to be gay people.”

Although the point of the project is to help LGBT youth by showing them they are not alone, Manske said the journey has been rewarding for him, too.

“I’ve actually been learning a lot on this trip,” he said. “

It’s just very inspiring to see people overcome such difficult things in their life.”

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