Dustin Lance Black Goes Back to School with the Homecoming Project: Interview
What can and should students be doing day-to-day in their high school to promote harmony between gay and straight classmates within the confines of the school?
I think having gay and lesbian mentors is huge. I think nothing that dispels those myths, those lies, those fears, those stereotypes, than meeting actual gay and lesbian people, especially ones that these kids might admire and have something to offer. And then they see value in respecting gay and lesbian people. Bringing in gay and lesbian mentors is incredibly valuable. I will also say that when visiting my school one of the things we did while I was there was leave something lasting. And what they didn’t have in North Salinas HS is Gay/Straight alliance so that day we started one with the help of GLSEN.
What advice would you give LGBT students heading back to school in the next few days who might be feeling shame or fear about who they are?
I think it’s so different from school to school and environment to environment unfortunately. And the laws of the land are different too from school to school and state to state and that’s hugely unfortunate. But what they can do, and what I want them to know, is that there are gay and lesbian people everywhere. I don’t care how conservative your school is. There are gay and lesbian students everywhere. And if they are starting to feel isolated they need to do the work to reach out. Find those allies in your school -- you can find them because they are there. It is likely there is a gay or lesbian teacher teaching at your school. Go find them. And if you don’t have a gay/straight alliance in your school, do the social media work. You can go places like TrevorSpace and you can find the people in your community who are gay and lesbian and find those allies, find that support group and from that draw strength. At the very least make sure you have a support group in your school.
Would you go back to North Salinas again in a few years to affect a new generation of HS students?
If they’ll have me I’ll go back every year. I love it.
Harvey Milk was your hero and inspiration growing up. Are you able yet to really wrap your brain around the concept that to someone and to many someones you are their inspiration? You are someone’s Harvey Milk?
No, no, that’s… too big. No. (laughs) I… no.
You have a few projects coming out, a new film J. Edgar and you just had a one night-only stage reading of your new play 8. Can you tell us more about these projects?
8 is a play based on the federal trial here in California against Proposition 8, which would take marriage equality federal, meaning nationwide gay marriage in every state and county. And that was a one-night benefit for AFER (American Foundation for Equal Rights), my foundation, which fights for federal marriage equality. And it was quite a star studded little cast, we have the likes of Marisa Tomei, Morgan Freeman, John Lithgow, Matt Bomer…
The play itself is a gift. It will now and forever go 100% toward marriage equality– it’s a passion project.
And J. Edgar comes out Nov 9th. We have Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer playing J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson, who have been rumored to be more than just pals and coworkers. And I take those rumors on and confirm many of them, deny a few of them, and certainly explore them in a deep way.
It is not necessary to famous, wealthy or even inventor of something as mind blowing as the Post It Note to be a Homecoming Project speaker. You just need to be someone that students can look to for support. Consider what it might have meant to you if someone you could relate to came back to your high school and let you know that you are not alone and there are people out there that are just like you. For more information on the Homecoming Project and information on how to participate check out the Live Out Loud Homecoming Project website.