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Just Because I Am

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Contact: Gabrielle Pescador   
Director: Juan Javier Pescador, Gabrielle Pescador
Producer: Juan Javier Pescador, Gabrielle Pescador
Runtime: 46 min
Synopsis: “Just because I am” takes the viewer through the inspirational journey of an LGBT youth group, led by an enthusiastic gay mentor, who together give a response to homophobia by creating a performance on love, respect and tolerance. While experiencing the transformative energy of art and the empowering effects of self-affirmation, these youngsters also face aggravating homophobic reactions unleashed by their collective coming out in a traditionally conservative (USA-Canada) border city.In March of 2010, Windsor Pride Community invited the LGBT youth of Windsor Ontario to participate in a social justice workshop led by gay activist and drama educator Chris Rabideau and a team of educators and social workers. The participants shared stories of their experiences with homophobia and dramatized them into a theatrical play, Waking Up Blue, which was performed for the public on International Anti-Homophobia Day, May 17, 2011. Throughout this process, the LGBT teenagers were also interviewed in depth for the Homophobia & Me Video Project led by filmmaker Gabrielle Pescador, where they shared their experiences growing up LGBT in their schools, families and the community at large. The youth featured in the film give clear accounts of the homophobic environment in the school system - in the classroom, the washroom, the locker room and the hallways. Many are victims of bullying and ridicule, others are dropped by friends and suffer from feelings of alienation, depression and suicidal thoughts. Two of the gay participants were so afraid of bullying at school that they dropped out, one in the 10th grade and the other in the 8th.In many cases, the family is also a source of pain. Parents don’t want to know about it and don’t talk about it, or if they do know, they want their children to change and act normal. A lesbian youth was sent to priests to “cure” her as the “devil was inside her.” She was eventually kicked out of her home.The film documents the voices of this dynamic and courageous group of young people as they go through this powerful process of sharing their personal stories, their fears, their tears, and their hopes and dreams for a world in which they can be free to be who they are and not be condemned for whom and how they love. The most powerful part of the process, according to Siobhan Casey (one of the workshop facilitators) was not the play itself, but the community that had been built. During this period, many of the youth cultivated new friendships with people like them, who knew what it is like to grow up LGBT in their city. Many came out to their families and friends, and all developed a sense of pride in their identity as gay, lesbian and trans-gender. Performing Waking Up Blue for the public on International Anti-Homophobia Day infused the youth with a surge of confidence and hope for the future, that their city listened to their message. Yet 5 days later, they were faced with a crushing reality. Their new-found confidence was put to the test as their mentor, Chris Rabideau, was nearly beaten to death and gay-bashed in the streets of Windsor. But Rabideau voice became stronger. He would not be silenced or knocked down; he spoke out, showing his bruised and beaten face to the public and urged the community to look at what hate does and say “no” to homophobia in his town. The youth followed his lead, showing resilience and strength as they rallied around their mentor in a march of solidarity, not allowing this act of violence to crush their dream of an inclusive and equitable society.
Genre: Documentary, Gay/Lesbian
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