The Oscar-winning screenwriter said: “I heard from an very early age that homosexuality was a sin next to the crime of murder. So from the age of three, I knew I was down there with all the sinners and murderers and rapists.”
1. This week Hollywood screenwriter and gay rights activist Dustin Lance Black made an emotional speech in favour of gay rights and marriage equality.
The Oscar-winning writer of Milk was speaking in Dublin after receiving an honorary life membership to the Law Society of University College Dublin.
4. The theme of the 40-year-old’s speech was the power of personal narratives to change hearts and minds about gay rights.
You can’t change minds by arguing the truths, by arguing the law, by arguing the facts and the science, the thing that changes hearts and minds is story. So I’ll tell you a little bit about mine and how I got to this place.
6. Black talked about his upbringing in Texas as a Mormon, which he called “the only church that makes the Catholic Church seem really open-minded”.
Growing up in that church, I heard from a very early age that homosexuality was a sin next to the crime of murder. So from the age of three, I knew I was down there with all the sinners and murderers and rapists.
It was very scary, and I love my family to death, but I know that’s how they felt, because that’s what we had learned.
7. The crux of the speech was about how Black’s mother, who died last year, came to learn of and ultimately accept her son’s homosexuality.
8. As a young student, then living in West Hollywood, Black once tried to tell his mother about his sexuality.
But before he could, his mum started talking to him about the new US “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law, which she said she opposed for being too “inclusive” for letting gays serve in the military (that policy has since been repealed).
Listening to her, I prayed that I wouldn’t cry. Before I knew it that first tear hit my cheek. The room went silent, and I looked up into her eyes. She knew, I didn’t have to say anything. But loud and clear, what I heard in that silence was that it wasn’t ok, that she was afraid for her son. What had she done wrong to break her precious boy, and how could she fix this horrible problem? That’s what that silence said, because that’s what she’d learned, all of those years growing up the way she did.”
10. But a few months later, Black’s mum came to visit him in Hollywood, where she met some of his gay friends.
They just started talking to her about their gay experiences, how their families rejected them for being gay, even their sex lives.
Later, when it was just the two of us, my mom said: “So I met your friends. One in particular, that 22-year-old graduate student? Well, we had a long talk, and he’s ok, but I told him he ought to start treating you a little bit better, and the next time he takes you out, I think he ought to pay.”
And she looked me in the eyes, opened up her arms and wrapped them around me and held me so incredibly tight. It was the first time in my life that I knew, with absolute clarity, that my mother loved me for me, for who I am, even the gay part.
11. His voice breaking from emotion, Black pinpointed exactly how his mother’s change in attitude came about.
It didn’t happen because all my friends told her the facts about being gay, but because they shared their own personal stories. They could change my mother’s heart in one night. Everything she learned form the church, everything she learned from the government was gone in one night. That’s the power of personal storytelling.
12. Finishing up, Black turned his attention to the upcoming marriage equality referendum taking place in Ireland on May 22.
You guys really are on the cusp of change in this country. This isn’t a right that should be even put up for a vote. This is a fundamental right that is bigger than any one belief system, bigger than any one religion.
It is a fundamental right of being a human being able to marry the person that you love. It should defy race, it should defy religion, it should defy how much money you make, and absolutely shouldn’t be held against you because of who you love.
13. He drew comparisons to the California Prop 8 vote on gay marriage, recalling how the rights of children were invoked to scare people off marriage equality.
Black said he could see the same thing happening in Ireland right now, referring to some infamous anti-marriage equality campaign literature, entitled “Sounds of Sodomy”, that was distributed in Ireland in January.
A friend handed this to me today. This anti #marriagequality leaflet was being handed out yesterday – no words.
15. Black closed his remarks by asking gay Irish voters to “go out, come out and tell your stories.”
When you win on May 22, it says that you understand the value of diversity. So much so that you actually showed up to vote for it.
16. Black’s boyfriend, British Olympic diver Tom Daley, was among those in the audience in Dublin.
More photo’s of Lance in Dublin yesterdayRyan Kane Photography: https://t.co/1L5X3wiilODustin Lance Black Tom Daley