I’m From Driftwood, the worldwide online LGBTQ story archive, is poised to mark its 10-year anniversary in 2019. The nonprofit has spent the last decade producing, curating, and publishing first-person stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people of all backgrounds. The topics of the stories reflect the entire spectrum of the queer experience, from love, coming of age, and parenting, to race, homeless youth and gender nonconformity.
“We are elated to reach this milestone in our organization’s history,” said I’m From Driftwood Founder and Executive Director Nathan Manske.
“Our goal from the beginning was to share stories from people of every age, race, gender, identity and culture to increase empathy, deepen understanding of LGBTQ experiences, and empower individuals to live authentically. The stories are also meant to move people to action in their own lives and in their communities, including coming out, advocating for LGBTQ people, and supporting LGBTQ elders and youth.”
Manske was inspired to name the organization I’m From Driftwood after seeing a photograph of iconic gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S. The photo depicted Milk riding on the hood of a car and holding a sign that read “I’m From Woodmere, N.Y.” Manske grew up in Driftwood, a tiny town in central Texaswith a current population of 144 people.
“Harvey Milk’s sign showed just how far people came to attend the 1978 San Francisco Gay Pride march, but it meant something more to me,” Manske said. “It meant that there are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in every small town and every big city across America and the world, and I wanted to send them all a powerful message: You’re not alone.”
In 2010, I’m From Driftwood embarked on a 50-state Story Tour, filming narratives from LGBTQ people in the smallest towns and the biggest cities across the United States. Now the organization has been invited to be a permanent part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
In August of 2019, I’m From Driftwood will donate artifacts, stories, and thousands of photos from its Story Tour to the Smithsonian. Prior to making the donation, I’m From Driftwood will display the artifacts, photos, and stories in pop-up exhibits in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Austin during the month of May.
Before the May and August commemorations, I’m From Driftwood will host an anniversary gala at Green Room 42 in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City on Wednesday, March 27 from 6 to 9:30 PM. The event will honor notable I’m From Driftwood storytellers: former Houston Mayor and current Victory Fund President and CEO, Annise Parker, who was the first openly LGBTQ mayor of a major American city; beloved singer, songwriter, and pianist, David Raleigh; and revered LGBTQ and AIDS activist, Cecilia Gentili. The evening’s festivities will include dinner, a silent auction, stories from the “I’m From Driftwood” archive, and a feature a performance directed by artist and activist Mila Jam.
“When I’m From Driftwood launched in March of 2009, there was no federal hate crimes legislation, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was in effect, and federal marriage protections were nearly a decade away. The world has changed dramatically over that timespan and we’ve been collecting stories on our community’s journey every step of the way,” Manske said. “We look forward to continuing our documentation of LGBTQ lives for the next 10 years and beyond.”
To date, I’m From Driftwood has published 576 stories that have received over 17 million YouTube views from more than 65,000 subscribers.
Visit I’m From Driftwood’s website here for more.