By A. Sebatian Fortino
"I'm from Driftwood.com' Evokes Activism of Harvey Milk.
Nathan Manske sat in a theater last winter, watching the biopic “Milk,” starring Sean Penn. Moved by Harvey Milk’s battle cry of “I’m from Woodmere, NY, and I am here to recruit you”, Manske came up with a unique idea.
Manske would chronicle the experiences of gays and lesbians in a website. All he would do is have them post where they are from. Manske’s premise was simple.
On his website, anyone can upload a story about their own personal experiences as a GLBT person. The stories are not limited to coming out stories. Instead, there are a host of varied experiences. A website of stories containing “Mom, pass me the cranberry sauce. I’m gay,” would tire out quickly.
The stories he collects are about our experiences as gay people. They range from witty to sad. The website boasts writers as young as fifteen, to people in their sixties and seventies.
“My main mission is to help and mentor gay kids so they don’t feel so alone,” Manske says. It is a sad fact that many GLBT teens often consider suicide. “I connected with Harvey Milk’s sign because I’m from Driftwood, another small town. I feel that saying where we’re from gets the message out, that we’re everywhere,” Nathan said from his home in Brooklyn.
Submitting writers simply insert the name of their town after “I’m From…”
This is a decidedly modern take on “Out of the closet and into the streets” of which Harvey Milk would doubtlessly approve.
“One of my latest favorite stories is about self-realization. Not just the author realizing he’s gay, but realizing it’s okay. He’s now looking forward to living an open, honest life. It’s an optimistic story that relays the message to gay people that it’s not only okay to be gay, but accepting yourself for who you are, is something to look forward to,” he said when asked about a favorite entry.
With over 350 stories from 25 countries, his website has become an international resource for coming out stories and personal anecdotes.
“It was crazy,” he says, “how quickly things came into place.” He saw Milk on a Wednesday, thought of the idea on Thursday, and lost his job on Friday. He decided to use his unemployment proactively and launched the site. It has taken off worldwide, beyond his wildest dreams.
He now gets thank you emails from younger readers all the time. Older readers are glad the site helps people struggling with their sexuality, and wish they had a source like this when they were younger.
“This is a sign,” says Manske, “that I am on the right path.”
Launching the website out-of-pocket, Manske decided word of mouth – via emailing every GLBT blog that he could find—would be the most effective method of promotion.
“It worked, people were willing to help me promote it just because they were intrigued with the concept,” he said.
Last summer, when I met him at the First Person Arts Festival in Philadelphia he spoke about the possibility of a film. Now he talks of a book, putting together all the stories on his site.
“Making the book something other than a hard copy form of the website,” he feels, “will be the harder challenge.”
Manske does plan to do a tour throughout the US, visiting some of the small towns, and recording video of stories firsthand. He dreams of speaking at gay youth centers and high schools, where he hopes to gather more stories for the site.
To read, or better yet, share stories to to ImFromDriftwood.com and give hope to the hopeless by letting them know that we are everywhere.