by Karen Derr
Thirty-year-old Nathan Manske is from Driftwood, Texas. In September of this year, he embarked on a 20-week road trip to make the point that there are gays and lesbians in virtually every town and city across America. Inspired by a photo of Harvey Milk holding a sign that read, “I’m From Woodmere, N.Y.,” Manske created the blog I’m from Driftwood in 2009. Milk’s sign was intended to show how far he had come to attend a gay pride march in San Francisco, but to Manske it drove home the realization that every city, large or small, is home to LGBT Americans with their own stories to tell.
Manske’s website, imfromdriftwood.com, presents LGBT stories, both text and video, cataloged by area and subject. These narratives tell of coming out and LGBT life in general. Most are intensely personal, and each is unique, yet they beautifully illustrate how similar we all are, LGBT or straight. Included is Manske’s own charming coming-of-age story set in a Texas town with a population of only 21. There is also the story of a gay man whose mother told him throughout his childhood how embarrassed she was of her lesbian parents. He knew she would never accept him, but he still says coming out was the best thing he could do.
Manske and his team members are adding to the collection daily on his trek across all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. When asked what he hopes to achieve with his collection of stories and videos, Manske is quick to bring up the staggeringly high rate of suicide among LGBT youth, who are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight youth. Manske hopes struggling teens can read the stories and see they are not so different in their city or town, and certainly they are not alone. He points to the Trevor Project, which operates a teen hotline and has already found the blog useful as a resource.
Besides gathering videos and stories, Manske is blogging from the road about his experiences along the way. In a recent entry, he beats himself up for not being forthcoming about the tour’s mission with two elderly shopkeepers in remote Tonkawa, Oklahoma. Feeling intimidated and as if he has temporarily stepped back into the closet, he redeems himself by introducing the Story Tour
to another gray-bearded, straight shopkeeper and learns that, even in tiny Tonkawa, there is a thriving art scene with several LGBT members. His honesty is rewarded with good wishes from Tonkawa and even a donation for gas for the Story Tour van.
Manske has now collected over 400 stories and about 70 video narratives. “One story is published every day, except weekends,” he says.
The tour has been funded by small donations from individuals and from fundraisers along the way. There are several stories included from the greater Houston area, but Manske hopes to gather even more when the “I’m from Driftwood Story Tour” comes here this November.
If you’d like to view the Story Tour route, suggest more towns to visit, or even tell your own story, go to imfromdrift
Karen Derr, a Houston-based Realtor for over 20 years, writes and speaks about home and small-business topics. She is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.