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Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson
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Scientist turned author and filmmaker Dean Hamer is Co-Director, with his
partner and spouse Joe Wilson, of Out in the Silence, an Emmy Award-winning documentary that has evolved into a nationwide Community Engagement Campaign and Youth Activism Award. They are currently working on a film about Native Hawaiian teacher and activist Hinaleimoana Wong Kalu, Kumu Hina. Hamer's book The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene, was a New York Times Book of the Year, and he has been featured in TIME magazine, ABC, CBS and NBC News, Discovery and BBC science shows, Frontline and Oprah.

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Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Joe Wilson is the Co-Director
and Outreach Manager for the Out in the Silence Campaign for Justice and Equality in Rural and Small Town America, and of the national Out in the Silence Youth Activism Award. His current work in Hawai'i focuses on the intersections between culture, gender and identity as revealed through the fascinating story of Kumu Hina

Entries by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson

To Educate a Nation (VIDEO)

(3) Comments | Posted June 13, 2014 | 9:42 AM

We first visited Hālau Lōkahi Public Charter School three years ago as part of a PBS documentary film project with ITVS and Pacific Islanders in Communications.

The school is not much to look at from the outside. Located in an industrial area of Honolulu, just off the busy Nimitz highway in the workaday Kalihi neighborhood, there is no fancy gym or chapel, cultural classes are held in a warehouse, and the young students must be escorted by teachers to avoid the many trucks and forklifts traversing the area.

But inside was a different matter. The students were intent, animated, and genuinely excited about learning in a way we've never seen in the many different schools that we've filmed in across the continental United States. And not only were they pursuing the usual reading, writing and arithmetic in English, they were simultaneously learning about their own culture through the time-consuming, painstaking acquisition of lengthy oli and moʻolelo in the Hawaiian language.

Over the course of making our documentary, which focuses on the work of the schoolʻs cultural director, Kumu Hina, we gradually realized what makes Hālau Lōkahi unique: its insistence that the students understand who they are not just as individuals, but as part of a people and a community with deep roots in the traditions, culture, principles and values of Hawaiʻi.

How do you do that, especially when students are in an environment in which they are continually exposed to all the outside distractions of modern life? Watch the above excerpt from the completed documentary KUMU HINA, in which Principal Laara Allbrett addresses the students after some of them have upset their teacher through inattention, and youʻll get the idea.

Despite its many successes, Hālau Lōkahi has recently run into serious economic difficulties. This is no surprise: the school receives only $6000 per pupil from the state as compared to $12,000 per pupil for DOE schools, and furthermore they are responsible for the considerable expense of renting space since DOE provides no physical facilities. Itʻs almost as if the State Charter School Commission wants Hawaiian charter schools to fail -- which perhaps should be no surprise given the sort of independent thinking espoused by visionary educators such as Principal Allbrett.

Fortunately, there is a potential solution to the commissionʻs demand that the school work with stakeholders to develop a viable financial plan. When Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a direct descendant of Kamehameha the Great, passed away in 1884, her will established a trust specifically dedicated to the education of Hawaiian children. That trust, now known as Kamehameha Schools, currently has a value of over $10 billion, the income from which could easily make-up for the discrepancy between charter and DOE funding for every Hawaiian student in the state. Furthermore the trust owns the land on which Hālau Lōkahi sits, so it could solve the problem of lease payments immediately.

Nobody doubts the important and empowering role that Kamehameha Schools have played in Hawaiian education; in fact both Principal Allbrett and Kumu Hina are graduates. But because they are selective private schools with limited enrollment, access is limited. Perhaps this is an opportune moment for Kamehameha Schools to expand its role and fully accomplish Bernice Bishopʻs vision by more extensive support of Hawaiian public charter schools.

With the national PBS broadcast of KUMU HINA, people across the country will learn, many for the first time, about what makes Hawaiʻi unique, and how culture-based education empowers students to be all they can be by understanding where they come from. Itʻs important that Hālau Lōkahi still be there to receive the attention it...

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A Transgender Teacher in Hawai'i Inspires a Global Campaign

(3) Comments | Posted April 9, 2014 | 3:04 PM

At a time when transgender and gender-nonconforming people the world over face harassment, violence, discrimination and even murder, we are excited to be launching a new film-based campaign from Hawai'i that takes a fresh approach to making the world more just and inclusive.

The film, Kumu Hina (meaning...

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Not Pono: Hawai'i Republicans Bash Transgender Teacher

(10) Comments | Posted January 7, 2014 | 10:23 PM

Pono is an important concept in Hawaiʻi. The most common English translation of the word is "righteousness," but there are deeper cultural and spiritual connotations of living in a spirit of balance, harmony and unity.

So it was only logical that when the Hawai'i Department of Education and the University...

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The 2013 Out in the Silence Award for Youth Activism Goes To...

(1) Comments | Posted December 10, 2013 | 8:00 AM

Four years ago, as stories about the alarming rates of anti-gay bullying and youth suicide were beginning to receive national attention, we were crisscrossing America with Out in the Silence, our PBS documentary about the brutal bullying of a gay teen, to raise awareness about the issues and...

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What Does 'Traditional Marriage' Mean in Hawai'i? (VIDEO)

(1) Comments | Posted November 18, 2013 | 4:30 PM

Over the past few weeks the opponents of marriage equality in Hawai'i have repeatedly and vociferously claimed that they support "traditional marriage," meaning a union of one man and one woman, and that the "gay lifestyle" is a Western import.

Really?

As State Sen. Gilbert Kahele, a...

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Hawai'i Wins Marriage Equality (VIDEO)

(1) Comments | Posted November 13, 2013 | 11:11 AM

There were many stirring words spoken, and many brave and beautiful people who put their careers and even their lives on the line, to finally bring marriage equality to Hawaiʻi. This short video portrays the most critical public battle: the demonstrations during the final reading by the House of Representatives...

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Science vs. Prejudice in Hawai'i Marriage Equality Debate (VIDEO)

(9) Comments | Posted November 12, 2013 | 12:05 PM

Though we most often write together, this post is authored by Dean alone.

During the acrimonious debate over marriage equality in Hawai'i over the past week, the question of whether being gay is a choice or immutable has played a key role. I did not originally plan to testify about...

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A Transgender Teacher in Hawai'i Makes a Place for Every Student (VIDEO)

(11) Comments | Posted October 21, 2013 | 7:24 PM

It seems that not a day goes by without some reminder of the world's cruelty to those who don't conform to the usual stereotypes of male and female gender roles, from family rejection to bullying and harassment in schools, from denial of medical treatment to workplace and housing discrimination, from...

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Petition President Obama to Enact LGBT Equality Now!

(0) Comments | Posted January 10, 2013 | 3:35 PM

The right to petition our government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Not long ago the Obama administration created an online way for us, we the people, to do just that: press our public officials to take action on the issues of utmost importance to...

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Out in the Silence Award for Youth Activism 2012: And the Winners Are...

(1) Comments | Posted October 12, 2012 | 7:53 PM

Three years ago, as stories about the alarming rates of anti-gay bullying and youth suicide were beginning to receive national attention, we started traveling to communities across the country with Out in the Silence, our PBS documentary about the brutal bullying of a gay teen and his family's...

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How Science Fiction Hurts Gays

(2) Comments | Posted June 6, 2012 | 8:40 AM

In a recent HuffPost blog entitled "Science Fiction or Science Fact? What Happened to the Gay Gene?," Marten Weber raises the interesting and important question of the origins of sexual orientation. Unfortunately, his post contains a series of inaccurate statements and misleading arguments that seem to be aimed...

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Jamestown, N.Y. Loves Lucy, But It Doesn't Necessarily Love Gays

(5) Comments | Posted May 2, 2012 | 12:36 PM

Like many rustbelt towns, struggling little Jamestown, N.Y. puts its hopes for a brighter economic future on its ability to draw tourists to sample its charms. One of those charms, which already draws many fun-loving tourists, happens to be a museum and arts center celebrating hometown girl, comedienne,...

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Winners of the First Annual 'Out in the Silence' Award for Youth Activism Announced

(4) Comments | Posted December 10, 2011 | 9:00 AM

2011-12-03-Farrington_HS_OITS_Youth_Award_event.jpgWe are thrilled to announce the winners of the first annual Out in the Silence Award for Youth Activism, honoring three remarkable groups of courageous youth:

  • Grand Prize: Farrington High School Gay-Straight Alliance, located at a diverse, inner-city Hawaiian public...
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Rally for Equality in Tupelo, Hate Group's Hometown

(1) Comments | Posted October 5, 2011 | 4:47 PM

Several years ago we fell in love and got married. Like many couples, we decided to share the news with our communities by publishing our wedding announcement in our hometown newspapers.

Dean's announcement in The New York Times elicited congratulatory notes and wishes for a happy life together. But...

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New Award for Youth Activism

(1) Comments | Posted September 9, 2011 | 12:32 PM

For the past two years, we've been traveling around the country to screen Out in the Silence, a film about confronting homophobia and the limitations of religion, tradition, and the status quo in small town America.

The aim of these events is to help concerned local residents...

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Therapy for Marcus Bachmann

(1) Comments | Posted August 8, 2011 | 2:18 PM

At a recent Saturday afternoon duplicate bridge party in the Virginia countryside, the conversation at my table turned to Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann's husband Marcus, who is under intense media scrutiny for owning and operating a Christian Counseling Center, partially funded by publicly-subsidized Medicaid payments, that regards...

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Letter to Durango

(28) Comments | Posted March 16, 2011 | 2:51 PM

Dispatch from the Culture War Front: Durango, Co.

As filmmaker-activists who have spent the last two years criss-crossing the heartland of America to promote fairness and equality with our documentary Out in the Silence, we spend a lot of time listening to stories of how difficult and dangerous...

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Homophobia Starts at Home

(2) Comments | Posted February 9, 2011 | 8:16 AM

Dispatch from the Culture War Front: Washington, D.C.


Last week's horrific murder of Ugandan gay activist David Kato sparked outrage and a series of protests against the U.S.-based religious groups responsible for exporting American-style bigotry and homophobia to Africa, resulting most infamously in Uganda's pending "kill-the-gays" bill.

While such activism is sorely needed, the focus on foreign countries prompts the question: Why are we not equally outraged and rising up against the massive damage these same conservative religious groups cause right here at home?

Organizations such as the American Family Association, for example, are too clever to propose a law that would impose the death penalty on homosexuality in the U.S. -- that would be a bit obvious -- but they continue to use their well-funded propaganda machine to spew anti-LGBT lies and distortions that have a similar effect, creating an atmosphere so poisoned and repressive that many LGBT people, particularly in small towns and rural communities, live their entire life in the closet or possibly even take the ultimate step of suicide.

This video of small town "family values" mom Meribeth Glenn sadly demonstrates how these tactics play out. Many of her statements, including the presumed connection between marriage equality and bestiality, are taken straight from the AFA, which broadcasts a regular program on her local Christian radio station. In fact, Glenn consented to speak on camera only after consulting with her AFA chapter head, Diane Gramley.

When anti-gay bigotry and hatred is a commonplace and accepted feature of conservative and religious broadcasting -- as it is today in the U.S. -- and when its adherents incorporate these messages into the lexicon of their own daily lives -- as Glenn and millions of other people do -- is it any wonder that we continue to see LGBT lives ruined, families and communities in distress and a rash of gay teen suicides?

And when the President of the United States feels comfortable attending a National Prayer Breakfast event supported and attended by the AFA and other conservative religious groups -- including "The Family," the very group pushing for the anti-gay legislation in Uganda -- is it any wonder that the best response we can muster to the recent rash of gay teen bullying and suicides is to promise that "it gets better"?

Recently, Dan Savage -- creator of the 'It Gets Better' video campaign -- declared in a Newsweek interview that "the culture war is over" and later that the homophobes are "losing the battles [that] are taking place in living rooms all over the country." Obviously Savage hasn't spent much time in the living rooms of people like Meribeth Glenn or he would realize that there are still many battles to be fought to ensure that all people -- here in the U.S., as well as in Uganda and other countries around the world -- can live full lives, openly, with dignity, respect and equal treatment under the law.

The late David Kato knew that his activism put him at risk. When asked by a reporter why he gave up the comfortable life of an educated professional in relatively progressive South Africa to return home to Uganda, he said "My role is to fight and liberate."

As residents of the country from which much of the global anti-LGBT crusade emanates, we feel that we all have a similar...

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What's Marriage got to do with it? (VIDEO)

(10) Comments | Posted December 6, 2010 | 3:51 PM


Today, December 6, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court is hearing arguments regarding the appeal of a lower court decision that Proposition 8, California's anti-gay marriage initiative,...

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'At 13' -- Why We Must Make it Better for LGBT Teens (VIDEO)

(2) Comments | Posted October 13, 2010 | 8:50 PM

What could possibly be so bad in the life of a teenager that they would want to end it all?

This heart wrenching spoken word piece by Kevin Morrison, filmed in our home base in...

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