I like to call myself a dreamer, although believe me, I've been called worse.
My name is Elliot London, and while you don't know me, like so many people in the world and like so many people in the LGBT community, I somehow feel that I know you. You are a community that has inspired me in ways impossible to measure -- or fully explain.
So who am I? I'm a 31-year-old out director trying to make it in Hollywood. But unlike most others, perhaps, I'm using my passion for film to try to make a difference in the lives of the LGBT community, especially among young people.
I was born in Australia, but my parents moved to Rockford, Ill. when I was young. I grew up poor, an only child, terrified of the day when my fellow classmates would find out my deepest, darkest secret -- that I was gay. For years, I carried with me the overwhelming shame that only another gay person can truly understand. (Perhaps you know what I mean.) As a teenager, like so many others, I endured taunts and bullying, senseless acts of cruelty, because I was perceived as being somehow different. I will never forget that day in high school when a classmate approached me on the bus and yelled "f*ggot" at me in front of my classmates, and then, for some reason -- impossible to comprehend even now, as an adult -- he spit on me. I went into shock in that moment and cried uncontrollably, and yet who could I later tell? My parents? My teachers? No, no one. The loneliness and isolation of being a gay teen can be as unbearable as the taunts themselves. It's amazing how an incident can still haunt someone 15 years later, but nevertheless, I refuse to be a victim, which is why I've devoted my life -- and my art -- to fighting for equality, and why every year I go back to Rockford to talk with LGBT students at my school about the importance of self-love and self-respect; it truly does get better.
On Valentine's Day I released on the Web a three-minute film called The Wedding Dance; it's a heartfelt short about equality, with a surprising ending.
I wrote and directed it, but it only came to fruition with the help of many, many talented people who also believed in my dream. I worked on this movie for months, and because financing film as an independent filmmaker is almost impossible, I used social networking with the help of IndieGoGo to raise the budget for the film. Specifically, I posted a series of short videos of myself explaining the project, with the promise that the donors would be updated on the progress. This way it becomes the people's film. I was amazed by the number of people, including many complete strangers, who donated. I made sure everyone who used their hard-earned cash was involved every step of the way.
I am using now the release of The Wedding Dance to raise awareness of what a family can be. Most of all, it has given me the courage, against all odds in this economy, to get my full-length feature film, FRIEND, made. While Wedding focused on equality, FRIEND will center on anti-gay bullying in this age of Facebook and Twitter, when an ugly slur or vicious comment can be seen by hundreds if not thousands of people in an instant. I will never forget the day when Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi took his life. I was in my car when I heard the news, and I pulled over with such a sunken feeling in my gut. I told myself that if we can't educate the bullies, then we must equip the victims with the tools of self-worth. With FRIEND my goal is to give the profits back to high school gay-straight alliances to educate and promote awareness from the ground up. I spend every waking hour trying to bring awareness of our films. Every view on YouTube for The Wedding Dance is so important, and I will not settle until I know that millions have viewed it. I owe it to the hundreds of people who donated their hard-earned money to make the film. Nor will I sleep until we have reached our goal to make FRIEND.
It would be a dream come true for me if Ellen DeGeneres saw The Wedding Dance. A single tweet or Facebook post from Ellen acknowledging it could make all the difference in the world. People listen to Ellen, and with good reason. Ellen is one of our community's fiercest fighters -- and yet she does it with dignity and grace. A boxer with velvet gloves.
Case in point? On Feb. 8, responding to the so-called One Million Moms movement against her hiring as JCPenney's spokesperson, she said so eloquently on her show, "Here are the values I stand for: I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you'd want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That's what I stand for."
Like all of you reading this, I hope, I stand for those same things: honesty, equality, kindness, and compassion.
Readers, I promise to lead.
For more information of the FRIEND project and how you can get involved, visit www.indiegogo.com/myfriend.