In 1983 Bobby Griffith died instantly when he threw himself off a freeway overpass in Portland, Oregon. He could not reconcile his self-loathing and his religious mother's fiercely determined quest to heal his homosexuality through the Bible. It took Bobby's tragedy for his mother, Mary Griffith, to understand that it was not Bobby that needed to be fixed, but blind adherence to flawed biblical interpretations. His death led her to renounce her homophobia and fundamentalism and become a steadfast advocate for LGBT rights and education.
Over 25 years later, Leroy Aaron's penned book, Prayers for Bobby, has become a Lifetime Movie honored with two of the highest Emmy Award Nominations: Best Made for TV Film and a Best Actress nomination for Sigourney Weaver. Weaver portrays Mary Griffith with a depth of love and compassion that calls us to understand the pain of a mother who realizes her ignorance and fear too late to save her son from tragedy.
On the heels of these Emmy nods Prayers for Bobby was screened on the closing day of Outfest 2009, the 27th Annual International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and the longest continuously running film festival in Los Angeles.
Cast and crew including Producers, Daniel Sladek, Chris Taaffe, David Permuet, Actor: Scott Baily, Screenwriter, Katie Ford, and Executive Director, PFLAG (Parents Families, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians) Jody Huckaby were all present to discuss the film. Mary Griffith could not be present with us at Sunday's screening. However, I am delighted, honored, and privileged to be among the first to publish the heartfelt words of gratitude and support that she sent to be read at the screening. Her letter:
My name is Mary Griffith. My life story, and that of my son Bobby (and our entire family), is depicted in the Emmy Award-nominated movie Prayers For Bobby. To say I am honored is an understatement. I am delighted to see this wonderfully executed film generate critical acclaim and meaningful consideration for the highest honor in the television industry. I am thrilled to acknowledge Sigourney Weaver's Emmy Award nominated Best Actress performance playing me (which I still find unbelievable!). I am reminded of the present day; of our public school teachers and administrators who are not allowed to validate "out" gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, and to provide proper education; of the military establishment excluding our gay children who take bullets alongside their non-gay peers in order to keep us from harm's way; of some religions openly and actively seeking to 'cure' our gay children, further promoting fear and ignorance; of setbacks in AIDS healthcare and education; of the lack of a Federal nondiscrimination policy protecting all Americans from discrimination; of the lack of a Federal marriage rights act guaranteeing equal protection under the law for all couples wanting to enjoy the sanctuary of marriage. I am also reminded of days past; the Stonewall riots; the assassination of Harvey Milk; the brutality of the Holocaust and the ultimate humiliation of the pink triangle; the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard and other hate crime attacks against far too many gay and lesbian teenagers.
Prayers for Bobby brings communion, guidance, honesty, harmony and finally liberation to parents, family members and others searching for meaning and peace, bringing comfort and understanding to their gay and lesbian children. Our gay children must experience the feelings of self-respect, knowing that they too are a part of the entire human race. This truth must be shared with all of our children, past, present and future. May I say "Thank you, Bobby". May I say "thank you" to my fiercely dedicated Emmy Award-nominated executive producers -- my dear friends Daniel Sladek and Chris Taaffe who -- along with their partner David Permut -- spent the last twelve years working tirelessly to make this film a reality. To elegantly tell my story. To ensure Bobby's memory with grace and dignity. Thank you to Lifetime Network, to screenwriter Katie Ford, to director Russell Mulcahy and all of you who worked so hard to bring Bobby's truth to light. Thank you to PFLAG National for their leadership and passion, and all the PFLAG mom's and dad's out there. Thank you to the heroic gay rights activist, acclaimed journalist and author Leroy Aarons, whose memory will live on in my heart, whose book Prayers for Bobby captured every detail, every nuance, every aspect of my family life and Bobby's personal struggle. It is his original work that brought us here to celebrate this wonderful film. To all of our gay children past, present and future, this movie is for you. These words are from my heart.
Walnut Creek, CA
Prayers for Bobby has spawned an incredible response and positive action for LGBT youth. Jody Huckaby shared with us that since its premiere there have been requests for at least 60 PFLAG chapters to be formed throughout the country. The Prayers For Bobby team has been sharing letters of gratitude they have been receiving from LGBT youth stating emphatically that they share Bobby's experience and this film kept them from committing suicide. To see some of these letters take a look at my recent story on Prayers for Bobby.
Prayers for Bobby has been viewed by millions of viewers during its Lifetime Network screenings. It can also be downloaded at iTunes, and will soon be released on DVD.