GLAAD’s Southern Storybank, created in partnership with director Daniella Carter and SpecialGuest creative agency, showcases transgender people and people living with HIV across the U.S. South. The Storybank includes video portraits of Southerners who are spouses, parents, health advocates, and everyday people, describing their daily lives and lifelong journeys in their own words.
The need for understanding and visibility is critical. The vast majority of non-LGBTQ Americans (72%) say they do not personally know a transgender person. The U.S. South is home to the highest percentage of LGBTQ people and new HIV diagnoses. 93% of LGBTQ Southerners live in states without statewide protections from discrimination, and state lawmakers have proposed a record number of bills targeting lifesaving health care, banning books and free speech and expression in schools and public spaces.
GLAAD’s Southern Storybank introduces trans people and people living with HIV to their neighbors and community members to accelerate understanding and acceptance of their full humanity and existence. The Storybank provides a road map and resources for journalists to accurately and inclusively tell the stories of LGBTQ people in their communities.
We first chose six profilees, many of whom are grantees of the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®, which aims to eradicate stigma about HIV across nine key states in the U.S. South. We selected diverse stories, identities, ages, and geographic regions and conducted in-depth pre-interviews to fully understand each person and their story, their challenges and triumphs. Through these pre-interviews, we determined that their voices should be the ones telling their stories - powerful, first-person testimonies about their own lives.
As we began the project during the depths of the COVID-19 project, we conducted all interviews and recordings remotely across the U.S. South. We wanted to show that impactful stories could be told with the lightest footprint and basic storytelling resources - a phone, a laptop, a lightweight light, and a microphone - incorporating the subjects’ self-selected elements- videos, photos, and audio recordings.
The production challenges were numerous - profilees and their family members, like many Americans, were diagnosed with COVID-19, caring for family members with COVID-19, or both, a process that would knock them out of their daily lives for weeks. Profilees reported vandalism and theft at their homes and offices - an unfortunately not uncommon occurrence in the remote communities they serve. All the while, many profilees were also battling to be seen and heard in their states by their elected representatives, to have their existence and access to society as their authentic selves recognized, protected, or at the very least, not further targeted and marginalized by baseless bills, the project’s estimated time from creation to completion expanded from one year to 18 months. It was adjusted to include the dramatic and increasing number of new attacks and our subjects’ inspiring new efforts to advocate for themselves and their communities.
We timed the launch of the Storybank to Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st. We knew that news media and other content creators would be looking for ways to acknowledge the awareness day and to cover the ongoing onslaught of legislative attacks against LGBTQ people in state legislatures across the country.
We succeeded in elevating and celebrating the profilees and the Storybank itself in national and leading regional and industry outlets:
Storybank profilee Carter Brown of Dallas appeared on NBC News Now: “There’s a huge education gap being exploited by anti-LGBTQ extremists who are lying about our lives and essential healthcare. By sharing our stories, we can share the truth about our lives.”