Roughly nine years ago, Erin Davies was just your average, rather ordinary seeming college student in upstate New York. She had hopes and dreams and aspirations like anybody else. Then one day, she was heading to her Volkswagen Beetle and noticed that it had been vandalized. Someone had spray painted “U R Gay” and “Fag” in bright red spray paint across the driver side window and side of her car.
Why did this happen you may wonder? What had she done?
Nothing. Her car featured a rainbow sticker. That’s it.
Now Erin could have responded in any number of ways. She could have been royally ticked off (and she was to some extent as anyone would be)… she could have paid some folks to remove the paint or replace the window… she could have gone into hiding or sold her car or could have done any number of things. Instead… she decided to keep the hate speech on her car and go on a mission! Her mission? Raise awareness of hate crime, hate speech and bullying against the LGBT community!
How? She decided to take her car on a cross-country trek and film her journey in a documentary! She wanted to record people’s reactions to her car. She wanted to document and raise awareness to other cases of hate crime against the LGBT community. She wanted to shed some light on the moods and attitudes and environments many LGBT folks may face across the country. Basically, she was looking to answer what we might all have been thinking as LGBT individuals and allies… just how hateful is our country towards the LGBT community? How much of an issue is violence against LGBT? Just what sort of violence or bullying or harassment is being directed at the LGBT community and where is it all coming from? And more importantly, why?
Her documentary “Fagbug” sought to answer many of those questions. In a very bold, courageous, and difficult cross-country trip, Erin Davies documented many reactions to not just her car and the vandalism, but also to her admission that she is a lesbian. She also documented the comments and reactions of not just bullies and bigoted individuals… but also victims and family members of those who have lost loved ones as a result of violence towards the LGBT community. She went to Laramie, Wyoming to visit the site where Mathew Sheppard, a young gay man, had been left to die as a result of the assault that ultimately claimed his life.
In a very hands-off approach, Erin Davies simply recorded what folks wanted to say or felt compelled to say. There was very little prompting on her part– no scripts. What she saw sometimes startled her, surprised her, amused her, but more importantly enlightened us the viewers who had never seen the fullness of the issues so conveniently laid out before us. Local issues became nationwide issues.
Now fast forward to present day, and Erin Davies is promoting her sequel documentary, “Fagbug Nation”. This sequel provides us updates on whether or not attitudes have changed in the eight or nine years since she started her mission of advocacy and awareness. How much progress has there been? Have we started to be come a more open and affirming country? Has it gotten any better for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender folks? In her sequel, Erin Davies went several incredible steps further than she did in her first documentary– she went so far as to travel to Hawaii and Alaska with the “Fagbug” to spread her advocacy and awareness messages and met some more interesting characters and discovered even more interesting stories.
This has been a nine year mission for Erin, who has visited all 50 states now and visited countless colleges and schools and so many other places to speak and screen her movies and invite discussions. She has won critical acclaim for her documentaries and has been featured in numerous Pride events and Pride conferences. She has become a very vital and relevant voice for advocacy.
Just this past year, Erin Davies had paid my alma mater, Eastern Connecticut State University, in Willimantic, CT. a second visit. She brought her trusty, furry, adorable sidekick, Hoosick, along as well. She screened her second documentary, “Fagbug Nation” for our Pride Alliance student group and answered questions and allowed students to get to know her story and take pictures and visit.
What made the day complete was this though:
Seeing a quote I had given to Erin Davies included at the very end of “Fagbug Nation” just before the credits rolled. It perfectly sums up what Erin Davies has been up to these last nine or so years. It is a tremendous responsibility and challenge– going across the country trying to raise hopes and dreams but to also raise awareness and challenge bigotry and ignorance with insight and kindness. Erin has done a tremendously important and vital thing and I hope she continues her mission, however she can.