Wild Abandon will be a sixty-minute documentary film that showcases the complexities of rural lesbian history. I will interview six to ten women in their late fifties and early sixties who have been in the area since at least 1980. In the documentary I will explore stories of identity, love, isolation, place, relationships, feminism, gay rights, homophobia, and Western culture. Above all, the project looks at how women have chosen to stay in their rural homes and forge lesbian lives in the Rocky Mountain West. It is a project about unexpected communities, everyday love, and the struggles and freedoms of being a lesbian in the most rural state in the country.
While many LGBT historical projects focus on urban settings, Wild Abandon is dedicated to specifically creating a venue for the voices of rural, Western women. Numerous projects have undertaken to understand how gay men and women have organized and created communities in cities like New York and L.A., but research on rural settings, especially in the Mid- and Rocky Mountain West, have yet to be undertaken in a large-scale way. The rural West is typically viewed as a violent place where no viable options exist for gay men and women, and lesbians in particular remain invisible within history books. As a lesbian and a Wyomingite myself, I am deeply invested in documenting the incredible life journeys of the women who choose to stay out West. By backing Wild Abandon you will be contributing to groundbreaking research and the preservation of unique life stories.
What is Oral History?
Oral history is a growing field that specializes in the art of interviewing and story telling. It is both an academic field and a grass-roots movement aimed at changing how we do history, remember collectively, and understand individual experiences. Oral history crosses disciplinary boundaries of sociology, anthropology, history, art, theater, psychotherapy, public history, landscape studies, gender studies, and museum studies. Many oral history projects, such as this one, seek to hear the voices of history that are often repressed. The histories of ethnic, racial, gender, sexual, and political minorities in particular have utilized oral history to interrupt dominant historical narratives and break silences. As a method, oral history has been a central pillar of gay and lesbian studies.
Why a Documentary?
Oral history can work in many mediums from book projects to theater productions. Interviews can be audio or video recorded, transcribed, and archived. By choosing to make a documentary, I will be able to create a final product that can serve two main purposes. First, I will produce something that allows outsiders to learn about a life experience they have never seen before. Second, I can use the film as a starting point for conversations among women in Wyoming. By having screenings both in Wyoming and outside the region, I will spread awareness about the realities of rural lesbian history. While copies of the interviews will eventually be archived, by creating a documentary these women’s stories will not be confined to the dusty shelves of a library. Instead they will be part of a more interactive project that can be used as a tool for education, community building, and a method of change. By creating a documentary film, rural lesbian voices will be heard across the country.
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