BY Hugh Ryan
August 24 2009 11:25 PM ET
At 28, Nathan Manske might be a poster child for fun employment. Tan, attractive, articulate, and recently laid off by a large advertising firm, Manske has spent the last six months channeling all of his energies into creating and maintaining the website I’m From Driftwood. IFD publishes short first-person accounts of LGBT people from all around the world, each under the simple header “I’m from _____.”
The stories come from everywhere: small towns in Michigan; big cities in Argentina. As the title suggests, Manske himself comes from Driftwood, a small town in Texas, about 45 minutes south of Austin. Recently, Advocate.com caught up with him in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he now resides, to talk about IFD.
Advocate.com: So what gave you the idea for I’m From Driftwood?
Nathan Manske: I thought of it the day after seeing [the movie] Milk. I was waiting to go to work, snoozing and half asleep, and I was thinking about him. There’s an image that actually isn’t in the movie, of him holding a sign in the San Francisco Pride parade. It said, “I’m from Woodmere, New York.” I thought, That’s pretty cool. The biggest gay elected official is actually from this little town out on Long Island. Harvey Milk is a huge gay icon, and we associate him with San Francisco, but he’s from this small town. It said to me that gay people are everywhere. We’re from Woodmere. We’re from Driftwood.
How did IFD go from an idea to a reality?
It was pretty quick. The day after I thought of it, I was laid off from my job, so I suddenly had the time to do it. Also that day, I went home to Austin for Christmas. I was there for about a week, talking to people about my idea, getting their feedback. Once I figured out it was going to be a blog, I thought, I could do this right now. That was the middle of January. I wrote a really long e-mail to everyone I knew who was gay and close enough to me that I could hound them to write for it. But the idea of true stories from gay people all over the world was the first thing I thought of. So the heart of it I saw that morning, and it’s exactly the same now.
What do you hope IFD accomplishes? Who is the site written for?
Primarily, it’s written for gay teenagers who are struggling to come to terms with who they are. I want them to know they’re not the only ones. Even in today’s society, where it seems so much easier, it’s still hard for kids out there. If they read these stories, they can think, They went through what I went through, and now they’re living a happy life. Every story should act as a role model of some sort for someone. What’s cool about it is I don’t know which one will work for which person. Some stories, I’m like, “Eh, this isn’t that good.” I’ll post it, personally not liking it, and the comments will say “Oh, my God, this is the best story on the site yet!” You never know what will inspire or help someone.