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FCKH8 Takes Aim at Bullies

FCKH8 Takes Aim at Bullies


Activist and producer Luke Montgomery first took aim at bigotry in October with his "FCK Prop 8" video. Two months, millions of page views and thousands of dollars later, the FCKH8 campaign is back, this time with a profanity-laced message against bullying.

The new video features a Pussycat Doll, YouTube sensation "Kelly," drag queens, senior citizens, and a little girl, all of whom yell expletives while wearing purple and white T-shirts with messages that read "FCKH8," "Don't B H8N on the Homos," and "STR8 AGAINST H8."As with the "FCK Prop 8" video, part of the T-shirt sales benefit LGBT nonprofit organizations -- in this case, groups that fight antigay bullying and youth suicide.

Montgomery, a 36-year-old nonprofit marketing professional in Los Angeles, said the FCKH8 campaign grew from frustration with being nice in the face of mounting attacks against LGBT people. A victim of a hate-related beating that hospitalized him with a concussion when he was 16 years old, he wanted to offer therapy and catharsis.

"We're always having to censor ourselves and ask politely for people to like us and care about us," he said. "No! We're f-bombing hate. And we're having fun doing it."

In the process the campaign has also generated controversy over its approach and content. The new video includes a 4-year-old girl who screams, "If I grow up lesbo, do you want me to FCKing get gay bashed?"

FCKH8. "It Gets Better" it ain't.

While he acknowledged the in-your-face strategy might not suit everyone's taste, Montgomery argued there is a need for it, even among LGBT people who may not want to admit it.

"This is how I feel and this is how millions of other people feel," he said. "It's honest. There are all sorts of honest messages out there. But we edit ourselves. We get pushed around."

Indeed, FCKH8 has found a global audience for its campaign almost entirely through viral marketing with word of mouth, e-mail, and sites like Facebook since the first video premiered two months ago. It began with a single YouTube upload, Montgomery said he has sold more than 40,000 T-shirts to locations as far-flung as North Korea while raising almost $250,000 between the two campaigns, with contributions made or being planned to the Trevor Project, the Safe Schools Coalition, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Equality California, Courage Campaign, and Lambda Legal.

While celebrities including Adam Lambert and Jane Lynch have expressed interest in the FCKH8 campaign and its merchandise, the nonprofits appear to be keeping their distance from the expletive-laden affair. Montgomery said he understands the curse words and references to violence may put them in an awkward position -- after all, the content has posed hurdles to his own marketing.

"The f word is totally a double-edged sword," he said. "Number 1, no one would have watched the first video unless we used the f word. A lot of people like it but don't share it. But we wouldn't be talking about this had we not used the f word. It's just the cost of doing business."

Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for the Trevor Project declined to evaluate the campaign's strategy.

"We definitely appreciate the outpouring of support from across the community from individuals, corporations, and organizations that choose to donate to the Trevor Project," said Laura McGinnis.

Controversy is no stranger to Montgomery, who changed his last name to "Sissyfag" to protest antigay discrimination in 1993, the same year he interrupted a World AIDS Day speech by President Bill Clinton to call for action in the fight against HIV and AIDS. In fact, he seems to thrive in the face of conflict and its potential for social change.

"We get tons of hate mail," he said. "We love it. You're never going to please everybody. If you try to please everybody, you're not saying much. If people are offended by the video, I'm glad."

In addition to the videos, which Montgomery scripts himself and films with eager volunteer actors, the FCKH8 campaign has just released a STR8 AGAINST H8 2011 charity calendar, which features scantily dressed, gay-friendly straight men and a four-minute behind-the-scenes video. His next project, planned to coincide with Valentine's Day, will involve giving away thousands of T-shirts for students to wear with the message that being gay is OK. The idea is to generate an uproar when some schools inevitably prevent the children from wearing the shirts, which likely will not sport the f word.

Not that Montgomery thinks swearing should be discouraged.

"We really are trying to use a bad word for a good cause," he said.

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Julie Bolcer