'I'm From Driftwood' Celebrates 10 Years of Collecting LGBTQ Stories
"I'm From Driftwood," the worldwide online LGBTQ story archive, is poised to mark its 10-year anniversary in 2019. The nonprofit has spent the last decade producing, curating, and publishing first-person stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people of all backgrounds. The topics of the stories reflect the entire spectrum of the queer experience, from love, coming of age, and parenting, to race, homeless youth and gender nonconformity.
"I'm From Driftwood" filmed 137 video stories on the Story Tour, at least one from every state. In this photo, they're filming a story in Pillsbury Crossing, Kan.
Supporters all over the country opened up their homes for the Story Tour crew. They stayed in houses, trailer homes, RVs, dorm rooms, and in Vermillion, S.D., they even stayed in a frat house.
"We are elated to reach this milestone in our organization's history," said "I'm From Driftwood" founder and executive director Nathan Manske. "Our goal from the beginning was to share stories from people of every age, race, gender, identity and culture to increase empathy, deepen understanding of LGBTQ experiences, and empower individuals to live authentically. The stories are also meant to move people to action in their own lives and in their communities, including coming out, advocating for LGBTQ people, and supporting LGBTQ elders and youth."
Many of the hosts the crew stayed with were PFLAG parents and families, who often shared their own stories. This is the Oliver family who both hosted and shared stories, in Spokane, Wash.
Manske was inspired to name the organization I'm From Driftwood after seeing a photograph of iconic gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S. The photo depicted Milk riding on the hood of a car and holding a sign that read "I'm From Woodmere, N.Y." Manske grew up in Driftwood, a tiny town in central Texas with a current population of 144 people.
"Harvey Milk's sign showed just how far people came to attend the 1978 San Francisco Gay Pride march, but it meant something more to me," Manske said. "It meant that there are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in every small town and every big city across America and the world, and I wanted to send them all a powerful message: You're not alone."
The Pink Boots were created for the very first fundraiser for the Story Tour, for people to put money into. They became the symbol of the Tour, and photos of the fancy footwear were taken in every single state. Nathan and Marquise got cheeky with The Pink Boots at the White Sands National Park near Alamogordo, N.M.
In 2010, "I'm From Driftwood" embarked on a 50-state Story Tour, filming narratives from LGBTQ people in the smallest towns and the biggest cities across the United States. "I'm From Driftwood" will display artifacts, photos, and stories in pop-up exhibits in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Austin during the month of May.
Director of the video stories, Marquise Lee, and "I'm From Driftwood" founder, Nathan Manske, with the Pink Boots, lost in a corn maze in Nebraska.
"When 'I'm From Driftwood' launched in March of 2009, there was no federal hate crimes legislation, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was in effect, and federal marriage protections were nearly a decade away. The world has changed dramatically over that timespan and we've been collecting stories on our community's journey every step of the way," Manske said. "We look forward to continuing our documentation of LGBTQ lives for the next 10 years and beyond."
"I'm From Driftwood" has published 576 stories that have received over 17 million YouTube views from more than 65,000 subscribers.
Sponsorships, partnerships and collaborations are available for the four-city pop-up exhibits. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Nathan Manske's brother and super ally, Nick Manske, was the driver on the tour. He's an artist and illustrator and sent a hand drawn postcard from every state to his then-girlfriend (now wife!).
On their way to Phoenix, AZ, they stopped by the majestic Grand Canyon. Turns out some fog had the same idea.
The Story Tour crew drove to all 48 states (they flew to Alaska and Hawaii) in a big, red van which they nicknamed "The Barn." 17,512 miles around the country and only one flat tire.