The website is called WorstThingAboutComingOut.com. Students and faculty at Vermont’s Champlain College have created it with the best of intentions.
Supporters of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth made news two years ago when they responded to a rash of suicides by posting Internet videos with the message “It Gets Better.”
What happens until then? Log onto WorstThingAboutComingOut.com and you’ll see and hear a growing group of people with Vermont connections sharing the challenges of discovering their personal identities.
“We’re trying to bring comfort to those who are struggling inside,” says Champlain film student Sam Buford, “and to show others what it feels like so they can become more understanding and supportive.”
Champlain is a small college often overshadowed by its Burlington neighbor, the University of Vermont. But the website, promoted through the project’s Facebook and Twitter pages, boasts viewers from every continent.
Assistant professor Robert Schmidt Barracano, directing a crew of about a dozen students, offers the project both expertise and exposure. The professional filmmaker shared the online effort with friend Eliza Dushku, an actress on such shows as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She, in turn, tweeted about the site, driving up use to as many as 30,000 hits a day.
Seeking to expand further, supporters have spliced the website’s interviews into an hour documentary they’ll test screen on campus today at 7 p.m. They’re also seeking more first-person stories.
“We get emails all the time from people saying the website has helped them,” says Buford, a junior filmmaking major. “We want to grow and help as many people as possible.”
One of the best ways to do that, creators believe, starts with their site’s “Worst” name.
“The title was selected to attract folks who are frightened and searching the Internet for the very worst things that will happen to them if they come out,” says Barracano, a teacher in the college’s Division of Communication and Creative Media.
“The title was created to save them from fear.”
As one participant confides in a video: “It took a lot of courage to have the 20 seconds of bravery to start talking.”
But by doing so, hundreds upon thousands are beginning to listen.
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