Why does VideoOut do what it does? In other words, what is the VideoOut mission?

In a nutshell, our mission is to amplify LGBTQ voices and to help build a better, stronger community for us all.

We highlight the real faces of LGBTQ people and their allies by building the world’s largest library of coming-out and ally-support stories, ensuring that the full spectrum of LGBTQ and ally stories is heard.

We confront and refute the myths that surround the LGBTQ community by producing new, culturally relevant content.

We host community events that highlight the needs of the most vulnerable populations and foster real connections between community members.

We gather leading thinkers and doers to tackle systemic challenges facing LGBTQ people.

Why should VideoOut exist?

VideoOut destroys the misconceptions that surround the LGBTQ community. VideoOut gives every LGBTQ person an opportunity to share their story. VideoOut highlights the diversity of LGBTQ people and the many different topics they find interesting. VideoOut engages the leading thinkers and doers to actively solve the challenges surrounding the LGBTQ community. VideoOut joins the work of the LGBTQ organizations throughout history who have fought to make the world a place where acceptance and love is expected, freely given, and celebrated. VideoOut is for LGBTQ people and by LGBTQ people. Charity will never be a saturated market, and VideoOut’s mission plays a critical role in making the world a better place for everyone, especially LGBTQ people.

VideoOut helps others feel connected to community no matter where they live. Imagine the VideoOut library at full scale - it's a comprehensive archive of our narrative history that connects every LGBTQ person regardless of their age, gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, or religion. It then takes those story and communicates their relevance.

VideoOut's impact reaches beyond the LGBTQ community as well. It builds bridges between individual LGBTQ people and those who generalize, misjudge, or fear LGBTQ-ness. Prejudice exists everywhere, urban or rural, north or south, California or Zimbabwe - VideoOut exists to help show LGBTQ people that they are not alone. VideoOut exists to show people outside of the LGBTQ community how impoverished the world would be without the things that LGBTQ people think, say, do, and create. 

Its mission is crucial and no one else is seeking to do these things in this way. Yes, there are story collections. Yes, there are LGBTQ content producers. There is not, however, a group or organization whose stated goal is build a library-type resource of coming-out and ally-support stories or who has as a guiding principal for its original content the idea that the diversity of person and opinion within the LBGTQ community should be showcased and celebrated or who desires to make communities across the world better for LGBTQ people as a means of making the world better for everyone.

SpeakOut: Stories of Pride at Brooklyn Brewery. June 2017.

SpeakOut: Stories of Pride at Brooklyn Brewery. June 2017.

Why should people care about VideoOut?

Part of VideoOut’s mission is to amplify LGBTQ voices. Consider the world without those voices. We would not have Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Alan Turing, James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, RuPaul, Ellen DeGeneres, Edie Windsor, or the countless other incredible contributors to society that we have today – many of them are our neighbors, doctors, grocery store clerks, postal workers, teachers, clergy members, and family.

By demanding an equal voice for LGBTQ people, you protect yourself. Martin Niemöller’s famous poem ends in a terrifying line: “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” This illustrated how he believed the Germans (specifically protestants) had been complicit through their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution, and murder of millions of people. By caring about VideoOut, you support equality for everyone.

It's a beautiful truth that coming out is both hard and scary, but people are willing to do it in order to live their truth. All of us seek dignity as distinct individuals and this affords the possibility of connecting with our community, individual story by individual story. 

VideoOut is a support channel in a time in our history when we need all the support we can get.

If you care about VideoOut’s mission and its cause, then you need to care about how that mission is carried out. Supporting and promoting VideoOut is one way to ensure this important work is undertaken with the resources and clout required to do it well.

Why build a library of stories?

One story is important, several stories are powerful, and all of our stories together are an unstoppable collective that says, “We are LGBTQ, and we demand equality.”

A library (or catalogue, archive, collection, bank, repository) not only shows people that they belong, but it makes it easy for them to find multiple points of comparison to their own situations. "For instance," says VideoOut founder, Jordan Reeves, "I was 18 years old, living in Alabama, going to church, and completely unaware of the community when I admitted being gay to myself. It took me an additional five years to come out to my family and friends. I had no idea what to do, and I felt like I was the only one in my situation. What if I had a library of stories where I could  see the faces and hear the stories of real people in situations very similar to my own? It would have made a tremendous difference for me if only to give me a sense of belonging."

The library is a resource to learn about the LGBTQ community’s history and what people hope for its future. People starting their coming out journey today can utilize VideoOut’s library as a source of inspiration and hope. Elders who have fought for equality for decades can access VideoOut's stories to affirm their hard work. The very act of building a library of coming-out stories is a testament to the incredible accomplishments of so many who have come before us.

VideoOut will wield these stories, at scale, as powerful tools for advocacy, awareness, and education.

We build this library because every member of the community counts, because others will draw strength from it, and because stories are sacred. "As a Jew," says VideoOut collaborator, Amy Guth, "I think about this, perhaps weirdly, in holocaust terms – now, decades later, Yad Vashem is collecting stories of those who were directly impacted by the holocaust so nobody’s experience is forgotten, whether they made it out or not, as a living monument to those persecuted for being themselves. Flipping that around, the way I see it, it’s important to build a library to honor stories and the strength it took to live them, and to be like a living monument to that willingness to do something difficult in order to freely be oneself."

VideoOut is centralizing a comprehensive collection of LGBTQ personal narratives. We hope that this is a place to which people want to come. Having all of our stories in one place is powerful proof that we are here, and we are proud.

Coming-out and ally-support stories are worth preserving for countless reasons — to preserve the narrative of our past, to encourage and inform our present, and as a resource to guide and improve our future.

Why video?

VideoOut shows the real faces of the people behind real stories. Video is an invitation into a person’s space – it transports you to a reality outside of your own and immerses you in the situation of somebody else. VideoOut believes that video, because of these inherent characteristics, is the best way to deliver stories that create empathy and compassion.

There’s something very powerful about seeing a human being look into a camera and be vulnerable. "Being able to see and relate visually to the person can be just as powerful as the story itself" says Jereme Kyle Lewis, member of VideoOut's Board of Directors.

It is the most sincere and real encounter we can provide without a face-to-face moment. You get body language, facial expression, vocal tone, and narrative at once. It provides a more complete story than text or audio alone.

Volunteers at the inaugural Kindness Party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. October 2017.

Volunteers at the inaugural Kindness Party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. October 2017.

Why coming-out stories?

The LGBTQ community is by definition a diverse community made up of countless unique individuals. While we come from different countries, speak different languages, and practice different religions, there is one thing we have in common: a coming-out story. Our stories show that we all endure hardships and, hopefully, celebrate the joys of life. Our stories show the world outside of the LGBTQ community that coming-out is necessary for almost every LGBTQ person because of the social, political, patriarchal, and binary systems that too often leave LGBTQ people vulnerable and underrepresented. Together, our stories unify us and demand a more equal, loving world.

Succinctly, coming-out stories matter. They afford LGBTQ community members a sense of belonging in lieu of feeling isolated. As late as the 1960's, 95% of people believed they had never met an LGBTQ person. We now know that's because people didn't come out. Andrew Solomon said in his VideoOut story, we must know who LGBTQ people and their stories in order to know how impoverished the world would be without all the things that they contribute.

Coming out is a bit like giving birth to one's self.  Since ‘LGBTQ-ness’ can be invisible, some gesture of coming out is necessary to share that understanding of oneself with others. It doesn’t have to be narrative exclusively, but it almost always includes one. No matter who we are or where, we all share the coming-out experience.

Having a first love or breakup, crushes and awkwardness—these are common to anyone who is attracted to other people. But the act of coming out and affirming a non-binary orientation is specific to the LGBTQ community. Depending on several factors, it can be a harrowing or hilarious experience. It can strengthen or destroy families and relationships. We need to save these stories to encourage and comfort those who have not come out and as a record and resource for those who have or for those who love someone who has.

Why is there a VideoOut blog?

There are countless important topics, world altering issues, and mind-bending opinions that must be shared. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the VideoOut blog, and every topic will be considered for publication. The blog allows the LGBTQ and ally community to discuss all the things it finds interesting, from pets to politics. In addition to the breadth of topics covered, VideoOut strives to level the playing field for diverse, LGBTQ thought leaders contributing to the conversation, and will seek out a rainbow of voices to amplify.

The VideoOut blog gives a behind the scenes look at this great mission of creating this library, the world’s largest, and what it takes to build it. We highlight the process of LGBTQ storytelling and story collecting. 

We hope that our culturally relevant content confronts and refutes the myths that surround the LGBTQ community, and that it attracts readers into a virtual community that fosters curiosity.

VideoOut aims to amplify the voices of LGBTQ people. The library of coming-out stories is threaded together by the shared personal experience of coming out. The blog delves into all the experiences, challenges, triumphs, questions, accomplishments, and activities surrounding the LGBTQ community. It's the holistic picture of LGBTQ people - a fuller voice of the LGBTQ community.

We hope the blog exists to provide for LGBTQ people, especially those whose voices haven't been heard, a space where they can talk about what interests them most. We hope to present content to the LGBTQ community as understood and relayed by the LGBTQ community.

Why intentionally diversify contributors?

We want to present a full picture of the views and backgrounds and identities that compose the LGBTQ community. Why? Because there’s never just one story and there is danger in the dominant one prevailing by itself.

Intersectionality is super important; identities overlap and intersect and recognizing when, where, why, and how that happens is a priority.

The historical supremacy of the white, male perspective has disproportionately influenced generations. VideoOut seeks to upend the norm and challenge the current media offerings by providing a diverse, well-rounded voice that includes as many perspectives as possible.

While VideoOut welcomes every perspective, including those of white males, we create spaces where every voice is heard. We do not tolerate patriarchy, misogyny, racism, homophobia, intolerance, xenophobia, white supremacy, or for the most part, absolutism. We encourage healthy conversation and we foster an environment where intellectualism, curiosity, constructive criticism, and creativity are celebrated.

A few VideoOut helpers in front of a Kindness Party installation,  In Order to Feel Safe Wall . October 2017.

A few VideoOut helpers in front of a Kindness Party installation, In Order to Feel Safe Wall. October 2017.

Why does the spectrum of interests and diversity of contributors matter?

The LGBTQ community has been typecast. The world’s perception is that gay men are fabulous unicorns or leather-laden beefcakes, lesbians wear plaid and carry power tools, bisexual people are just confused, and trans people should stick to the bathrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate. The world has a hard time understanding queer people.

The binary has been the mode of operation for centuries, and the LGBTQ community has a lot of work to do in order to destroy all these commonly held misconceptions. That’s why we tell our stories!  The image of LGBTQ persons in a lot of media is monolithic, and though we are united under the LGBTQ banner, each one of us is interested in different ideas, from pets to politics to food to foreign affairs. Talking about these topics shows the world that we are adventurers, performers, scientists, politicians, activists, chefs, teachers, homemakers, environmentalists, artists, and more – we are intelligent, proficient at a range of skills, and bring an important perspective that is too often left out of the conversation.

LGBTQ persons are defined to some other people on the basis of who they are drawn to have sex with. This perpetuates the stigma of differentness. LGBTQ people are full human beings with a range of experiences. We are more than the labels used to define us. VideoOut provides a platform that exists to publish ideas and catalyze conversations at the top of the LGBTQ community’s intelligence.

We want to speak to those interests and provide a perspective that is likely and noticeably missing in the broader media landscape. It is a more real view of our world. Hearing from someone not like you in 9 of 10 ways can challenge and inform you. We present content from an LGBTQ perspective, but even that perspective is going to change from a black, trans immigrant living in Albuquerque, NM to the white, gay man living on Boca Raton, FL. Those voices are important and can teach one another.

Why a VideoOut summit?

The LGBTQ community faces real challenges, from education to healthcare to housing to employment. Historically, the governing systems and people in power have not favored LGBTQ people. “The LGBTQ community is varied and vibrant. We include iconoclasts of every stripe—from everyday citizens to people in the highest ranks of government and business. The strength and talent of our community and its allies means no challenge we face is insurmountable,” said Jonathan Reeves, member of VideoOut's board of directors.

The VideoOut Annual Summit gathers the leading thinkers and doers to solve challenges facing the LGBTQ community. Each annual summit will focus on a specific challenge so that year after year, VideoOut will systematically change the world.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and it’s going to take a lot of people to do it. People are more engaged than ever, so a VideoOut Summit is a great place to harness the collective power and motivation of our community.

There is something magical about getting a group of similar people together for celebration, change-making, growth, and community development. The summit will gather the VideoOut community in-person in order to deepen and sustain relationships created online. 

It's also a chance to interact with people that look and think differently since many of us hang out in sub-groups of people like ourselves.

The summit serves as a means to be tangibly involved in addressing the challenges that face the LGBTQ community. Like any summit, it presents an opportunity for likeminded people to network, unaligned people to find their common ground, and real issues to be discussed in a forum not easily found in every community or on a regular basis.

Why is the summit annual?

The challenges facing the LGBTQ community are numerous. Every year, VideoOut will identify the specific systemic challenge that most adversely affects LGBTQ people. We believe that a year is the perfect amount of time to develop creative strategies, engage the appropriate change-makers, and enlist the public to positively affect real change.

Each year, the summit will report on progress made in the previous year and map the year ahead. The summit will also deliver a State of the LGBTQ Community Address.

While there are many practical reasons for hosting an annual summit, the most important reason is community. VideoOut is committed to providing for the existing LGBTQ community and building a stronger community for generations to come.

As the term alludes to, the summit is the peak of something that comes before it and continues after. We will likely hold smaller discussions and events leading up to the summit. After the summit, many of our programs will be guided by what comes from that meeting.

Why are the summits topical?

By focusing on one topic, we can invite the people who are best positioned to affect positive change. For instance, if the summit focuses on education, we can invite teachers, principals, professors, officials at the Board of Education, curriculum designers, and the Secretary of Education. Focusing on one topic will also allow us to align ourselves with the best partners, institutions, corporations, and community leaders. The list of change-makers, attendees, partners, and sponsors will likely change based on the topic of focus.

Why will people attend?

Connection is a powerful magnet. People will come to be a part of the community that is fostered and forged at the VideoOut Annual Summit. People will come to build their own social capital and to support others who are doing incredible things in the LGBTQ space. People will come to be a part of VideoOut's work to destroy the misconceptions that surround the LGBTQ community.

The VideoOut Annual Summit is a great place to represent your company or cause and to promote your brand as a presenting sponsor. It's a place to learn new skills, like how to organize communities for change. There are even opportunities to speak on panels and facilitate discussions.

Meggan Sommerville and Gretchen Hammond sharing their stories at Chicago Story Collection Day. January 2017.

Meggan Sommerville and Gretchen Hammond sharing their stories at Chicago Story Collection Day. January 2017.

Why should sponsors and partners be involved?

VideoOut is home to the world’s largest library of coming out and ally support stories. It’s also a hub for powerful thinkers and doers to share their brightest ideas. Ours is a front-row seat to the LGBTQ community and all the exciting things going on within it. Want to be a part of it? Supporting VideoOut through philanthropic giving will help increase the impact of projects related to our year-long initiatives, including the VideoOut library of stories, the blog that highlights the spectrum of LGBTQ ideas beyond what's currently commercially available, the VideoOut Annual Summit that exists to tackle systemic challenges facing marginalized communities, and one off projects like Kindness Party that centers the needs of the most vulnerable populations in our community.

Our sponsors and partners are the icing on the cake. They not only afford us the opportunity to make a really big difference, they help us throw really good parties that unite the community. For instance, Kindness Party was attended by 300 people, and Whole Foods, Shake Shack, Walgreens and Duane Reade, and Essentia Water made it so special for the attendees. The day was spent celebrating kindness, getting to know our neighbors, learning about the rise in hate crimes, and defining what safety means to us in our community.

The truth is, VideoOut costs money. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization and contributions are tax deductible. We rely on the generosity of our sponsors and partners to do the work that we do.

Why should people donate to VideoOut?

VideoOut is a grassroots organization that's changing the way the world thinks about LGBTQ people. It’s amplifying the voices of LGBTQ people via a platform designed to highlight the experiences of real people. It’s highlighting the entire spectrum of LGBTQ people’s interests instead of settling for what’s already commercially available. It’s engaging the leading thinkers and the most effective doers to tackle and solve systemic challenges facing the LGBTQ community.

VideoOut’s work depends on the generosity of everyday people – parents, aunts and uncles, teachers, coaches, bosses, employees, nurses, librarians, and everything in between. Supporting VideoOut through philanthropic giving will help increase the impact of projects related to our year-long initiatives.  By giving, you are changing the world.

Be a part of something big! A movement. VideoOut is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization, and your tax deductible donations support the mind-opening, community-building, heart-filling, isolation-busting, record-breaking work we're doing.

A Kindness Party activity,  Sidewalk Chalk Challenge: Fill the Street with Kindness.  October 2017.

A Kindness Party activity, Sidewalk Chalk Challenge: Fill the Street with Kindness. October 2017.

Why is VideoOut a global organization?

VideoOut exists to amplify the voice of LGBTQ people that live in every country, in every city, and in every community. LGBTQ people exists in every part of the world. From San Francisco to Chechnya, from Birmingham to Nairobi.

LGBTQ presence is global. The narrative form is ubiquitous across cultures and communities are steeped in their own stories - that's how they know who they are. To preserve the LGBTQ narrative and express it to people in other places or in other times is the ultimate VideoOut legacy.

Why does VideoOut matter to local communities, the United States, and the world?

Prejudice lives everywhere, and important stories aren’t being heard. The voices of the vulnerable are being denied by underrepresentation and lies. It’s our mission to collect these stories and amplify these voices so that together, no matter where they come from, they form an unstoppable collective that says, “We are LGBTQ, and we demand equality!”

"I want everyone in my community to be safe, fed, loved, and accepted. Each of these is a right not a privilege," says Amy Guth, a VideoOut partner and supporter. "The [Trump] administration is dangerous, self-serving, and doesn’t appear to care about hard-won civil rights. And then I imagine what is happening around the world - a person aching to be with the person they love and knowing it could cost them their lives or their freedom. I want to cry. Everyone deserves to be tenderly and wonderfully loved and to love as much in return. Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone had that happily and safely and joyfully in their lives."

People everywhere are LGBTQ, but they start out only knowing what is around them. First in their own home, and then in their local community. If they need to know about being LGBTQ either because this might be who they are or because they know someone who might be, they should be able to safely and confidentially access stories that highlight individuals who are like them - not just the stereotypes so often portrayed across media.

Norma Seledon sharing her story at Alphawood Gallery in Chicago. March 2017.

Norma Seledon sharing her story at Alphawood Gallery in Chicago. March 2017.

Why did you choose to be a part of VideoOut?

"As an artist, personal narrative is alluring to me and a powerful form – a portal to knowledge," says Ted Altschuler, a member of VideoOut's Board of Directors. "As a psychologist and neuroscientist, I observe that narrative is one of the key forms through we we know ourselves. To have an identity is to possess a narrative. When we wake up every morning and experience the continuity of ourselves, we know this because we can tell our own story to ourselves. Story is the way we know ourselves and the only way to know others.  It is the way we synthesize new knowledge and give it relevance to who we are and what we already know. In my own effort to be useful to the LGBTQ community, I think VideoOut is a valuable way to help us know ourselves, to know each other, and to get other communities to know us as the varied and valuable people we are."

"I have seen first hand the value of personal narrative," says Jordan Reeves, Founder and Executive Director of VideoOut. "Cliff Simon, my college professor, told me his story, and that gave me the courage to take the leap and share mine too. Coming out was the most important moment of my life. VideoOut amplifies that experience across the LGBTQ community and uses it as a tool for advocacy. To be a part of an organization that is fighting for LGBTQ equality and liberation is to be engaged in the pivotal fight of our time. I can think of no better legacy, no better use of my life, talents, and skills, and no better way to enjoy my days than by giving my all to VideoOut."

"If my story can make a difference to any person, my life is worth it." Judy Kamilhor, volunteer at Brooklyn Community Pride Center and story contributor to VideoOut.

Jordan Reeves at a VideoOut collaboration with Chicago Sinfonietta. March 2017.

Jordan Reeves at a VideoOut collaboration with Chicago Sinfonietta. March 2017.