Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
Join me on a global journey to collect stories for a book “Heart-Won Freedoms: Global Journeys to ‘I Do’” - on how LGBT people and our allies become effective in helping people understand us and why we want the freedom to marry.
Since I have already been doing and talking with people about this project for the last six months, here are my answers to frequently asked questions:
PURPOSE AND CONTENT
In a nutshell, why are you writing this book? What are your hopes for it?
The 100+ stories I have already collected and will continue to collect will help bring hope to a great number of people - gay and straight alike - who are suffering from misunderstandings of what it means to be gay. How? These personal and political stories are examples of how LGBT people and straight allies have succeeded in bringing about greater understanding of and support for LGBT people and our basic human rights such as the freedom to marry. The stories also provide a unique window to helping us get to know a rich, diverse, and stereotype-busting group of LGBT people around the world and understand the common experiences we share across borders.
This is also an advocacy book. I will challenge you with reflection questions and challenges to take action to help you absorb the lessons learned and strengthen your ability to spread greater understanding of and support for LGBT people where you can. You will also be encouraged to write and share your own story and to practice engaging in dialogue with those who do not yet understand LGBT people. The lessons and advocacy skills gained from this book also apply to other misunderstood minority groups.
What types of people are you interviewing?
Three types, with slightly different questions for each:
1) Marriage equality advocates like myself in countries which have won or will soon win the freedom to marry for same-sex couples;
2) Regular LGBT people whose open lives and honest conversations with those they know have shifted hearts and won them personal support; and
3) Straight people who can testify about why their own hearts were touched.
How do you find people to interview?
Easily - through networking! I typically start with two groups: LGBT rights and marriage equality advocacy groups and Unitarian Universalists -- my long-time faith community. People I meet readily refer me to other people who can contribute to the project. Also, to get a more “random” or general feel for the public sentiment on marriage for same-sex couples, I also strike up conversations and do mini-interviews with people while I am traveling within a country - by bus, train, subway, taxi, and plane.
What is the proposed format and structure of the book?
I’ve already worked with an editor to come up with a working format for the book:
I will take my readers with me on my journey as it happens (in travelogue style) starting with the first week I started traveling within the United States, and to then other countries. (See below, From what countries will you collect stories?)
Each chapter represents a period of time and geographic area and these elements:
Relevant facts about each area & summary of their journey to marriage equality;
Why I went there and what each place (e.g., culture, environment) was like;
Who I met on my journey, including hosts and interviewees and the best of their personal and/or political stories;
In the form of flashbacks triggered by my interviewees’ stories, my own stories as a gay woman and as a marriage equality advocate;
Lessons learned about what tactics and approaches worked; and
Questions for reflection and challenges to take action.
From what countries will you collect stories?
I have already collected over a 100 stories from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Canada. Depending on how much funding I receive, I will keep going to most of the following countries which have achieved or are on their way to achieving civil marriage equality, including Finland (with Russia as an interesting side trip from Finland, but not its own chapter in the book), Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, Argentina, either Uruguay, Columbia, or Chile, South Africa, and Taiwan. If the full amount is not funded, I will go to fewer countries and/or include fewer stories that I have already collected. Although I have found it’s much more effective to develop trust and rapport with in-person interviews where I can also write about the person’s environment and how they present themselves, I can also conduct some interviews via phone or Skype. The book will still be published!
I am offering some great perks - in a fun wedding party theme - to allow you to experience some of the journey with me. They range from an Acquaintance level with a $5 donation to a “Golden Ring Sponsor” level that includes perks below it (books, teleconference, webinar, presentation, workshop) and a feature bio of them in the book.
What will the funds for the book cover?
1) Funds to cover basic living expenses (e.g., food, insurance, ground transportation, discounted international airfare) to allow me to keep collecting more stories from more countries in different continents through the end of 2015, as listed above.
South Africa: $
2) Reimburse me for the amount I loaned to the project to allow me to collect over 100 amazingly rich and heart-warming stories in six countries, which includes the first United States, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Canada.
3) Three months to cover my basic living expenses while I write it up in early 2016,
4) Professional fees for those who will help me edit, publish, and promote the book: $4,000
Will you do any sightseeing or have any fun as you travel?
Yes, of course! However, the money raised here will be going strictly towards the book and travel expenses. I will use my own savings to do the “fun” stuff!
How else can I help besides with financial contributions?
Please forward my Indiegogo link ( tinyurl.com/justlikeme) to friends and share on social media. It all helps, but I have found sending the link to specific people and letting them know why you thought they would be interested works well.
Refer me to people in the countries I plan to visit - potential hosts, interviewees, or well-connected people who can introduce me to hosts or interviewees;
Help with Internet research such as finding hosts or contacts in specific countries, and/or the history and progress of marriage equality in a country;
Be a reader and offer feedback for some chapters as I work on it in early 2016;
Help rent out my car (if in Triangle, NC area) by researching and then administering Relay Rides: you will get a percentage of the rental;
Emotional support! Cheer me on when I reach out to you. All this travel can be taxing and lonely!
Supporters will get regular updates of my progress. You can also keep up with my travels and interviews at facebook.com/tracy.hollister.
How did you get that amazing deal on cheap airfare?!
A generous and dedicated volunteer with some of our phone banks for Marriage Equality USA gave me cheap airfare anywhere in the world for a year. This straight person wants the world to be a better place for her gay child and other LGBT people. Although this donor did not give me any expectations for using the airfare, I felt that the best way to use it and honor both of our advocacy efforts on behalf of LGBT people was to use the gift to visit other countries to do in-person interviews for this book.
Have you found a publisher?
Not yet, but that is my plan. Non-fiction books require a few sample chapters along with a book proposal, and I will do much of the writing in early 2016 when I finish traveling and collecting stories. I have found some seasoned professional editors who can help me shape and edit my sample chapters and book proposal for a publisher.
Why don’t you stay in hotels (like a normal person would do!)?
When I was at Marriage Equality USA, we always found “supporter housing” from allies when we traveled. I learned I was good at this – easily tapping into my network of Unitarian Universalists and LGBT and marriage equality advocates (who are sometimes the same people). Since I self-funded the first six months of this work for the book, I was on a tight budget, so I just continued finding people in each country to host me. Besides being cost-effective, a huge benefit of this is that I get to immerse myself into the local culture more, and I often interview my hosts in their “natural environment.”
QUALIFICATIONS: WHY ME?
This sounds like an ambitious book project. What makes you think you can get it published with all the competition for books out there?
This is a challenging, one-of-a-kind book to assemble. It will take a lot of time to write up all these stories when I return, and it may take a while to find an appropriate publisher. However, you can count on me to persist until this book gets published:
1) Before I became a marriage equality advocate, I spent most of my professional career doing best practices and public policy research working on several dozens long interview and survey-based projects, including reports and presentations requiring editing multiple versions. I will break the book down into their own projects - or chapters (a country or region).
2) I am good at networking to find the help I need. I have already found qualified editors and promoters to help me reach potential publishers and readers; and
3) I am motivated to share my own and others’ lessons learned from around the world as one of my contributions to this cause with my supporters and other beneficiaries.
What did you do when volunteering and working as a marriage equality advocate?
Lots! I put my work into five categories that led up to the time from 2004 to January 2015 when the Supreme Court of the US decided to hear oral arguments for (and later ruled favorably on) the case that determined the federal constitution freedom to marry.
1) Writing – including blogging, letters to the editor, newsletters, etc.
2) Speaking – sometimes in Unitarian Universalist churches in North Carolina, but also in >>>>>> .. DC, conferences…
3) Coordinating phone banks – literally hundreds of phone banks including the following states: North Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, Indiana and New Mexico.
4) Organizing booths at events – like Pride events in NC and NYC area, Transgender…
5) Storytelling programs – managed a training and support program to assist people in sharing their stories about why they became advocates, decided to marry, or changed their hearts or minds about marriage for same-sex couples.
6) Outreach to religious conservatives – this may be what sets me apart as a marriage equality advocate. Inspired by my Mom who told me that I would be more effective if I got off my “moral high horse of self-righteousness” and learned where other people were coming from, I attended panel discussions and rallies of people in North Carolina who wanted to ……
Some of my most interesting stories come from my “close encounters” with religious conservatives, including attending their panel discussions as well as direct interactions with them through confrontations, and later sharing meals, co-authoring articles, and co-hosting living room conversations.