'B Who U R' film showcasing LGBTQ teens, premieres Sunday



On Sunday, Berkshire County lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer youths and their allies will get 20 minutes of fame on the big screen at the Beacon Cinema.

The movie theater is hosting the premiere screening of "B Who U R," a documentary film made by members of the Live Out Loud Youth Project (LOLYP). The program, offered by Affirmative Counseling, provides safe spaces, social activities and support for Berkshire youths who identify as LGBTQ, may be questioning their identity or consider themselves an ally.

"B Who U R" is the third public media and education project produced by LOLYP. It's designed to inform and support young people, as well as others, to "express their creativity, build on their strengths, find joy in their uniqueness, and to fully and proudly be who they are."

Last year's project, "Digital Stories," was a film project revealing the lives of local transgender youth. "B Who U R," represents the broader Berkshire LGBTQ youth community.

"We studied gay people in my psychology class, but the films we watched were about adults and people I didn't know. The idea with this is you might know the faces of people in it, and they're from your community," said Karolina Kolodziej, 18, of Pittsfield.

"It makes it more relatable. This film shows people just talking about how it is," said 21-year-old Ian Sullivan of Lenox.

He said the film can provide education and awareness for anyone, but he and his fellow Live Out Loud members wanted to specifically reach out to middle school-aged students.

"Coming out or questioning is hard for anyone, but it's even worse in middle school. At that age, you're just discovering who you are and you're so unsure of yourself, and it's harder to have confidence in yourself," said 18-year-old Marley Mitchell of Becket.

Though there are skeptics about talking to youths about orientation and sex at an early age, statistics reported by Berkshire United Way indicate a need. In 2011, more than 70 percent of teens in Berkshire County, regardless of orientation, admitted to being sexually active.

Stopbullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, has published research stating that LGBTQ youth, or youth who are perceived to be, are prone to being teased and bullied by their peers. Bullied LGBTQ youth are more likely to skip school, smoke, use alcohol or drugs, and are twice as likely than their typical peers to be depressed and think about or attempt suicide.

The documentary provides contact information for support services in Berkshire County, and talks about definitions and perceptions of the LGBTQ community.

"We also try to debunk some of the biggest myths about sexuality," said Jesse Coe, 21, of Pittsfield, who is bisexual.

"There's an assumption that all people who are bisexual just want to sleep with everybody, whether they're a boy or a girl. Though I have a preference of guys, I could fall in love with a girl if she were the right person and someone I cared about," he said. "I want to be seen as a person, not a gay person. We should all just be accepted as normal."

The film also includes the perspectives of parents of LGBTQ youths, and even members of the First Church of Christ Congregational of Pittsfield, which decided to become an open and affirming church.

"If [a church] is not safe for some, it's not safe for anyone," the Rev. James Lumsden, pastor of the church, says in the film.

Sara Shuff and Kelly Heck, both licensed social workers who work for Affirmative Counseling and supervise the Live Out Loud youth group, said in addition to Sunday's screening, the film will be put online for anyone to access for education and support.

"What these youth have done is amazing. Our entire community can learn from this," Heck said.

To reach Jenn Smith:
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On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink

If you go

What: "B Who U R," a 20-minute documentary film made by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth of Berkshire County as part of the Live Out Loud Youth Project. A reception with refreshments will follow at Thistle & Mirth, 44 West St., Pittsfield.

When: Sunday. Doors open at 10:30 a.m., with live music from the regional band Matchstick Architects. The film premiere takes place at 11 a.m.

Where: Beacon Cinema, 57 North St., Pittsfield.

Admission: There is a suggested $10 donation to be collected at the door, but all are welcome to attend and pay what you can.

For more information and to learn about accessing the film, email LiveOutLoudYouthProject@gmail.com or find the group on Facebook. LOLYP also meets on the first and third Thursdays of each month, from 3 to 5 p.m., second floor of the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, 28 Renne Ave, Pittsfield.


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