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Snohomish-based docuseries to confront anti-LGBTQ laws across US

Everett Daily Herald logo: MainLogoEverett Daily Herald 8/4/2022 Isabella Breda
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SNOHOMISH — Five Snohomish moms and two 24-year-olds will set out on a road trip this week. Their goal? To figure out what motivates lawmakers to support anti-LGBTQ legislation.

And they’re filming the two-week journey. Episode one of their new docuseries “The Queer Agenda: A Great American Road Trip” starts in Snohomish, including an interview with local TikTok influencer and trans advocate Ve Mitchell.

Almost a decade ago the moms, known as the Society of Lucky Mothers, led forums in neighbors’ homes to talk about how to support kids who have come out as gay, as well as discussing the state’s bathroom bill. The law gave transgender people access to bathrooms, locker rooms or dressing rooms aligning with their gender identity.

Docuseries co-directors Drake Wilson and Lily Stephens Barnsby graduated from Snohomish High School in 2016. Wilson’s mother drives around with an “I love my gay son” sticker on her car. Stephens Barnsby is bisexual. While the directors were in school, they saw gay marriage legalized and state bills expanding LGBTQ students’ rights.

“Everything was getting better,” Stephens Barnsby said. “It was was sunny and beautiful and exciting. We thought that we would just keep getting rights. And then all this happened. And now we’re regressing. And the pendulum is swinging back.”

Last fall, Snohomish’s first Black openly trans homecoming queen, Mitchell, faced hateful comments in school and on social media. Years before that, she and her mom helped guide the district’s gender inclusive policies.

This year, at least two dozen anti-LGBTQ laws have passed and hundreds more have been heard this year, mostly in red and purple states.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to state health agencies asking for medical treatments like puberty-suppressing drugs and hormones for transgender youth to be considered “child abuse” under state law. The Idaho House of Representatives passed similar legislation that would have made it a crime for anybody to seek or carry out gender-affirming health care for a transgender child. But Idaho’s state Senate killed the bill, saying it undermined parental rights, the Republican Senate Majority Caucus wrote in a statement.

Wyoming lawmakers considered a bill this year that would have excluded transgender youth from girls’ and women’s sports. In Florida, school districts have rolled out policies to limit discussion of LGBTQ issues in the classroom after the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law went into effect this summer.

Stephens Barnsby and Wilson plan to pick lawmakers brains in six states ending in Florida.

“We really want to understand,” Stephens Barnsby said. “We’re not trying to give a platform to people that are just trying to pick a fight. … But we really just want to have a conversation.”

Interviews will be paired with perspectives from LGBTQ people directly affected by the laws. The Snohomish duo wants people to get to know their gay neighbors.

It’s hard to demonize people you know, Wilson said.

Along the roadtrip, the Society of Lucky Mothers will lead talks at local watering holes, called “How to Support Your Queer Child.”

Often, anti-LGBTQ legislation is framed as a parental rights issue, Wilson said. Understandably, parents want to know what their children are reading in school and who they’re hanging out with. Those conversations have played out at school board and city council meetings in Snohomish County and elsewhere.

“I think that’s another reason why the moms are really valuable,” Wilson said of the Society of Lucky Mothers. “… They care about these issues. … They typically haven’t been getting a lot of airtime.”

Wilson and Stephens Barnsby met in middle school. They grew up with this group of mothers in Snohomish and went on to study journalism and media in college.

Last year, Wilson co-directed “What Happened on First Street.”

The film documents local Black Lives Matter protests in spring 2020, when a group of locals — many armed, some bearing Confederate flags — “hijacked the narrative” of what was supposed to be a night of protest against racism, as one City Council member put it. Wilson, co-director Carolyn Yip and Mahllie Beck took home the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Award from the National Education Association for the documentary.

Like that film, “The Queer Agenda” the new docuseries was born out of a desire to “shed light on the reality,” Wilson said.

“The impacts are real,” Stephens Barnsby said. “Suicide rates are higher for LGBTQ people. People are dying. That’s why this is a human rights issue. There’s emotional impact and physical impact.”

The first episode is set to premiere Thursday on YouTube.

Herald intern Ann Duan contributed to this report.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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