Coming soon: A new map-based app that allows users worldwide to share personal stories at the combustible place where faith and homosexuality clash
Crushed by the weight of traditional society and religion, Alfredo Ormando suffered throughout his lifetime, searching for a sense of freedom and belonging that eluded him. One of the few means Alfredo had to express his pain and longing was through his work as a storyteller. In Alfredo’s words: “Writing is like eating, drinking, making love.” The telling of our personal stories connects us to our life force, to others, to possibility and, for many, to the ineffable and unseen powers that be.
It is the cautionary tale of Alfredo’s “fire” and the recognition of the importance of storytelling that informs our Sparks of Fire transmedia project. It is a tragedy that millions of people across the globe suffer because they are not able to openly express themselves for fear of being judged, marginalized, persecuted, harmed or killed because of their sexual orientation. A crucial and universal factor is the weight of religious teachings and tradition. At the same time, LGBT individuals are conditioned to believe that they are cut-off from spiritual fulfillment—or, to compensate, they hide within the camouflage of religion in order to repress their hidden desires. So often they feel excluded from God’s Kingdom and the belonging and communion that it engenders.
It is the goal of Sparks of Fire to provide an open and interactive platform for the sharing of personal stories where faith and homosexuality clash. We aim to transform the perilous spark that is ignited from this encounter into a fire of justice, communion and visibility—just like Alfredo desired. Sparks of Fire allows people suffering from religious intolerance to be able to share their stories with others across the globe in a visual, map-based, and interactive manner. While Alfredo’s storytelling is central to our film, the stories of people from around the world will be central to Sparks of Fire.
The importance of a platform like Sparks of Fire cannot be underestimated given the reality for today’s LGBT population. It is estimated that between 30-40% of LGBT youth have attempted suicide, and that up to a third of all suicides in the United States are related to sexual orientation (www.sprc.org). The reality is even worse in other parts of the world, where homosexuality is illegal and sometimes even punishable by death. We cannot find redress for such a waste of human potential without addressing the root issue of religion and religious “violence.” Usually, this has been done in a piecemeal way—place by place, religion by religion, issue by issue. Instead, we intend to create an inclusive forum for storytelling which immediately dissolves boundaries.
Over the past few years projects like “It Gets Better” and “The Trevor Project” have helped spread awareness and provide hope. But no cross-platform, global storytelling project exists to address specifically the issue of LGBT/religious oppression. ALFREDO’S FIRE and its transmedia component Sparks of Fire are a natural and timely way to build community, awareness and change around this issue. The resulting network of stories provides a platform for self-expression, community and empowerment for the international LGBT population, while also building an important and everlasting record of oral/visual history which has the potential to influence institutions and generations.