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'Disarm Hate' chronicles LGBT activists' trip to an anti-gun rally

by Vic Gerami

participants in the documentary 'Disarm Hate'
participants in the documentary 'Disarm Hate'  

About four years ago, an unprecedented massacre targeting the LGBTQ+ community added another mass shooting to countless others and briefly put gun reform on the front burner again.

A gunman opened fire at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people, and wounding another 50. This was another wake-up call for America and a call to action for hairdresser and wig designer Jason Hayes and filmmaker Julianna Brudek.

Hayes, who lives in New Jersey, got into action and planned a national rally against gun violence and gun-control advocacy in Washington DC. Learning about the rally, Brudek decided to gather nine diverse LGBTQ+ activists and chronicle their journey in a documentary film as they travel cross-country from Los Angeles to Washington DC to attend the rally. This was a crusade to demand LGBTQ+ equal rights, fight the NRA, and challenge America's obsession with gun violence.

The documentary follows the cross-country trip of the activists from Los Angeles to Washington DC in an RV; they visit important places along the way. But despite the seriousness of the subjects tackled, gun violence, 2nd Amendment, gun safety, LGBTQ+ rights, the film is very entertaining and has many light-hearted moments.

It conveys the diversity within the queer community, including cast members who are not completely pro-gun control. At times, confrontations break out as each one shares their thoughts and experiences with gun violence, identity issues, and being LGBTQ+.

Julianna Brudek's journey to make the film started after the Pulse Nightclub shooting the night before LA Pride. The following morning, a gunman was arrested in Los Angeles who allegedly had planned to open fire on LA Pride participants. Feeling powerless, Brudek got into action.


a scene from 'Disarm Hate'  

"I wanted to bring awareness to how disproportionately gun violence has affected the less privileged members of our community," said Brudek. "Two weeks before Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, Rita Hester, a trans woman of color, was murdered, and the media buried the story, forgotten forever."

She added, "I did not want that to happen to the Hispanic LGBTQs who lost their lives at Pulse Nightclub. As a community, we must remember the hate crimes, and work together to stop the violence perpetrated on each one of us."

Beginning as a road trip, the journey turned into so much more than anyone could have expected. Exploring their similarities and differences, the group develops a life-changing bond as they visit prominent sites of gun violence that have affected LGBTQ+ people nationwide.

This common ground opens discussions between the travelers and the people they meet along the way, who look to alleviate these horrific hate crimes and bring a better understanding for all.

Trans activist and media personality Ashlee Marie Preston, a cast member and an executive producer, said, "The threat of gun violence is intersectional. When someone's identity overlaps with multiple marginalized groups, their risk is compounded. Black Americans are ten times more likely to be murdered with a gun than white Americans. Being a woman and trans exacerbates those odds."

Preston continued, Disarm Hate focuses on the discriminatory culture within America that informs the violence marginalized communities face. If we are ever to eradicate gun violence, we must interrogate the attitudes and beliefs that fan the flames of hate. Our journey was not about taking away people's guns. It was about removing the barriers that obstruct the ability to recognize our humanity."

The documentary successfully probes the emotional journeys of the activists, who squabble, laugh, cry, and even fall in love throughout their trip. It also examines opposing views and counterpoints to their calls for gun reform from a pro-gun perspective, as they visit a shooting range and engage with a member of the Pink Pistols, a pro-gun LGBTQ group.

Harvey Fierstein, who narrated the film, summed it up with, "Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself."

Disarm Hate is available on multiple streaming platforms including Amazon Prime Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play/You Tube Rentals, InDemand (Comcast & Cox), Microsoft Store, and Vudu.


(A noted journalist and columnist, Vic Gerami is also a radio show host and media contributor who is also publisher and editor of The Blunt Post.)

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