Britain’s concentration camps for gay men



Historian and author Simon Webb writes about the gay men who were kept in concentration camps in the UK.

We are most of us aware that gay men were routinely sent to the concentration camps of the Third Reich for no other reason than that their sexuality was unacceptable to the Nazis.

A special section of the Gestapo, the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion was set up by Heinrich Himmler in 1936, with the avowed intention of rooting out homosexuality wherever it was to be found in Germany.

In Britain during the 1930s and 1940s, gay men were certainly imprisoned for what was then classified as criminal behaviour, but few people know that there were also concentration camps operating in this country between 1940 and 1946, to which one special category of gay men were sent.

In 1940, following the fall of France, an estimated 30,000 Polish soldiers arrived in Britain; men who had fought alongside the French army in an effort to stave off the invading Germans.

They were led by a former Prime Minister of Poland, General Wladyslaw Sikorski. Fearing that this country was itself about to be invaded, these troops were rushed to Scotland to defend the east coast against possible landings of German troops launched from Norway.

Britain was thus indebted to the new Polish government-in-exile, which was led by Sikorski. Without the Polish troops, Scotland would have been all but undefended against German attack.

General Sikorski was not universally popular with his fellow countrymen and opposition groups emerged which threatened his position as leader of the Polish government and commanding officer of the tens of thousands of Polish soldiers.

The solution, at least as far as Sikorski was concerned, was simple. These enemies would have to be neutralised.

General Sikorski – the man responsible for the concentration camps in Scotland
On 18 July 1940, General Sikorski told the Polish National Council in London: “There is no Polish judiciary. Those who conspire will be sent to a concentration camp.”

Since he and the others were likely to be in Britain for the foreseeable future, it was plain that the concentration camp of which he talked, would be set up in this country.

General Marian Kukiel, appointed Commander of Camps and Army Units in Scotland by Sikorski, received a secret order relating to what were described as, ‘an unallocated grouping of officers’, who were to be held in a special camp.

Not only did Sikorski wish to see senior officers and political rivals who might challenge his authority tucked out of the way, he also wished to purge the Polish army of what he termed, ‘Person of improper moral level.’

General Sikorski was an austere and autocratic leader and had very strong ideas on what constituted acceptable behaviour.

He loathed drunks, gamblers, the sexually promiscuous and especially homosexuals.

So it was that along with all the men he feared might interfere with his leadership of the Polish government-in-exile, generals and senior politicians from pre-war Poland, Sikorski made the decision to lock up many other men of whose conduct he happened to disapprove.

The site chosen for this, the first concentration camp to be established in Britain, was the Isle of Bute.

Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, before the Second World War. The first Polish concentration camp was established here in 1940

The inmates of the new camp were at first housed in tents. Not all were military men.

Among the first to be imprisoned there were men such as Michael GrazynskI, President of the Polish Scouting Association. Another important prisoner was Marian Zyndram-Kosciakowlski; who was Prime Minister of Poland from 1935-1939.

The atmosphere in the camp on the Isle of Bute was toxic.

The senior officers, no fewer than twenty generals were held captive there at various times, refused to have anything to do with what were known as the ‘pathological cases’; I.e. the drunks and homosexuals.

This led to the development of a sub-culture of gay prisoners, who tended to stick together; a situation which represented something of a scandal to those running the camp and it was decided that the ‘pathological’ types should be separated from the political prisoners.

A new and harsher camp was set up on the Scottish mainland at Tighnabruich and the gay prisoners transferred there.

This village, voted in 2002 ‘the prettiest village in Argyll, Lomand and Stirlingshire’, is on the coast, facing the Isle of Bute. The commandant of the new camp was Colonel Wladyslaw Spalek.

How was it possible that the Polish government-in-exile was allowed to operate concentration camps in this way, without any objections from the British government?

After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the British needed all the help they could get to defend their country against a German invasion.

The Allied Forces Act was accordingly passed that same year.

This gave the governments-in-exile of Poland, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium and Czechoslovakia the legal right to raise their own independent forces from among citizens of their countries resident in Britain.

Their army camps and military bases were to be regarded as the sovereign territory of the various countries concerned and, as such, immune from interference by the British police or any other authorities.

How this worked in practice was that if General Sikorski took a dislike to any Polish person living in this country, he was able to draft that person into his army and then have him arrested by the military police and taken off into captivity as either a deserter or mutineer.

This neat little trick meant that any Polish man whose behaviour, sexual or otherwise, did not meet with Sikorski’s approval was apt to find himself being shipped off to Scotland and held behind barbed wire.

In another grim echo of the situation in Nazi Germany, not only were gay men marked down for imprisonment in the camps; communists and Jews were also likely to fall foul of the Polish government in London.

One of the most famous prisoners on the Isle of Bute was the writer, journalist and biographer of Stalin; Isaac Deutscher.

Although born in Poland, Deutscher, a Jew, had emigrated to Britain where he made a life for himself before the outbreak of war in 1939.

In 1940, following Dunkirk and the Fall of France, he travelled to Scotland to volunteer for the Polish army which was now based there.

No sooner had he joined up, than Deutscher found himself arrested and sent to the camp at Rothesay.

Being both a Jew and also a communist, he was regarded as a dangerous subversive by senior figures in General Sikorski’s administration.

Rumours began to circulate among MPs in London that something unsavoury was going on in Scotland.

Names began to emerge of Polish citizens being held for no apparent reason in secret installations.

In all cases, the men being detained seemed to be Jews.

On February 19 1941, for example, Samuel Silverman, MP for Nelson and Colne, raised the question in the House of Commons of two Jewish brothers called Benjamin and Jack Ajzenberg. These men had been picked up by Polish soldiers in London and taken to a camp in Scotland.

The following year, Adam McKinley, MP for Dumbartonshire in Scotland, asked in the House what was happening on the Isle of Bute.

The government, which had no wish to upset a valuable ally, refused to provide any information.

Under the terms of the Allied Forces Act, the British had in any case no legal right to interfere in what was happening at camps and army bases being operated by the Polish Government in Exile.

Having found that they were apparently able to operate concentration camps on British soil with complete impunity, the Polish leadership opened new facilities for holding political prisoners and others at Kingledoors, Auchetarder and Inverkeithing.

The last named of these was located just eight miles from Edinburgh.

These were dreadful places which looked like the traditional idea of a concentration camp; barbed wire fences, primitive accommodation and watch towers containing armed guards.

Those living nearby heard rumours of maltreatment, starvation, beatings and even the death of inmates.

In a number of cases, the reports of deaths by shooting turned out to be quite true. On 29 October 1940, for instance, a Jewish prisoner called Edward Jakubowsky was shot dead in the camp in Kingledoors, for allegedly insulting a guard.

The Polish camps were to operate for another six years.

Increasing unease on the part of British MPs and others, led to questions being asked in the House about what precisely was going on in Scotland.

Matters came to a head on 14 June 1945. Robert McIntyre, the Member for the Scottish constituency of Motherwell, stood up in the House and asked the following question:

“Will the government make provision for the inspection, at any time, by representatives of the various districts of Scotland of any penal settlements, concentration camps, detention barracks, prisons, etc. within their area, whether these institutions are under the control of the British, American, French or Polish governments or any other authority; and for the issuing of a public report by those representatives?”

This caused something of a sensation; the suggestion that there were concentration camps in Scotland.

That same day, Moscow Radion made the same accusation, citing the detention of a Jewish academic called Dr Jan Jagodzinski in a camp at Inverkeithing.

This provoked widespread interest and the world’s press began to ask what was happening in these Polish camps.

Cutting from the Brisbane Courier and News, 15 June, 1945

In an attempt to defuse the anger being felt, the Polish government-in-exile agreed to allow journalists to visit the camp at Inverkeithing.

This action did little to reassure anybody. The first prisoner to whom reporters spoke turned out to be yet another Jew, by the name of Josef Dobosiewicz.

He alleged that a prisoner had recently been shot dead in the camp. The commandant conceded that this was true, but claimed that the dead man had been trying to escape.

Once again, the local police had been powerless to act, under the terms of the Allied Forces Act.

A year after the Second World war had come to an end, the camps were still in existence and still seemingly holding Jews.

On 16 April 1946, the MP for Fife West, William Gallacher, asked the Secretary of State for War to look into the case of two more Jews being held in a camp in Scotland; David Glicenstein and Shimon Getreudhendler.

It is impossible at this late stage to know precisely what was happening in these camps.

That they were in fact concentration camps is undeniable; that after all is what general Sikorski had announced that he would be setting up.

We have no idea at all how many gay men were sent to the camps, nor how long they were held there.

The same is true for the statistics relating to communists and Jews.

What is beyond dispute is that from 1940 onwards, men in this country were being arrested and taken to concentration camps for no other reason than that they were gay.

Simon Webb is the author of ‘British Concentration Camps: A Brief History from 1900 – 1975′.

LGBT Seniors Shouldn’t Die Penniless and Alone


JANUARY 19 2016


Systemic inequities, which are finally changing, still meant a disadvantaged life now for many LGBT seniors

At 68 years old, having led a responsible and productive life, I find myself living in poverty with the prospects for the final third of my existence only getting worse. I wake each day only to hope that I will die before my funds and limited resources run out completely. I also find that I am in the company of hundreds of thousands of other LGBT seniors who, through no fault of their own, are in the same tragic and inhumane situation.

Putting aside any pride that I once may have had, I share my story in an effort to create an awareness of these inequities that have devastated the current generation of LGBT seniors.

I have worked since I was 12 years old: part-time when school was in session and full-time each weekend, during every summer recess and every day of each holiday vacation. I have paid into the Social Security system for well over 50 years — over one half of a century! At 21 years old, I assumed the responsibility for raising my three brothers and helped to care for my mom until her death from lung cancer.

In my professional career, I have gone from cleaning dirty toilets at minimum wage to serving as the executive director of a continuous care retirement community with some 500 residents and nearly 200 employees. In the late 1990s, I was earning a very comfortable six-figure salary. I have led a frugal life in an attempt to build a nest egg for my own golden years.

But LGBT seniors of today have endured a past that was and still is not at all conducive to planning and providing for a comfortable and secure retirement existence. During the working years of today’s LGBT seniors, there were four fatal bullets that prevented our financial success: We were refused employment solely on the basis of our sexual orientation, we were paid less money for equal work, we were denied promotions, and we were fired with no recourse at the whim of ignorant employers. Fortunately I was able to dodge the first three bullets, but that was only to tragically fall victim to the fourth.

I was fired because of my sexual orientation less than two months before my 25th anniversary of employment. After dedicating nearly a quarter of a century of my life to the same company, I found myself unemployed in my early 60s and looking for work during one of the most disastrous periods of our nation’s economic history. Making things even worse, with absolutely no income, I was forced to accept early retirement Social Security benefits at a 25 percent reduction, a desperate decision that will negatively impact my existence for the rest of my life.

So here I am, a 68-year-old gay man who has led a productive and responsible life but who now has to work just to survive. I am fortunate enough to have found a job at the Pride Center at Equality Park in Wilton Manors, Fla., that pays me to pursue my passion of advocating for the elderly and gives me the opportunity to positively impact the lives of other LGBT seniors like me.

It is my passion in life to convince folks of the need to embrace aging and to set out on a journey to improve the “third third” of our lives. I aspire to raising awareness of the special needs of our LGBT senior population. This is a group often with far less family support, with fewer financial resources and many more societal scars than other aging populations, and at the Pride Center we provide programs that help to maintain independence, that boost mental and physical health and that provide a raison d’etre — a reason for being and enjoying life. We strive to increase the connections between service providers and our seniors in need of those services. And for those who are serving as caregivers, we offer support, education and respite to ease their burden.

Our Coffee & Conversation gathering draws nearly 200 LGBT seniors every Tuesday and serves to provide a fun and free opportunity for socialization to ward off the isolation that is so prevalent with many seniors. I solicit a different sponsor each week, which may be a long-term care facility, an elder law attorney, a home health care agency or some other business normally utilized by an aging population, so that our attendees cannot only enjoy free coffee and goodies but also build an arsenal of information about available area service providers for the times they need help the most.

The Pride Center partners with other local and national organizations to help improve the lives of LGBT seniors. In conjunction with SAGE USA we have been providing the SAGE Works program that, through a grant from the Walmart Foundation, helps LGBT seniors find work or hone their skills to get a better job. Our Fund, a Broward-based community foundation that supports the LGBT community, just recently provided a program of LGBT Cultural Competency Certification that now enables several of us from the Pride Center to go out into the community and make caregivers more aware of and sensitive to the needs of the LGBT senior community.

As a society, we have made great strides in LGBT awareness and rights that today’s LGBT seniors never expected to see in their lifetimes. Yet for myself, and for so many other LGBT seniors, change has come too late. After an exhilarating period of celebration, we settle back and wonder how our lives would have been different had the changes come during our younger years. We know one cannot reclaim missed experiences nor amass fortunes never earned. We now need to focus our efforts toward securing equality in health care, housing, and employment so that no old people have to go to bed at night hoping to die in their sleep.

BRUCE WILLIAMS is leads programming for LGBT elders at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Florida.
BRUCE WILLIAMS leads programming for LGBT elders at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Fla.

Poor sex education is ‘failing’ UK school pupils, survey finds

Sex education provisions are 'failing' pupils

Sex education provisions are ‘failing’ pupils


A survey has found that young people in the UK are being put at risk by “inconsistent” sex and relationship education – which leaves them at risk.

The Sex Education Forum carried out a survey of over 2,000 young people aged 11 to 25 – finding their safety may be at risk due to inconsistent sex and relationships education.

The survey found that many young people did not report education about a range of topic – including sexual consent, sexual abuse, or information about female genital mutilation.

It found that half (50%) of young people reported they did not learn how to get help if they were abused, over half (53%) did not learn how to recognise grooming for sexual exploitation, and more than 40% had not learned about healthy or abusive relationships.

A third (34%) of young people said they learnt nothing about sexual consent at school.

It comes amid calls for statutory LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education in schools.

Neil Carmichael MP, the Chair of the Education Select Committee, recently wrote for PinkNews to urge the government to make sex and relationship education compulsory in schools.

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Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, said: “The odds of a young person learning vital information about equal, safe and enjoyable relationships are no different than the toss of a coin.

“The ultimate consequence of this is that many children don’t know how to recognise abusive behaviour or how to seek help.

“With evidence about the benefits for children and young people of teaching SRE stacked up high and a growing list of politicians calling for the subject to be mandatory, there is no excuse for Government to continue leaving SRE to chance.”

Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: “As members of the Sex Education Forum, ATL fully supports its call for mandatory and inclusive Sex and Relationships Education.

“We know that education staff want high quality training so that they can deliver the SRE that will enable young people to keep themselves safe.

“We call upon the Government to take this important step, which parents, education staff and young people all want, so that we can all help to tackle child abuse, sexual health issues

i am Jazz


Resources for transgender ‘kids’  are not always obvious when you go looking for them, I am reposting an article from the Human Rights Campain which provides resources to enable  libraries and schools to support transgender kids.


More than 600 people in the small town of Mt. Horeb, Wis., recently came together to read the children’s book I Am Jazz in support of a transgender child in the community — who had begun attending school as the girl she knew herself to be.

The audience — full of children, parents, grandparents and community members — was deeply moved by the experience, where they learned more about how they could support transgender children and youth in their own backyard.

On Jan. 14, communities all across the nation are hosting their own events — building on the momentum the Mt. Horeb community started that night. The Human Rights Campaign — through HRC’s Welcoming Schools program — is encouraging educators, families and community members to create their own readings in support of transgender youth in their communities.



German gay literature’s use of suicide to make political points

Published by Gay History –

by Paul


A still image from the 1919 German film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others) depicting a concert violinist who killed himself because of adverse publicity about his homosexual orientation | 15436

Historian Samuel Clowes Huneke has discovered that gay suicide is a historical phenomenon, with a distinct and varied past. Huneke is the first scholar in the field of modern German history to examine the relationship between suicide and gay identity. He is also the first to historicize gay suicide and trace the ways in which it pervades the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“A striking trend of gay suicide evolved in German culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” he said. Through a close examination of German suicide notes, letters, diaries, medical records, gay literary magazines and novels, Huneke has identified clear connections between the suicide trope and the development of gay identity in modern Germany.

“In the late 1860s, just at the moment when the earliest texts on homosexuality began to appear, German doctors, activists, and writers also began to discuss and depict gay suicide with increasing frequency.” This phenomenon of linking homosexuality with suicide sparked the beginning of what he sees as a trend in poetry, plays and novels in which suicide is a recurring theme. This group “pointed to a handful of gay suicides in order to claim that there was an epidemic of gay men killing themselves because of anti-sodomy laws and fear of exposure.”

Klaus Mann, the first prominent German gay novelist in Western history, was the son of writer Thomas Mann. Klaus Mann published in the 1920s, and his work treated homosexuality openly. The suicide of gay characters recurs in most of Mann’s books. In his novel Treffpunkt im Unendlichen (Meeting-Point at Infinity, 1932), the unrequited love of a gay man for a heterosexual man leads the gay character to take his own life. Mann chose to make the suicide appear romantic and gentle: The gay man committed suicide in the straight man’s bed, in what Mann describes as a wedding-night scene. “It’s seen as a romantic fulfillment of life … instead of depicting something like suicide as a brutal, tragic act, it is depicted as a grand capstone to a miserable life. As if the best thing this character has done with his life is to kill himself.”

Klaus Mann himself committed suicide in a hotel in Cannes, in 1949.

LGBT Rights in the Commonwealth


LGBT Rights in the Commonwealth

40 of the 53 states still have laws which criminalise same-sex relationships in some way


The Kaleidoscope Trust has published its biennial report on the state of LGBTI people’s rights across the Commonwealth. Speaking Out 2015 documents theCommonwealth’s poor record in protecting the rights of its LGBTI citizens and  has been released in advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.


There are hopeful signs that the Commonwealth is willing to reflect on how to improve this record. As a result of the Trust’s ongoing work with Commonwealth institutions for the first time in its history The Commonwealth People’s Forum, the official gathering of Commonwealth civil society, is hosting two session examining the challenges facing LGBTI people. Activists and policy makers will be looking at ways in which Commonwealth institutions and member states can do more to protect the rights of LGBTI people. The People’s Forum convenes in Malta 23-25 November in advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 27-29 November.




Speaking Out 2015 is a compilation of contributions from activists, human rights organisations and researchers which intends to deepen understanding of LGBTI rights of key Commonwealth policy makers and offer them a range of well-researched, practical policy recommendations to support change at all levels of the Commonwealth.


Speaking Out 2015 calls on the Commonwealth take action to overcome the discrimination and violence faced by LGBTI people through:


  • Following the example of other multilateral forums including: the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights; the Organisation of American States and the UN Human Rights Council the Commonwealth must condemn violence on any grounds and make concrete efforts to prevent acts of violence and harassment committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.


  • Commit to open and free debate across the Commonwealth on how best to safeguard the rights of LGBTI people.


  • Commit to include a discussion on equal rights for LGBTI citizens as a substantive agenda item at the next CHOGM.


  • Engage in meaningful dialogue with their own LGBTI communities to facilitate an informed debate about the means to remove all legal and other impediments to the enjoyment of their human rights.


Dr Felicity Daly, Executive Director, Kaleidoscope Trust said:  “While we welcome the positive changes for LGBTI people living in Commonwealth member states since the last CHOGM in 2013 – our report shows there is serious cause for concern remaining in every Commonwealth country. Speaking Out 2015 details LGBTI people are still criminalized in the majority of member states, and face violence, discrimination and significant barriers in accessing their rights to health, employment and education. The Commonwealth, as a network of states, institutions and civil society actors, must play a vital role in ensuring equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”


We hope the report will increase public understanding and highlight the challenges facing LGBTI communities in the Commonwealth in the lead up to CHOGM and support the advocacy efforts of the Trust, The Commonwealth Equality Network and other human rights advocates engaging in the 2015 CHOGM

To protest book ban, straight and gay Israeli Jews and Arabs passionately kiss

LGBTQ Nation – January 12, 2016

A kiss is not just a kiss

In this case, a kiss is not just a kiss.


As hundreds of men demonstrated this summer by locking lips to protest Kim Davis’ antics, gay kisses are the hottest trend in activism — and now Israeli Jews and Arabs are getting in on the action.

After the Israeli Ministry of Education decided to ban a book depicting a love affair between a Jewish woman and an Arab man, TimeOut Tel Aviv made a video with members of both groups hellbent on proving that love does indeed conquer all.

Some knew each other prior to the shoot and some were complete strangers, though all were committed to furiously making out the name of solidarity.


Check out the video below, and pick out your favorite couple.

Transgender Equality

The House of Commons Select Committee on Women and Equalities has published its report on Transgender Equality – the report is concerned with equality issues affecting transgender (or “trans”)1 people, an umbrella term describing a diverse minority group whose members often experience very stark inequality.

The report would appear to be comprehensive, but until we and our friends have read it we will reserve judgement.  However we have given a link for you to read and we would ask that if you have comments then please leave them below on our website.


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Army law which allowed soldiers to be sacked for being gay finally thrown out


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AN outdated legal ban which forced gay men out of the armed forces is set to finally be officially removed from armed forces legislation.

soldiers and LGBT Flag

The law, which prohibits gay men, lesbians and transgender personnel from the forces, was put into force in 1994.

Existing rules state homosexuality is incompatible with military service and engaging in a homosexual act can constitute grounds for discharging a member of the armed forces

The ban was written into law in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 yet has been disregarded since the European Court forced the British government to allow homosexuals to serve in 2000.As such it has been ignored in practice since 2000, yet technically remains in force.

ncompatible with military serviceGETTY

Existing rules state homosexuality is incompatible with military service

MPs have now agreed a new Armed Forces Bill, which legislates for the UK during peace time. The law cleared its final House of Commons hurdle yesterday.The Government amendment to get rid of the sexuality discrimination laws was added to the Bill unopposed.

The Bill, which also deals with changes to armed forces pensions, will now proceed to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

 laws was added to the BillGETTY

The Government amendment to get rid of the sexuality discrimination laws was added to the Bill

Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said the existing rules were “inconsistent with the department’s current policies and the Government’s equality and discrimination policies more generally”.Mr Lancaster said when the provisions were originally put in place it was government policy that homosexuality was “incompatible with service in the armed forces” and therefore people who “engaged in homosexual activity were administratively discharged”.

But since 2000, he said the rules “have had no practical effect and they are therefore redundant”.

The Bill also deals with changesGETTY

The Bill also deals with changes to armed forces pensions

He added: “These provisions in no way reflect the position of today’s armed forces.“We are proud in defence of the progress we have made since 2000 to remove policies that discriminated against homosexual men, lesbians and transgender personnel so that they can serve openly in the armed forces.”

“This amendment is a practical step which shows that this Government is serious about our commitment to equality in this area.”

Shadow defence minister Toby Perkins welcomed the move.He said: “Removing this from the statute book will be a welcome step forward so that the explicit refusal to discriminate against homosexual service men and women is expunged from the service book just as it has in practice been outlawed.

“It is very clear that this is an important step forward and it is one we welcome very strongly.”

Can you be LGBT and Catholic? This documentary investigates

Gay Times Logo

A documentary has gone inside the walls of an LGBT-friendly church in Baltimore to dispel myths that people cannot be both gay and Catholic.

The LGBT Educating and Affirming Diversity Ministry within the Saint Matthew Catholic Church seeks to provide church-goers with a community that is universally accepting of people from all walks of life.


© Eric Kruszewski


Filmmaker Eric Kruszewski recently crossed paths with LEAD and decided to create a documentary series to share their mission statement, and look at the lives of people who identify as both LGBT and Catholic.

He told Out magazine: “I was raised Catholic, but have not practiced my faith in years. And before this project, I had never heard of Saint Matthew Catholic Church. One of the parishioners knew my work and me. So when we bumped into each other at a media event, she told me, ‘I have a story for you…’

“There’s no way I can fully understand what it’s like to be an LGBT Catholic in 2016. But through interviews, the documentary process and getting close to the individuals portrayed in these videos, my goal was to accurately capture their thoughts, feelings and experiences.”

Watch the first part of the documentary below