You Gotta Have Faith
Congressional daughter Chrissy Gephardt tackles politics and religion and lives to tell the tale.
Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2008, 06:27PM
Perhaps Chrissy Gephardt has been lucky. Her family, unlike many birth families of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, not only purports unconditional love and acceptance, but actually practices it. Certainly we saw this when she came out as a lesbian in 2003, to the nation, while campaigning for her father, then-Congressman Richard Gephardt’s 2004 presidential campaign. Turns out, the politician not only supports his daughter personally, but politically as well.
This fall we got an even more intimate view of how the Gephardts—mother Jane, father Richard, daughter Chrissy—model family values. In Daniel G. Karslake’s high-profile documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, the Gephardts are one of the five American families interviewed about reconciling religious faith with homosexuality.
The topic is an age-old concern for queer women raised in religious or spiritual communities. Many churches still claim homosexuality is a sin or an abomination according to the Bible and which often leave their LGBT members feeling isolated.
With appearences by such esteemed religious leaders including Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson and former Methodist minister Jimmy Creech, For the Bible insists that it is not the word of God, but a climate of hate that truly harms those in the queer community.
Karslake edited down hours of Gephardt home footage and exclusive interviews to share this loving family’s perspective on recognizing, understanding, supporting and honoring the decisions that people make: about gender identity, sexual preference, religious belief, spiritual practice and even their coffee house.
Chrissy Gephardt, a passionate advocate for the LGBT community as well as for youth, homeless and abused women—and her family—takes her place on the silver screen with the ease, candor and clarity of someone who has learned self-love and true family values. Gephardt, who survived political campaigns, The Daily Show and coming out in public, talks about the film.
How did you get involved in For the Bible Tells Me So?
While I was working for my father’s presidential campaign, back in 2003, the creator and director of the film, Daniel Karslake, contacted my father’s campaign headquarters. He said, “We think that Dick and Chrissy would be great for this film because your family really espouses the values of loving your children no matter what, and we would love to have you in the film.” He told me about the movie, and I was just floored. I said, this is something I don’t think I can refuse, given how the church is so oppressive when it comes to issues of homosexuality.”
Are you pleased with the footage he selected?
It’s interesting to watch yourself on film. I think Dan did a great job of capturing the essence of what my family is about, which is acceptance and unconditional love and feeling like you can be yourself and that you don’t have to hide who you are.
What impact will the film have on other children of public families?
I think, first of all, in terms of my story and my family’s story, [the film] is really powerful because when families who aren’t in the public spotlight see this, they say, “Wow, look at Dick and Jane Gephardt, they have quote unquote a lot to lose from a public perspective and they’re willing to stand up on the podium and say, ‘I have a gay daughter and I love her no matter what.’” Love is the most important thing. I think it really says a lot to see a family that is so publicly out there and they are not ashamed of it. That can really help other people along in the process.
People go up to my family and say, “You really do embody what a family is about and that is about love … [about] not disowning your children for something called religion.” I mean, what is that? You know, I mean, it is about love: That is what religion is about. I think [the film] is powerful for people in religious communities.
The deconstruction of abomination in the film is really powerful.
I thought that, too. You know, it is so interesting, when I watched that film it made so much sense to me how you can make religion anything you want it to be. It is all what you make it. You can use it to condemn others. If you use it to justify saying that someone else’s lifestyle or someone else’s life is wrong or someone else’s existence is wrong, you can do that. Or you can use it to do good, to help people, to accept people for love. It is amazing what a powerful thing religion is.
There is tragedy in the film …
Anne’s suicide in the film is absolutely tragic, and so common. As the movie shows [that] kids and teenagers who don’t come from families who are accepting [can] have major mental health issues—depression and suicidal thoughts ...
Maybe bringing that to light is why you are here.
We have to do something about it. Show people that there is a different way of loving and accepting your children.
Love would be part of your platform …
I would say so.
Are you religious?
I very much do believe in God. I have faith.
Are you still a social worker?
Well, they say, once a social worker always a social worker. But, no, I don’t practice it anymore. I go to law school at Georgetown University Law Center, part time, at night. During the day, I work for my father’s company, The Gephardt Group. We do political consulting, labor organizing negotiations, other kinds of business development.
What is your focus in law school?
My interest lies in public interest law.
What kind of work do we need to do as a community?
It is so important to have tight-knit communities of gay and lesbian people who support each other. That is why [for] gay and lesbian people, their [birth] families are not necessarily their primary families. Instead, it is their gay and lesbian friends, because we feel more accepted among people who are like us than among people who are different than us and who have a history of rejecting us, whether that be our families of origin, or the world outside. We need to stick together to empower each other and make each other feel like we do belong somewhere.
I think there is nothing worse than feeling like we don’t belong in the world. But there are places you can go where there are people like you, members of the community you know, who think that you are not an outcast.
I think we need to do a better job of reaching out and asserting our presence. We are here to help, we are a community and we would love for you to be a part of it.
The film is a nice start.
It’s been a ride, it’s been a pleasure, it’s been nothing but a good experience.
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