Local, award-winning documentary screening benefits Nashville LGBT-inclusive organizations

On May 13 at 7pm, Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre is hosting a special screening of the beautiful documentary, Two: The Story of Roman and Nyro. The film, awarded Best Documentary at the 2013 Nashville Film Festival, gives remarkably personal insight into the formation of a modern American family.

What begins as Desmond Child and Curtis Shaw’s journey from longtime couple to parenthood becomes the story of the widespread “village” of individuals who have come together to help them create and support their family. Roman and Nyro represent the fulfillment of a dream, not just that of Desmond and Curtis but the dream of generations: that one day a happy, partnered gay couple could have their own children and be recognized as a real American family. What makes the story perhaps most remarkable is that it is mostly set not in Miami or Los Angeles, but Nashville. The event benefits three important organizations serving LGBT families in Nashville: Abintra Montessori School, Jewish Family Service of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and PFLAG Nashville.

The film has been screened at well over a dozen festivals since its completion, in locations as different as socially conservative Nassau, Bahamas and Palm Springs. For many of us who have well-developed networks of liberal, or otherwise accepting, allies, the story of a gay family may not seem so extraordinary; we might even question why it needs to be told in this day and age. Traveling with the film, often with the boys along, has reminded Desmond and Curtis why they want it heard. Curtis recalls, “Desmond is half Cuban, but when we brought the film to Havana, we weren’t sure who would relate to our film. Several sweet, simple people approached us afterwards with heartfelt thanks. A girl who worked at the theatre came up to us with tears in her eyes - the story of love and family is universal and it’s a meaningful journey for all of us.”

Even in places in America associated with acceptance of gay culture, the story has been powerfully impactful. Desmond said that even “at the Palm Springs international Film Festival, where it won Best of Fest, there were a lot of the elder members of our LGBT community that were deeply moved. Curtis’ mom was there and so were the boys. Everyone got a lot out of it.”

For Curtis, one of the most meaningful encounters sparked by the movie was in Philadelphia. “A man in his 70s stood up during the question and answer and said, ‘My mother died when I was two, and I lost my father and all the rest of my family in Germany when I was ten. I feel like, in watching this film, I have a new family.”

Bringing the film back to Nashville to support the community here is important to Desmond and Curtis. Curtis relates that, at first, Desmond was hesitant to relocate to Nashville, but they determined that it was a better place to raise the boys. “I feel like any other mom I’m at the school with,” Curtis said. “As a primary caregiver, they accept me as one of their own. I even get invited to moms’ nights out!” The acceptance their family has met in their chosen communities has been a credit to our city, and Desmond has immersed himself in the local community. He is a devoted cheerleader for Becca Stevens’ Magdalene House, joining the design committee for its Thistle Stop Cafe. He even bought the building next to the cafe to house his own offices. He has also involved himself in other civic causes, such as the Fountains of Musica Foundation, which is dedicated to raising the funds to complete the project.

Using their family’s story to benefit other LGBT families in Middle Tennessee is an outgrowth of this civic mindedness. “Our own experience is relatively easy,” Desmond said. “The greater world hasn’t necessarily caught up.” This makes open and accepting places like Abintra and an LGBT family organization like PFLAG obvious beneficiaries. Some people might, however, be surprised to find Jewish Family Services grouped with them. Curtis explained, “I just recently sat down with Pam Kelner from JFS and found out that JFS has been supporting LGBT adoption for years, including second parent adoptions. One of the reasons we moved to California after the kids were born was to get the kind of service they provide here in Middle Tennessee!”

The central importance of JFS in providing adoption services to LGBT families in the region can’t be overstated: “until very recently we were the only adoption agency who would provide these services to the LGBT community,” Kelner explained. “When the first openly gay man tried to find an agency that would serve him in 2002, we were the ones to say yes.  In 2005, when a judge was trying to find an agency to conduct a home study for a second-parent adoption, again we were the only ones to say yes.” JFS also advocates for equality: one of their social workers testified before the Children and Family Affairs Committee of the State House of Representatives against a bill to ban gay adoption in TN in 2005.

Desmond and Curtis hope that their film will both raise awareness in the community that gay families are really just families, as well as provide needed funds to groups providing essential support in our community. Curtis reiterated that the message is that “love is a guide to truth and love makes a family. We've been happy to bring our film wherever people wanted to show it, but it’s great to bring it home!” Very soon their message will be able to reach wider audiences. The film has been chosen by Morgan Spurlock for a limited release in 30 Landmark Theatres across the country on August 12. Additionally, the film now has a digital distribution deal with Virgil Films, so by the end of summer it should be accessible via iTunes, Amazon.com, and Netflix, among others. 

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