[Vision2020] Being queer in quieter places — Bennett receives grant to tell stories of Idaho’s LGBTQA

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Sun Sep 10 11:12:29 PDT 2017

Courtesy of the University of Idaho Argonaut at:



Being queer in quieter places — Bennett receives grant to tell stories of Idaho’s LGBTQA

Denise Bennett wants to tell the stories of LGBTQ people in every part of Idaho.

The National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) has offered to match private donations up to $30,000 to support Bennett and her partners, Devin Becker and Erin Stoddart at the UI library and Latah County Historical Society Director Dulce Kersting, in their project to collect digital oral histories of Idaho’s LGBTQ people.

“I want to collect stories from every county in Idaho and every community in Latah,” Bennett said.

Bennett said she is looking for donations of already-collected stories and for people to come forward to tell their own stories. Already, former Idaho State Senator Nicole LeFavour, the first openly gay member of the body, said she plans to donate 10 stories she has collected to the project.

Bennett said she decided to start the project after conversations she had with colleagues following the 2016 death of UI alumnus and former employee who was robbed and beaten to death in Nampa.

Idaho civil rights laws don’t protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s what the Add the Words group has been campaigning for and part of what Bennett said makes her project important.

Bennett said she particularly wants to include stories from rural communities and make the project available to those same rural communities, which she said are nationally left without support.

Bennett said she wants to include both new and old stories.

“I think the next generation coming up is so completely different in their understanding of gender and sexual orientation,” LeFavour said. “But the laws haven’t changed here. They’re not better. If someone’s isolated in a small community, it’s very hard.”

LeFavour said in 2015, for somewhere around her tenth arrest during an act of civil disobedience at the state capitol, a judge assigned her community service. For her project, she collected 10 stories in interviews that lasted anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours.

“I want the state to finally recognize the problem that we have,” LeFavour said. “I think it is very important to say something about how many people live in fear in Idaho.”

Bennett said in some of her previous interviews, participants have been surprisingly open to talking.

“I always offer to blur their face or not use their name, but they always insist to use everything,” Bennett said. “It’s their story and they know it’s important to tell it.”
The NEH contribution is a matching grant, so Bennett must first come up with her own funding for the NEH to pitch in. She said so far she has already received $1,000 from the Latah Community Foundation and a donation from the Idaho Humanities Council and is currently seeking additional funding.

When complete, the project will be hosted online by UI’s Center for Digital Inquiry and Learning.

Bennett said she wants to capture what life as a member of the LGBT community looks like at work, in families and in different communities around Idaho. She said she is looking for audio and video as well as photos and protest materials including signs and banners.

“I always hope people in the blue states with all the members of congress –  I hope they listen,” LeFavour said. “I think a lot of them think we’ve arrived. But people in places like Idaho still aren’t safe.”


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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