Age 17, Devon Hicks is raising funds for a documentary about Tennessee Senate bill 49, aka "Don't Say Gay," and also serves as the chair of the Safe Schools Committee and It's Okay to Say Gay campaign for the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation
What's this documentary called, and what will it cover?
Saying Gay, a Documentary About SB049 and we are covering students, parents, teachers, lawyers, and therapists. We'll talk to a child psychiatrist, for example, because we want their thoughts on how the bill will affect young people—either from the stance that they're gay, or they have parents or siblings who are. I'd like to know how a child psychiatrist feels about it, because if all of a sudden kids believe it is wrong to say gay, a young child thinks it's bad. Because we don't talk about things that are bad.
How old will the students be?
I would like to focus on grades 4-8 but I will also be talking to freshmen in high school. The ban only extends to grades K-8, but I'd like to get the perspective of, "If this bill had been around before, how would it have affected you?"
How'd you hear about SB49?
Via Facebook. My friend Ryan actually made a post about it, and I learned it was about to come up for a vote. That's when I said, "I've got to do something about this."
Where do you go to school?
I graduated at 16 from home school. I had home school after 8th grade because I was bullied so heavily in the school in Sweetwater where I lived at the time.
I was the odd kid out, the typical nerdy type, a real bookworm—never athletic, never the cool kid, never knew what to say.
Are you attending college?
I'm not in school. I'm working with my own business as a web designer, and between that and my activist work, I'm not working on attending a college right now.
How come this is so important to you when you're not gay yourself?
I look around and I see all my friends and people I don't even know being hurt on a daily basis because of bills like this.
Do you think the politicians sponsoring such bills realize the effects?
Deep down inside I think they know these people are hurting, but I think they let either their political pandering or their religion control what they do.
Are you affiliated with a church?
I am a member of the TVUUC church, and so is my fiancée.
If the film gets completed, what will you do with it?
We will go across the state, and we will hold screenings and discussion forums, two in one.
Will any of the supporters of SB49 be in the audience?
I am going to work as hard as possible to put these screenings in locations where they will. I am in talks with a theater chain about showing it there, as well as several churches across the state.
How's the fund-raising going?
It's a hard sell to get money on virtually any type of creative project like this, but it's just all about reaching out and finding select people who realize the impact of the bill, even if they give just a dollar or two. If I can find 1,000 of these people, we're well on our way. We're targeting $5,500 and already have $1,000.
How does your fiancée feel about the film?
She is absolutely incredibly supportive.
No offense, but aren't you a little young to be engaged?
No, I don't believe I am based on my track record of things I've accomplished so far. We've been together four years and that's quite an accomplishment even for older couples. My parents just raised me to do what I thought needed doing, and my age has never been a factor. I've never encountered lots of issues in person about my age, though it may affect perception behind the scenes. It's always been a strong point, though not precisely a selling point. I turn 18 in August, so I guess my age won't be as cool anymore.
E-mail Devon Hicks at 'devon at devonhicks.com'.