Chris Mason, who is the inspiring figure behind Driving Equality and a full-time student majoring in Peace and Justice Studies at Tufts University, has been a pro-equality advocate since childhood. At High School, Mason actively promoted tolerance, acceptance and diversity as president of the Gay/Straight Alliance. At just 27, his activism has already led to roles including, field organizer for MassEquality and founder of the watchdog group TakeMassAction.
He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Friends of GLBT Youth, who are “dedicated to eradicating homophobia and transphobia in order to allow all young gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people the opportunity to reach their full potential”. He is also co-chair of the LGBT activist organization Join The Impact MA, whose mission is to secure “full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identified people” through their collaboration with individuals and existing LGBTQ groups to maximize their “collective impact both locally and nationwide while respecting diversity of opinion and belief”.
Liberty and freedom, particularly for those identifying as LGBT, are not consistent across the “United” States, which is why Chris Mason has chosen to take action with his latest project, Driving Equality. He is currently midway through a 107-day, 48 State, 16, 000-mile road-trip with a mission to examine LGBT inequality and discrimination throughout the United States.
What are the goals of DRIVING EQUALITY?
The goal of Driving Equality is to bring attention to the state of the nation concerning LGBT issues. This is the UNITED States of America, yet for LGBT people these states are anything but united. We can marry in some states, but not in others. We are protected from employment discrimination in a few states, but not in the majority. In some states we are protected under hate-crimes legislation, but in many states we are not.
We may be equal in the eyes of the law in one state, but if we were to drive a few hours, we suddenly lose our rights and become second-class citizens. Driving Equality will highlight the inequality LGBT people face in every part of America. I want to highlight the discrimination being faced by our community, but also share the incredible progress that is being made.
What have been some of the successes? Can you share some stories of those that you have met on your travels?
In West Virginia we spoke to an openly gay doctor. He and his partner, and their adopted son, live in a rural town in the middle of West Virginia. This is the last place I‘d expected to find someone willing to talk about being gay. But Coy Flowers freed up his schedule and invited us into his office. He wanted people to know that even in West Virginia, there are gay people living their lives, going to work, raising children, and being part of the community.
In New Orleans we met with a transgendered women, who works at the local LGBT Center. She told us about the hardships transgendered people faced when they were evacuated during hurricane Katrina. Evacuees are separated by sex. This caused trouble and made the terrible situation even worse for trans folks. Some men were put in women’s shelters, made to shower with the opposite sex and visa versa. It was a mess.
In Lubbock, Texas we spoke with a group of people who were from the local PFLAG, the high school, and MCC. They were working to make west Texas a friendly place for LGBT people. The high school student sued his school in federal court after the administration decided to not allow a gay/straight alliance club at the school. He fought hard, but lost in court. The school still does not have a GSA.
Who are your notable supporters?
The Mayor of Cambridge, MA, the first openly lesbian African-American Mayor in the country, is a notable supporter. Before I left on this journey she presented me with the key to the city at a ceremony at City Hall. I send her postcards from every city we do interviews in.
I would say that Dan Nicoletta is also a notable supporter. It was incredible to interview him. He’s an amazing person. Marc Solomon, the Marriage Director for Equality California, is also a strong supporter. I worked with him in Massachusetts at MassEquality. In the Massachusetts State House, openly-gay Representative Carl Sciortino is a big supporter, as well as Representative Jen Benson, who is a Regional Sponsor of Driving Equality. The filmmakers who made “Saving Marriage”, Mike Roth and John Henning, are also supporters.
How can people support the DRIVING EQUALITY?
People can support Driving Equality by visiting the website, Driving Equality, and sharing the link with their friends. There are a bunch of video clips of our interviews on the website. If folks like the work we are doing, they can donate online.