On Greg, Bozeman, and Hugs


Last night, I had the honor of hearing D Gregory Smith tell his story — from childhood to Catholic priest to former priest/out gay man/counselor/so much more — to a gathering at St. James Episcopal Church as part of the church’s faith formation classes on sexuality and spirituality.


While I have been following Greg’s blog for a while, it wasn’t until I moved to Bozeman a couple of months ago that I met him in person. I knew bits and pieces of his story — the parts I had read on this blog — and I knew he was involved in LGBTQI causes here in Montana. But, you never know what a person is really like away from the keyboard.


I wasn’t disappointed.


I first met Greg in the AIDS Outreach office in downtown Bozeman. By the time I left half an hour later, I was not only a big fan of his, but he offered me a chance to contribute to this blog.  And, I got a hug.


The next time I ran into him, he was leading worship at Living Waters United Methodist Church in Belgrade. I left that morning after hearing a great message and with another hug.


Last week, I saw Greg at the first session of the faith formation classes, where we heard Bishop Brookhart talk about his research on the issue of sexual orientation and the Bible. Yep, got another hug.


Last night, though, I learned so much more about Greg. I learned he is relatable, humble, giving, empathetic, caring and open. He is a deep thinker whose incredible life experiences have shaped him into a person of substance. If you know Greg personally, I’m not telling you anything new. But if you follow this blog without having met him — the way I used to — know that he knows of what he writes.


I wasn’t expecting my first post on this blog to be along the lines of “An Ode to Greg,” but his story gave me a lot to think about after I left. Maybe it’s because we are the same age and have lived completely different and often complicated lives only to end up in the same place.


I hope to contribute more as I navigate my new “out” life here in this beautiful city. I am excited to be part of the Bozeman/Montana LGBTQI community and to live in a city that is (mostly) accepting.


Mostly, I’m excited that I’m four for four on hugs.




Proud Parents Of LGBT Kids Needed!

Greetings,Gay or straight, our kids are great

My mother (Deb Eckheart) and I are starting an exciting new project entitled Pride Parents. These will be short Q&A style videos where we recruit parents who have LGBT kids (ranging in age from youth to adults) to share their stories and impart wisdom from a parent’s perspective regarding lessons learned around making a safe and inclusive environment for a child to explore their identities (including, but not limited to, sexual orientation and gender expression). This video idea came about through conversations my mother and I had around how the coming out process doesn’t only apply to LGBT people, but also to their family and friends who have the inner journey of coming to terms with their loved one’s newfound identity as well as the parent’s own path toward acceptance – wherever that may be on the spectrum.

Although there are some LGBT organizations present in larger Montana communities throughout the state, we would like to produce a video that could help raise awareness about creating a safe and inclusive environment for the LGBT youth while providing a bridge to accessing parental support (through PFLAG, PRIDE, etc.). Through a video format (to be posted on YouTube), we hope to target an audience of families who are unsure but want to be supportive of their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity by addressing the following: advice on how to make it safe for their child to come out, how parents can receive their own support during this process, and how to be an ally for their child. Ideally, this would become a pilot project that could spur additional videos, much like the It Gets Better Project, where families can create their own videos, sharing personal stories and lessons learned to create an online wealth of support and knowledge for parents of LGBT youth. At this time, we would like to promote the initial video as a representation of Montana parents only, but with possible opportunities in other states.

So this is where you come in. If you are interested in sharing your perspective on film or have any questions about the project, please contact Deb Eckheart or Alyx Steadman for more information and the list of Q&A prompts. Remember, your experience doesn’t have to be perfect. The importance of this video is to share real stories about overcoming the challenges for parents of LGBT youth, so the more honest you are with your perspective, the more enlightening it will be for other struggling parents coming to terms with their child’s newfound identities.

Thank you for your willingness to consider working with us on this project. We look forward to hearing from you by Sunday, August 4th.


Alyx Steadman alyxsteadman@msn.com 406.369.5221

Deb Eckheart doyourdreams@hotmail.com 406.360.6796

Diversity Series In Hamilton

This is big news for the Bitterroot- and I’m proud to be part of it. Click for larger version


You Don’t Want To Miss This: Big Gay Weekend In Billings

Bishop Gene Robinson is a pioneer, and I’m really looking forward to meeting him- this is a big deal for Montana.

I’m also excited about Gregory Hinton’s play about the Missoula non-discrimination ordinance. It promises to be an informative, enlightening and inspirational weekend for everyone interested in equality. I will be in Billings Friday through Sunday- I hope to see you there!



Today’s Must See: Alfredo’s Fire

“It was the Italian Stonewall, absolutely, the Italian Stonewall…”


About The Film

ALFREDO’S FIRE is a powerful and timely documentary that tells the forgotten story of Alfredo Ormando, a gay Italian writer who set himself on fire at the Vatican to protest the Church’s condemnation of homosexuality.

As Pope Benedict XVI resigns this month, the time is ripe for dialogue aimed at building a more open and inclusive Church, in the hope that no more lives are extinguished by the effects of religious intolerance.

With successful backing, the film will be finished in the next few months. We expect it to premiere in a major film festival in the U.S. and in conjunction with Italy’s National Pride celebration, this year in Alfredo’s hometown of Palermo.

For more information about the project visit: www.alfredosfire.com

Alfredo’s Story

On January 13, 1998 Alfredo Ormando, a 39-year old Italian writer, arrived in Rome just as the sun was rising. After a long journey from his native Sicily, he found his way to the empty plaza of St. Peter’s Square and, facing the entrance to the Basilica, knelt down as if to pray. He made a rapid hand gesture and suddenly was engulfed in flames. Before the Church and God, Alfredo Ormando had lit himself on fire.

Not long afterwards, and overlooking the spot where Alfredo had set himself aflame, Pope John Paul declared that “homosexual acts are against the laws of nature.” Pope Benedict XVI has even more vehemently advanced anti-gay rhetoric and policies.

Shaped by Alfredo’s manuscripts and letters, as well as rich cinematography, and provocative interviews with Alfredo’s friends, family and intimate companions, our film reveals Alfredo’s longing and the struggle to reconcile his own faith and sexuality.

My Story

As someone who has similarly struggled to reconcile his sexuality and spirituality, I became obsessed with Alfredo’s story and his choice of fire. Alfredo’s gesture was simultaneously a self-annihilation, an expression of pent-up passion and rage, a communion with God, and a dramatic “coming out.”

When Alfredo lit himself on fire at the Vatican, he hoped that his protest would be witnessed everywhere. Instead, his story was silenced by the Church and downplayed by the media. In death, as in life, he was made invisible. With our film, I want his light to reach millions worldwide. It is a flame by which to remember, witness, and come out of the dark.

Watch the video here.

Tonight: “Love Free Or Die”

Tonight on many PBS stations airs “Love Free Or Die”, the story of ‘the first openly gay bishop in Christendom’, Gene Robinson:



Tonight on Independent Lens. Montana PBS airs it at 9pm.