#WitnessForLove hopes to change hearts and minds with social media campaign
It’s easy to stay out of a fight and let the world take action for you, but for Dr. Rev. Robin Gorsline, a man no stranger to activism, the #WitnessForLove project is a way for anyone to get easily involved.
Last Fall, Gorsline and his husband Jonathan had just caught up a play at Richmond Triangle Players and the couple decided to head to Carytown for some frozen yogurt.
The couple made their way Richmond’s fro-yo district and Gorsline found himself particularly entranced by Jonathan’s face.
“Honey, I want to take your picture,” he said before moving in close for a quick cell phone shot. And that’s when the idea hit him – Gorsline started thinking how he could use pictures to tell the story of people’s love – sometimes unconventional, sometimes supportive – but always spreading the positive message of how love can change things.
Gorsline has a long history in faith and activism. The former MCC pastor left the church a few years ago, and at almost 70-years-old, he’s shifted his efforts into advocacy nearly-full time with People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, a group which hopes to spread equality around the Commonwealth through clergy, faith groups, and laypeople.
Now, about a year and 300+ pictures later, the #WitnessforLove project has spawned hope wherever it goes, following Gorsline as he travels around the state for events and appearances. “Pride events, church events, when I go to speak somewhere. I take my camera, I get people to sign up and I take their picture.
A photo posted by POFEV.org (@witnessforlove) on
Straight, gay, black, white, Gorsline welcomes everyone to the #WitnessForLove project, and his creative partner Greg Farmer helps with the design and digital work. But people send submissions too. All you need is a phone, the form printed out (or not) and a hashtag – #WitnessForLove.
Gorsline says Pride events are his favorite photo opportunities, he remembers one image where a lesbian grandmother posed with her daughter (also a lesbian), and her great grand-daughter – a multigenerational gay family. “It’s amazing… those are thing things that stand out to me.”
Legislators have also made the photo spread, including Sen. Donald McEachen, a long time ally to LGBT folks in Virginia’s senate.
My name is VA State Senator Donald McEachin, and I am a Witness for LOVE! A photo posted by POFEV.org (@witnessforlove) on
The project started to support marriage equality, but even with the sudden legalization of same-sex marriage here in Virginia, Gorsline hasn’t slowed down.
The project is now, according to the former pastor, about how the freedom to love translates into our daily lives – employment non-discrimination, bullying, reparative or ex-gay therapy.
All these issues can be eradicated with love in Gorsline’s eyes.
“Our names are Tom Hull and Jerome Linanag, and we are Witnesses for LOVE!” – At Clarendon Presbyterian Church, Arlington VA A photo posted by POFEV.org (@witnessforlove) on
“We believe love changes the world, that’s where we stand,” said Gorsline. “So this witness for love thing is about changing Virginia to recognize love in all of its beauty and all of its manifestations.”
The biggest challenges he’s runs into so far is when asking for photos is people’s fear of being photographed, or paying attention long enough to get their picture taken in the first place.
Other than that, it’s getting people to use their full name.
“We want it to be about real Virginians,” said Gorsline. “We want people to not think (the people in the pictures) are models, they have to say that it matters enough for people to use their full name… and it helps us connect with people.”
“It’s like coming out in another way,” says Gorsline. “It’s continuing to push out so people see it all over Virginia.”
A photo posted by POFEV.org (@witnessforlove) on
This certainly isn’t the only LGBT-themed photo project in the country, but Gorsline said he was never interested in connecting with these other projects.
This home-grown attitude creates a level of genuine interest, and the success of their Instagram campaign has lead to people from all over the world reaching out and sharing their own #WitnessforLove, even though he never envisioned it as an international project.
“If it helps somebody else feel more comfortable, or become more loving, then great,” he says humbly
“The biggest problem we have in the world, certainly in the US, is we are scared of love,” says Gorsline. “We run away from it half the time because we limit it to this or to that. Or we have to be like this or like that. But the reality is love is wide open, love is for everybody in every way. And, to me, thats the message always.”
Gorsline says a lot of his philosophies on love come from his faith. “I think God wants more love, not less.”
You can share your own #WitnessForLove through Instagram or Facebook – just take a photo and tag it with your full name and #WitnessForLove.
Gorsline asks that you email photos to him too - firstname.lastname@example.org
Couldn’t we all use a little more love in our lives?
Activists and advocates to gather at Diversity Richmond this Saturday – come meet, greet, and grow your networks
oin activists and advocates this Saturday to meet, compare notes and strategize.December 2, 2015
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