Options Magazine visited Red Ink Library, a new non-profit leftist space, for a screening of “The Time Is Already” that tells the tale of Rhode Island’s LGBTQ activists and lawmakers successfully banning conversion therapy.
First and foremost, this is not a film about conversion therapy. Selene Means (he/him), the creator of “The Time is Already,” makes this clear to the audience during the open panel after the film's screening. It may seem so, but no. This is, more specifically, a film that documents the effort of a group of activists who work tirelessly to pass a bill that bans conversion therapy in Rhode Island. Even more specifically, this film documents Rhode Island activists as they share snippets of their lives and footage of Rhode Island politicians involved in voting on and passing the bill. In this film, you see how important this was to everyone involved and how it affected their lives.
“This is about the efforts to pass a bill to ban conversion therapy in Rhode Island. No, it’s really about this small core group of people, ignorant and new to local political activism, determined and eager to do right and contribute. A poignant tribute to LGBTQ resistance and persistence in this time of uncertainty and fear. This is the story of what happens after you say, 'So what can I do to help?'” – SeleneD.com
“The Time is Already” begins with explaining Means’ journey to creating this film by putting that need to do something into action. After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, it spurred a lot of unrest, protests, riots, and overall resistance. More and more people took to the streets to take action on critical political issues. Throughout his presidency, Trump supporters used his words to justify words and actions that caused harm to the people around them. It drove feelings of us vs. them in the US and, on the surface, it sort of was and probably always will be. At some point, their love for Trump turned into violence against anyone who was not like them. Us: people of color, queer, disabled, women – anyone who was not a heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied white male. We no longer felt safe in our communities.
These are the people who had to worry about their lives and their loved ones every time they stepped outside. Sometimes they didn’t even have to step outside to fear because they were unsafe in their own homes. These are the people who answered the question, “what can we do?” There was nothing we could do about Trump, but there was something we could do about injustice. “The Time is Already,” Means and many others brought all of their action to Rhode Island. The conversion therapy ban effort was not the first thing Means got involved with, but it was one of the most important, and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation using various techniques such as using drugs, surgery, shock treatment, or psychotherapy/speech. It’s an incredibly barbaric and medieval practice that should not even be legal, but unfortunately, in some states, it still is. Despite how awful it is that some people are allowed to practice this, it just means our fight is not over. People of all ages and all orientations joined together to work on banning conversion therapy in Rhode Island. For many, it was a personal issue. People were shunned by their parents or treated with these same techniques in their youth under the guise of “love” or “we just care about you.” This is why the passing of the bill was so important. You cannot love someone so much that you go to extreme lengths to force them to change who they are. Mary Cryan, and Gailen Auer, who are featured in this film, draw from their own experiences in life to appeal to the emotions of the audience they were reaching.
To get a bill passed, it has to go through the House, the Senate, and it must be signed by the governor to become official. The first step in getting the conversion therapy bill, HB-5277 (2017), passed was to lobby at the statehouse, talk to legislators and educate them on the bill, keeping tabs on people who said they would support it. The next step was to get the attention of the House speaker and the Senate president to put the bill to a vote, which eventually, they did. This is explained further in the film, but the bill passed in 2018. The journey that it took to get there was unique and inspiring. I won’t give too much away about the film, so I encourage anyone reading this to check it out themselves. You can find it on Selene’s website, selened.com.
Means was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his day to answer some of my questions. I learned so much from that film and talking to people in the room. The film's name actually came from a friend of Means', and through getting involved with LGBTQ Action RI, Means found the inspiration for the film and found who to talk to for it. He was also able to work on many other causes through this organization: A respect in death bill (2019); benefits for honorably discharged veterans (2019); an X marker on driver’s licenses for nonbinary folks (2020); parentage bill (2020), ensuring protection from discrimination in housing (2021), and gender-neutral bathrooms (2021).
Means, a RISD alum, loves cameras and filming. He has a passion for filming someone in real life, showing how amazing real life is and capturing the beauty of it. It seems fitting that a topic as important as this one would be something captured by Means. There is no beauty in conversion therapy, but the beauty of this film is the way the community came together, worked together, and won together to achieve an outcome that so desperately needed to happen. When I asked Selene what brought him to this topic, they responded that they wanted to explore their own anxieties about what it means to be a queer activist after marriage equality. He asked himself, “should we keep fighting for things?” Marriage equality was such a monumental moment in history that it almost made the country assume that that was all the LGBTQ community needed to be satisfied. Yet, there was and still is so much more to go. The fight is not over, and people like Selene are on the front lines of it all.