In 1983 Mary Griffith's twenty-year-old son, Bobby, jumped off a freeway overpass and landed in the path of an eighteen-wheel truck. Bobby, who was deeply religious like the rest of his family, had hoped that God would heal him of being gay.
A year-and-a-half before his suicide, Bobby wrote in his diary:
Why did you do this to me, God? Am I going to hell? That's the gnawing question that's always drilling little holes in the back of my mind. Please don't send me to hell. I'm really not that bad, am I? I want to be good. I want to amount to something. I need your seal of approval. If I had that, I would be happy. Life is so cruel and unfair.
The late Roy Aarons--an old friend who founded the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association--chronicled Mary and Bobby Griffith's story in a 1995 book, Prayers for Bobby: A Mother's Coming to Terms with her Gay Son's Suicide. And just two weeks ago filming began for a Lifetime Original Movie-- starring Sigourney Weaver--based on the book. "Prayers for Bobby" will premiere in February 2009 on Lifetime Television.
Last week I spoke with executive producers Daniel Sladek and Chris Taaffe by phone from Michigan, where the movie is being filmed (Why Michigan? New tax incentives for filmmakers).
Sladek and Taaffe first read the book in 1997 and knew right away that they wanted to make a film, but things took a little longer than expected. I asked Taffe why they didn't just give up: "Because it's so rare that you get a great story that moves you to this level. One of the most amazing things about this film is that everyone finds something in the story. Everyone has had the experience of being an outsider, of feeling alienated, of not being listened to."
Sladek, who is gay, said he hopes that "Prayers for Bobby" will "inspire dialogue between parents and their kids, so that parents can champion who their kids are instead of dictating who they think they should become."
Stay tuned for an interview with Sigourney Weaver later in the year. In the meantime, read the book. It will break your heart and, against all odds, inspire you at the same time.