The new documentary Speak Your Truth features nine women sharing their experiences living in heterosexual marriages, discovering their feelings for women, coming out as lesbians, and changing their lives.
“There is a lot of despair, angst and emotional heart wrenching these women go through. These nine women are okay and got through it,” director Kris Erickson tells INTO. “My message is there is hope and an end to this. You will get through it and there are really great things on the other side.”
Erickson, now 46, struggled with feelings for women but never acted on them until she came out to her husband in 2010. She sought out resources, including books, to better understand what she was going through and find others who had experienced the same sexual awareness. (Erickson had three young children and was married for 19 years before getting a divorce in 2013.)
The idea for the documentary came during a memoir writing class. Her professor, who had just filmed a documentary, suggested she do the same with her story.
“I think it is so important for women to be allowed to tell their stories, whatever their stories are. Whatever I can do to create opportunities to keep doing that I will,” Erickson says. “There is a great imbalance out there and the time is now to shift that balance and make it so women have stories they can look to and say, ‘That is me’ and see themselves in film, books, and in all different genres.”
Erickson, an educator who lives in Brooklyn, had written some screenplays with her ex-husband, and decided to fund the documentary herself.
“I can get a little stubborn and I really didn’t want anything to get in the way of me making the film I wanted to make and in the time frame I wanted to make it in,” Erickson says. “I figured if I did it myself I didn’t have to answer to anyone.”
Erickson said she wanted the audience to have the feeling of these women just sitting down and having a conversation and them telling their story. Producer Alana DiMaria came in to conduct the interviews with participants, many of whom Erickson has a personal relationship with.
“I wanted the film to feel like you could meet anyone of those women, sit with them and have them tell you their story,” Erickson says. “I appreciate so much the other women who agreed to tell their story. It’s not so easy to tell your story in this way. Nine women did it and they did it generously.”
Erickson selected the title for the film, Speak Your Truth, based on a story from her mentor, Joan. (Note: All of the women appearing in Speak Your Truth go by their first names only.) Erickson says she they met through a mutual friend, and Joan, having having had her own struggles with her sexual identity, helped Erickson when she was deciding whether or not to come out.
As Erickson relays, Joan had an affair with a woman close to Melissa Etheridge. Etheridge knew the women were “hanging out,” and encouraged Joan to stop living in limbo. She told her she needed to “speak your truth.” (In 1994, Etheridge’s tour was called Speak True. That phrase has been continually part of her messaging.)
The women featured in Speak Your Truth range in age from 35 to 59. Erickson purposely selected only women who had been married before, and all but two are mothers. It’s worth noting allof the participants are whiteErickson says she couldn’t find any women of color who agreed to being filmed.
Some of the women Erickson found to participate were women she’d met through late-in-life lesbian meet-ups. Licensed therapist Joanne Fleisher, the author of the acclaimed book, Living Two Lives: Married to Man and in Love with a Woman, speaks about her own experience on camera an also provides context to the other women’s stories.
Speak Your Truthpremiered last week atthe ImageOut festival in Rochester, NY, where Erickson says someone asked why there isn’t anything about the women’s ex-husbands in her film.
“There was no balance in this story,” Erickson says. “There is a reason for that. I feel like, and I know, that these women have thought about everyone else but themselves for a long, long time and I wanted them to really be able to think about their story, the impact that it has had, and also have a safe space to do that. I wanted them to know it was really about their story and not about anything else.”
Speak Your Truthwill make its west coast debut aspart of theLA International Women’s Film Festivalon Friday, March 23. Erickson is pursuing avenues for distribution and hoping to show the documentary at additional film festivals. She is also interested in facilitating viewings at educational forums and universities.
Tickets are available now through the LA Women’s Fest ticketing site.