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‘Breaking Through’ chronicles the rise of LGBT politicians

Breaking Through documentary

“Breaking Through,” a documentary focused on LGBT politicians, makes its Atlanta debut at the Atlanta Film Festival, screening March 20 at the Plaza Theatre.

While the Atlanta Film Festival is not the world premiere of “Breaking Through” — that happens March 16 at the Sun Valley Film Festival in Sun Valley, Idaho — director, writer and producer Cindy Abel hails from Atlanta and will share her completed project with her hometown for the first time.

Abel, whose LGBT political activism includes stints as co-chair of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and executive director of Georgia Equality, says she came up with the idea with Allen Thornell, a well-known Atlanta LGBT leader who passed away in 2009. The pair discussed ideas including a documentary on U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), but someone was already working on that project.

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Gay politician (and YouTube sensation) headed to Atlanta to support documentary on LGBT elected officials

Joel Burns

Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns, who drew national media attention when his story of surviving bullying went viral, is headed to Atlanta later this month to support "Breaking Through," a project from local filmmaker Cindy Abel.

Burns will be on hand for a Sept. 27 fundraiser for the film, which tells the personal stories of openly gay elected officials around the country. Details of the event are TBA.

"Joel is coming because he knows 'Breaking Through' will bring hope: to teens who, like he once did, are wondering if life will have purpose and [if they should] commit suicide, and to adults, who conclude their career choices will be limited if they’re openly gay," Abel said in an email announcing the fundraiser.

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King & Spalding controversy shows danger of basing our movement on marketing

Once upon a time, it was hard to get companies to support LGBT organizations. They worried they would lose their non-gay customers if they were open about wanting gay ones.

So we got smart: We showed how much discretionary income same-gender couples without kids had. Never mind that it was less than opposite-gender couple without kids, it was still a good argument.

Not only did it give the marketing teams cover, it had the added benefit of being true: We were a valuable target market. “The color of diversity,” we would say, “is green.”

As some of the big companies came out as supporters, their employees came out as LGBT. Then their friends and family members started coming out as LGBT-supportive. Visibility was shifting every landscape. Next thing you know, 20 years later, we not only have friends in high places, we have our own people there —running companies, winning election to Congress and hosting major TV news shows.

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Local filmmaker spotlights gay politicians ‘Breaking Through’

Filmmaker Cindy Abel examines out politicians in new film

Cindy Abel loves politics and politicians.

“I am cheese ball enough to believe in the promise of America. That sounds very naïve but I’m in love with the promise of America,” she says.

But it wasn’t always that way. She cast her first presidential ballot for Bill Clinton in 1992 when she was 31, at a time when she was coming to grips with her own sexual orientation as bisexual.

“I had never voted until 1992 when I was 31. I didn’t feel we, regular people, had any impact, any voice, any say in the process. But as I sat watching the inauguration I cried — tears streaming down my face in my room in Orlando, Fla. I was recently out. I had reached a point a few weeks earlier that I was not going to lie about who I am,” she says. “I had decided I would rather pump gas for a living than live in the closet.”