Hiram College

Hiram College senior nursing student Chris Petri will present a screening and panel discussion of the documentary film “Out in the Silence,” tomorrow, March 20, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in Dix Dining Hall in the Kennedy Center. The 2009 film traces gay teen C.J. Bills who was bullied in his hometown, Oil City, Pa. The small Western Pennsylvania town is also where “Out in the Silence” filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer placed their wedding announcement in the local newspaper. The occasion of their same-sex marriage sent waves of discontent through the Midwestern community.

Petri is presenting this film and discussion for the Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC) program, one of the largest health professions pipeline programs in the nation. Panelists include Petri, Anisi Daniels-Smith, Ph.D., director of Hiram’s Emerging Scholars Program, and College Chaplain Rev. Christopher McCreight. Petri says he first viewed the film when he was a freshman at East High School in Erie, Pa., where he was bullied as a teen.

“I was attacked at the school by a few students and was continuously called names. There were many other times that I also was threatened,” says Petri, explaining that the threats became a reality when he was a high school sophomore. “I was jumped in a field by a few students I went to school with. The individuals stole my phone and money.”

Petri subsequently spoke before the Erie School District Board of Directors about the bullying incidents he endured. Ultimately, Petri’s publicly revealed personal story led to his chance meeting  Wilson and Hamer at a screening of their film at the Erie County Public Library.

“Seeing the film for the first time really portrayed what life is like, not only me but for others in the LGBT community. I came out as gay at a young age.  So many times I felt personally afraid,” Petri says. “I hope people walk away with empowerment and understanding that life has challenges and you can overcome those. I also hope others leave the screening more open minded about what life is like in the LGBT community.”

For details about the event, which is free and open to the campus community and general public, contact Petri at petric@hiram.edu.