The Man Who Lives Out of His Van, Fighting for Equality, Interviewing Roseanne
by David-Elijah Nahmod
It was simple enough: One day Jeff decided that he'd had enough. The recently out gay man packed his belongings into a van and moved on. That van is now his home, and it serves as a makeshift TV studio, interviewing people -- in the van -- up and down the California coast on issues that are near and dear to him.
Though he has supported himself with part-time work as a security guard, his Jeff 4 Justice YouTube channel has built up a small but loyal following, and now supplements his income with bi-monthly checks.
Jeff won't reveal his full name, preferring to be known only as Jeff 4 Justice. He's hoping to build a brand. It's a strange way to do it -- living out of a van and interviewing people on hot-button issues -- but he clearly feels it.
Jeff's life on the road began in 2011. His interviewees have run the gamut: elected officials, celebrities, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and just about anyone else who'll talk to him about the social justice issues he champions. So that means that, yes, he's gotten the likes of Roseanne Barr, Chaz Bono, Tavis Smiley, and Olympia Dukakis into his own personal van for a most unusual style of interview. In 2012 he was featured on Good Day Sacramento, and his videos have been linked to popular gay blog sites like Queerty, Joe My God, Towlerload, and others.
Jeff's style is simple, yet blunt. He doesn't mince words. A strong advocate for equality and civil rights, he can be equally harsh in his condemnation of "Gay Inc." -- the mainstream gay advocacy groups which he views as "ineffective" -- as he is of anti-gay religious organizations.
"I'm not a fan of Gay Inc," he says. "I got exposed to LGBT mega-groups when I was employed as a low-level volunteer recruiter and trainer with 'No on [Prop.] 8.' There were so many ego-driven people high up in the chain`of command on petty power trips. There are too many LGBT groups duplicating similar objectives which is an inefficient waste of resources. Why don't more of them merge, reducing the cost of expenses such as staff, website, pride vendor fees, etc. And, if obscene income disparity is wrong in the for-profit world, then it's especially wrong in the so-called nonprofit world where many LGBT and HIV group leaders are making six-figure salaries. It's hard for me to imagine how motivated they must be to expediently attain equality or cure HIV when there's so much money to be made."
Jeff has joined an ever-growing chorus of LGBT people who question whether or not "Gay Inc." might be intentionally trying to prevent equality from moving forward.
"No wonder the mega-groups opposed Gavin Newsom when he tried to instigate marriage equality in 2004, and then initially opposed the Prop. 8 lawsuit by Ted Olson and David Boies that just resulted in the defeat of Prop. 8. And look at these nonprofits that revolve around trendy celebrity campaigns such as NoH8. How about these celebs go to a small-town LGBT community and help people there on the ground instead of taking a photo and self-congratulating themselves for being so heroic?"
Jeff's frustration with LGBT activism dates back to his coming out at age 22, a decade ago. In 2003, he formed the first LGBT group in Yuba-Sutter, Ca., his hometown. Located north of Sacramento, Jeff describes the city as religious, "with not a lot going on."
His work at Yuba-Sutter gave him his first taste of fame when he was featured on the local evening news. Footage from this generally upbeat and positive news report can be seen in The Worst Gay/LGBT Community Ever, Jeff's recent, feature-length video, which is now available for viewing on his YouTube channel. As Jeff recalls in the video, opposition to his efforts came not from the local conservatives, but from Yuba-Sutter's LGBT community itself.
Jeff found support in faith-based LGBT allies and other groups. But, through it all, he was constantly hindered by people from within the Yuba-Sutter LGBT community.
"I have a lot of hurt over how many gay people there hindered my efforts," he says. "They projected their fears onto me instead of standing up to the people who were oppressing them. They wasted my time fighting me while cowering at the idea of standing up to the anti-LGBT people. Frankly, many gays in my hometown are some of the most awful people I've ever met and now I am finally telling the whole story of my time trying to advance the LGBT community of Yuba-Sutter."
It's not a pretty story, but it's not a lost cause, he says. "I'd like to work towards the development of a nationwide LGBT group that empowers small town, rural, suburban LGBT people who do not have access to all of the resources available in big city areas. I've struggled to find people in power willing to help. Definite equality is essential but hardships will continue for LGBTs in hostile regions."