About Chris

Chris Mason has been a longtime advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights; an electoral and field organizer in the fight for equal marriage rights; a campaign manager; the founder of the nonprofit organization, Progressive Approach, Inc.; the author of the call-to-action website, TakeMassAction; the architect of the Phelps-A-Thons fundraising project; the creator of Bated Breath Films; a co-founder of Join The Impact Massachusetts; the documentary filmmaker and author behind Driving Equality Across America; an Emergency Medical Technician; and currently, a pre-medical student.

Mason grew up in the small town of Lunenburg, Massachusetts, son of Karen and Tom Mason. He is the third of four children. At age 9, he started an organization named S.C.A.R.F (Save Condemned Amazon Rain-Forest) and recruited members to join the group. Together they canvassed door-to-door to raise money; enough to enable S.C.A.R.F. to buy and preserve an acre of land in the Amazon rainforest. In1996, at age 14, Mason came out to his parents, friends, family, and classmates. At age 15, he started a campaign to expel military recruiters from his high school based on the military's ban on gay and lesbian servicemembers and his school district's non-discrimination policy. Mason was the president of the school's gay/straight alliance and worked to educate others at school and in the community on LGBT issues. He was elected to the student council, and to the homecoming court, as well as being a track runner, a trombone player in the school band, and acting as his class's videographer, recording high school life and producing all of the promotional videos for school events. After high school, he spent a few years traveling around the countryliving everywhere from the city streets, to the woods of New England, from coastal beaches to the deserts of the Southwest. He met people from all over the world living in the smallest towns and the biggest cities in the United States. He worked many odd jobs and learned about life from all types of people. Upon returning to Massachusetts he attended Bunker Hill Community College and Tufts University.

In 2004, Chris Mason was the campaign manager for Susan Koeck, a candidate for State Representative in the city of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Koeck's campaign highlighted the right of same-sex couples to marry, while her opponent, State Representative Emile Goguen, sought to remove from the 
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court the four justices who approved the decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (2003) that made same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts.

In October of 2004, Mason began working as a field organizer for MassEquality, the Boston-based organization created to lead the legislative battle to keep same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts. He became its Assistant Canvass Director, knocking on doors across the state to discuss marriage equality with Massachusetts citizens. Mason was featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles and in the documentary film, Saving Marriage, highlighting his role working to protect equal marriage rights in Massachusetts. 

In 2006, he created TakeMassAction, a watchdog organization dedicated to tracking the radical right in Massachusetts and alerting the LGBT community of upcoming events, rallies, protests, and legislative hearings involving LGBT issues.

On February 5, 2008
, Mason was elected to Ward 1 of the Cambridge Democratic City 
Committee. 

In April of 2008, the Cambridge City Manager appointed him as a City of Cambridge GLBT Commissioner.

In December of 2008, Mason organized the first Phelps-A-Thon fundraiser and created a new way to counteract the hateful protests of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, known for their vulgar "God hates fag" signs. This would soon lead to a peaceful, effective counter-protest movement, led by Mason, that would go on to raise over $50,000 for LGBT causes. 

On April 27, 2009, at a ceremony in Cambridge City Hall, Mayor Denise Simmons honored Mason, presenting him with the Key to the City of Cambridge, for his work on LGBT issues, including fundraising on behalf of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School's gay/straight alliance and the school's LGBT Families Initiative by means of a Phelps-A-Thon during an anti-gay protest against the school by the Westboro Baptist Church.

On May 10, 2009, Mason set out on a 107-day, 22,000-mile, 48-state trek across the United States in an effort to meet, interview, and share the stories of LGBT Americans, their allies, and their opponents. This project culminated with the documentary film, Driving Equality Across America and the book, Driving Equality Across America: Posts from the Road.

Later in 2009, Mason launched Bated Breath Films, an independent film company focused on social justice and raising awareness by telling the personal stories of people who do not have a voice in the mass media.

In June 2010, at the "Riots to Rights - Celebrating 40 Years of Progress" Cambridge Pride Brunch, Chris was honored by Cambridge Mayor David Maher and received the annual recognition award given to "those who have dedicated their lives to improving the GLBT community".

On September 20, 2012, Mason was presented with the Lavender Rhino Award by The History Project to honor him as an emerging activist whose impact on the local GLBT communities deserves recognition.

On July 31, 2014, Mason's documentary film about LGBT rights across the country, Driving Equality Across America, premiered at an event in Boston and was later released on Amazon.com.

The Driving Equality Project


On May 10, 2009, Mason began on a 107-day, 22,000 mile, 48-state trek across the United States in an effort to meet, interview, and share the stories of LGBT Americans, their allies, and their opponents. (www.DrivingEquality.com). Highlighting the differences in rights, laws, and amendments between the states, the project's intention was to shed light on the current social standing of LGBT individuals today. Mason conducted interviews with LGBT activist, allies, and opponents across the country. At the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) he interviewed Shirley Phelps-Roper, a church member who often protests with signs that read "God hates fags". He also interviewed Daniel Nicoletta, protégé of Harvey Milk, in San Francisco. While traveling through Indiana, Chris was stopped by the Indiana State Police. After discussing the pro-LGBT mission of his project, he was allowed to leave but followed for several miles. When he stopped at a rest area, his Driving Equality van was surrounded and searched by five police officers, who damaged professional equipment. The documentary film, Driving Equality Across America, explores Mason's experiences on the road, following his trip across the country as he meets LGBT Americans where they live, in small towns and big cities. Through touching interviews, some heartbreaking, others inspiring, Driving Equality Across America offers a glimpse of Mason's journey into the heart of LGBT America. The film premiered in Boston on July 31, 2014 to an enthusiastic audience and is available to rent or buy on Amazon.com.


Phelps-A-Thons


On December 12, 2008, Mason conducted his first Phelps-A-Thon as a counter-protest against members of the Westboro Baptist Church, and their leader, Fred Phelps, who were picketing a production of "The Laramie Project" at the Boston Center for the Arts. The event raised over $1,000 for the pro-LGBT project, Driving Equality. After this first Phelps-A-Thon, people from around the country, upon learning they were going to be picketed by WBC, started contacting Mason, asking for help in setting up their own Phelps-A-Thons.

Mason created a website, "Phelps-A-Thon.com", to assist groups that were being picketed by WBC. Through the "Phelps-A-Thon.com" website, supporters were able to pledge online to donate a certain amount of money for every minute WBC picketed against a specific target, usually LGBT or Jewish groups. The longer they protested, the more money was raised for the cause WBC was demonstrating against.

During a trek across the country to promote LGBT equality, Chris stopped in Topeka, Kansas to visit the Westboro Baptist Church. Concealing his activist identity, he spoke with Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of Fred Phelps, to get a better understanding of why the group feels the need to spread their message. Mason asked her opinion of the Phelps-A-Thon counter-protests and she replied that those pledging to the Phelps-A-Thons should "give a lot of money" because "if you are giving over your soul, make it worthwhile. Don't be lame."
 

Targeted by Hate Group


In May 2007, November 2008, and again in May 2009, Mason was targeted by MassResistance, a conservative organization based in Massachusetts and characterized/identified as a "hate group" by theSouthern Poverty Law Center. The organization posted false information, photos, and videos of Mason, along with edited selections of his writings, on their website, describing him as a "prominent homosexual activist" with "a long history of hateful and angry activities and writing against pro-family groups and individuals." MassResistance started a campaign to have Mason removed from his job at the Massachusetts State House, urging readers to contact Senate President Therese Murray. After a November 2008 rally, MassResistance called Mason "a hardcore homosexual activist with a long history of venom and rage against people of faith."


Book


On October 11, 2012, Mason published a book, Driving Equality Across America: Posts from the Road, which consists of the daily posts and photos from The Driving Equality Project.