Friday, February 27, 2015

PFLAG Plymouth-Canton Achieves LGBTQ Representation in Public Space

, George Belvitch, Katie Borninski and Laurie Mayers 
Donate LGBTQ Resources
This week, we hear from PFLAG National Communications Intern, Jeff Johnson. As he researched PFLAG chapter activity across the country, a story crossed his desk that really caught his eye:

Recently, a report that PFLAG Plymouth-Canton donated books to its local library caught my attention. The story may not be appreciated immediately, but consider the power of LGBTQ representation in public places, representation which has been denied in the recent past. In that light, it is so meaningful and impactful that PFLAG-Plymouth/Canton was able to successfully work with its local library to expand its LGBTQ section.

As reported by Darell Clem, PFLAG Plymouth-Canton president George Belvitch “...understands the need for reading materials for parents, their children and others personally confronting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, issues.” About ten years ago, Belvitch learned his son was gay, and it prompted him to form a PFLAG chapter with Laurie Mayers, chapter secretary, and Kate Borninski, who now sits on Plymouth Canton’s school board.

Carol Souchock, Plymouth District Library director, accepted two $100 donations from PFLAG Plymouth-Canton to provide more books and resources for community members to explore and reflect on LGBTQ issues. I followed up by email with George, Katie, and Laurie. Their collective response may be helpful to other chapter leaders interested in working with local libraries:

Jeff: Did you have to cultivate a relationship with librarians first? Are there any local politics to keep in mind?

“It helps that we knew a few librarians through other channels and relationships. After we found out who to approach at the libraries, we audited which LGBT-themed books they already had, then approached the head librarians with the idea of donating money or books for their collections. We provided a recommended list of additional books we thought they should have. They wanted to decide on the suitability of the books on their own, which of course makes sense.”

Jeff: Second, which titles did you donate, and what considerations did you have to make in selecting those titles?

“Attached is the list of our recommendations [a few examples: for children, I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel; for teens, My New Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein; for parents, Gender Made, Gender Born by Diane Ehrensaft]. We developed it with help from Keith Orr, the co-owner of Common Language, the LGBT bookstore in Ann Arbor. Both our public libraries already had good selections of YA books with LGBT characters and stories, which are therefore not included on our list. After talking with our members and reflecting on recent tragedies, we wanted to be sure our local libraries had a good selection of resources for parents of LGBT kids, so our list includes several books for them.”

Jeff: Finally, could you reflect a little bit on the symbolic importance of representation at the library?

“We are strong believers in public libraries. They represent trustworthy, visible and accessible sources of knowledge for the community. It is so important that adults and children who are exploring their identities find out -- often through books -- that there are others like them.”

Thank you, George, Kate, and Laurie, for your work to support, affirm, and advocate for our LGBTQ friends and family members. Your thoughtful answers taught Jeff a lot, and hopefully they can be of some use to other chapter members working on representative inclusiveness in their communities. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Colette Roberts of PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County to be in Women’s Hall of Fame

This week, PFLAG National exuberantly congratulates Colette Roberts on her acceptance into Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame. Colette co-founded PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County in Maryland and led the organization for more than a decade. She will be formally inducted on March 12 during a ceremony held by the Howard County Commission for Women.

Just over the past year, PFLAG Columbia/Howard County has successfully begun partnerships with Howard County Police Department and the FreeState Legal Project. It has been active in state and federal politics, providing testimony in Annapolis on Fairness for all Marylanders Act and providing a Congressional briefing to the LGBTQ caucus in Capitol Hill.

Colette’s induction has given her reason to reflect on a long career of support and advocacy:

“Starting the Columbia/Howard County PFLAG chapter was life changing for me. I met incredible parents and families who were struggling to accept their GLBT children and watched how their tears changed to acceptance and celebration. Working with the school system and politicians, the chapter grew. The youth group blossomed, and the parent support sessions tripled. We accomplished a great deal in Maryland, and the inclusion of transgender people taught us to open our hearts and minds even more. My lesbian daughter has become welcomed in this society, and I think that is primarily because of PFLAG.”

Congratulations on your accomplishment! We are lucky to have you on the march toward LGBTQ affirmation and equality.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tim and Ken of PFLAG Fort Collins/Northern CO Celebrate 47 Years of Love and Commitment

Tim Sagen and Ken Hoole. Photo by Erin Hooley.
This week we celebrate Tim Sagen and Ken Hoole, members of PFLAG Fort Collins/Northern Colorado, who recently served as subjects of a lovely multimedia project by photojournalist Erin Hooley. Tim and Ken got married in Vermont a week after marriage equality arrived in that state, in 2009. The couple first met 47 years ago when Tim visited his first gay bar, and they have been together ever since. 

Check out Erin’s video and photography here.

Tim and Ken reflect on the experience of being subjects for a multimedia project: "When we're asked to do this, we always question the advisability of media coverage.  However, we believe it's important for the community.  We have testified before state legislative committees a number of times regarding gay rights and have had extensive media exposure.  It was gratifying, because of our ages and time together, to be able to share something of the history of the gay rights movement from the mid-60s."

Stories like these are important as history unfurls toward the Supreme Court’s decision on nationwide marriage equality this June. As it says on Tim and Ken’s commitment certificate from 1988: “Love makes a family. Nothing else, nothing less!” Tim and Ken are a testament to love and commitment and an inspiration to PFLAGers to continue their work toward affirmation, support, and full equality. 

Thank you, Tim and Ken, not just for sharing your story but for all you do for PFLAG!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Josh Bledsoe of PFLAG Flat Rock/Hendersonville Honored by HRC!

This week we congratulate Josh Bledsoe of PFLAG Flat Rock/Hendersonville. HRC North Carolina is honoring Josh with a 2015 Equality Award!

A chapter member of PFLAG Flat Rock/Hendersonville, Josh also teaches communications at Blue Ridge Community College. He is the founding faculty advisor of the college’s gay-straight alliance PRiSM (People Representing Sexual Minorities) and co-chairs the Western NC GSA Initiative. This initiative networks faculty advisors and leaders of the region’s GSA groups, and it has been raising awareness and addressing the problem of homeless LGBTQ youth in Western NC. In Fall 2013, Josh partnered with the BRCC Theatre Department to bring The Laramie Project to campus. In addition to showings, Josh organized “talkbacks” between the local LGBTQ community and the actors and producers of the show.

PFLAG congratulates Josh, and we thank him for all he does in his chapter, indeed for all of his great work to advance LGBTQ affirmation and equality.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Welcome back, PFLAG Lancaster!

This week, PFLAG National welcomes back PFLAG Lancaster, a chapter based in Pennsylvania. After a brief sabbatical, the chapter is reforming to continue the PFLAG mission of support, education, and advocacy.

Marjorie Cumpston, president of PFLAG Lancaster, is focused on inclusion. Quoted in LNP, she says, “This is about inclusion. We’ve got to make room for everyone.”

PFLAG leaders, from left: Rich Riccio, 
Marjorie Cumpston, Lou Cumpston 
and Barry L. Russell. Credit: Dan Marschka
Anonymity is also a value. Marjorie adds, “We don’t ‘out’ anyone.”

For more information, visit PFLAG Lancaster’s website at or email

Good to have you back PFLAG Lancaster!

Friday, January 23, 2015

PFLAG Portland President Attends Gay Christian Network Conference

Dawn Holt, PFLAG Portland
Today we hear from Dawn Holt, PFLAG National Regional Director in the Pacific Northwest, and President of PFLAG Portland. She is the mother of a 26 year-old gay man who serves as her inspiration for her work in the LGBTQ community. In addition to her service in PFLAG, Dawn served as the Co-Chair of Equity Foundation, an Oregon-based community foundation for the LGBTQ community and, as a practicing Buddhist, serves on the board of her Zen community.

Dawn shares with us her personal experiences attending the annual conference run by the Gay Christian Network.

Over the weekend of January 8-11, over 1300 LGBTQ Evangelical Christians gathered in Portland for the annual conference of the Gay Christian Network (GCN). The GCN was founded by Justin Lee over 10 years ago to bring gay Evangelical Christians together for four days of worship, speakers, workshops and Bible study. It’s the only gathering of its kind in the country and it grows by 100s of people each year. Through our connections at PFLAG National, PFLAG Portland was invited to table at this event. And what an experience it was!

Throughout the conference, many, many people came to our table and told us about their struggles being Evangelical and gay. A man in his late 60s told us without the slightest hesitation that he has been attracted to men since he was a teenager. He’s been married for over 40 years to a woman--who knows about his attraction to men--and together they’ve raised three children. “I could never come out,” he said, “my homophobic church would never understand.” “I’m telling you this,” he continued, “so no other young person has to go through what I went through.” Then, with tears in his eyes, he headed off to the next workshop. We sat down, stunned at his honesty and humbled that he had told us his story.

Then there was the young man that had been thrown out of his home by his parents at the age of 17 when they discovered that he was gay. “But I’m not a statistic,” he said, “I couch-surfed until I could get my life back together but I don’t drink or smoke or do drugs.” And clearly among this group, he’s found a purpose--and a family.

Twice during the gathering, a woman approached our table and told us that she and her partner of many years have chosen the path of “Side B” and what that has meant to their relationship and that with their church.

“Side A” and “Side B” Christians were not terms I was familiar with before this event. Coined by the CNG founder, Justin Lee, Side A people want to remain in their churches and believe that being gay is not necessarily a terrible sin. These folks want to find a partner and marry (marriage being highly valued in this community). In short, they are setting out to change their churches or to worship in inclusive spaces like GCN.

Side B people want to worship in their churches and be openly gay, but they choose celibacy as a way of reconciling a literal interpretation of the Bible with their orientation/identity. In other words, it’s okay to be gay as long as you don’t act on it. Side B grew out of the grudging understanding that reparative therapy probably does not work. This conversation is nuanced and steeped in the Evangelical style of worship. It’s controversial even in this gathering. But GCN makes space for both of these viewpoints at their gatherings. As one woman pointed out to us, “how can we begin to talk about being LGBTQ people of the Evangelical tradition if we’re not even at the same table?”

And thank goodness for it. Because as PFLAGers, I worry that we are not up to the task of meeting the needs of Evangelical LGBTQ Christians. I talked to several people at the GCN who were PFLAG leaders from other parts of the country and who worship in this tradition: Every one of them told me that PFLAG was only a marginally helpful resource (my words) and what they really craved was a group of people from their religious tradition who could walk with them through their journey. Three parents told me they would like to see Evangelical PFLAG chapters or support groups. I had dismissed this idea in the past. But now I see their point.

So, where do we go from here? The Evangelical community is another example of when PFLAG has expected people to come to PFLAG instead of PFLAG doing the very hard work of going into those communities, listening deeply, and learning about their needs. It’s time to sit down with our Evangelical neighbors and ask them to them tell us how PFLAG could be of service. There are literally lives on the line.

I know for myself it has always been a little too easy for me to dismiss this group of people by saying they are the ones that would never seek out PFLAG anyway. Now I’m not sure. I think there is more we can do, starting with deeper dialogue.

I consider myself much better educated now, and hopefully much less “judgey.”

In peace,
Dawn Holt

If your chapter is doing effective work in the Evangelical community, we’d like to hear from you about what you’ve been doing, what's been effective, and what would you suggest to other chapters who wish to embark on this work. Contact us at

Friday, January 16, 2015

Welcome, PFLAG St. Augustine!

Great news from Florida this week. A PFLAG chapter has opened in St. Augustine. Meetings will be held on the third Thursday of every month at 7:30 pm at the United Universalist Fellowship at 2487 A1A South.

Dan Sostrom
President, PFLAG St. Augustine
Chapter president Dan Sostrom is excited to begin the PFLAG mission of love, support, and advocacy of St. Augustine LGBTQ persons, families, and friends. He says, “Prior to the start of this new chapter, residents of St. Johns County would have to travel to Jacksonville or Gainseville to attend a meeting. We are thrilled that we will be able to hold meetings right here in St. Augustine.”

PFLAG National wishes you all the best as you begin your journey of acceptance and support of our LGBTQ friends and family through support, education, and advocacy.

Friday, January 9, 2015

PFLAG San Diego kicks off scholarship season

LGBTQ high school seniors, college students, and graduate students who reside in San Diego County are being offered an opportunity for assistance with college tuition, thanks to PFLAG San Diego and its many members and supporters.
PFLAG San Diego's 2015 scholarships, as in past years, are give out to outstanding LGBTQ students, encouraging them to continue their post-secondary education while promoting a positive image of LGBTQ youth.
The minimum scholarship amount is $1,000 in each of several categories, and more than one scholarship may be given out in each of those categories. This year, according to the Scholarships page on the PFLAG San Diego website, the following opportunities are being offered:
John Bessemer Memorial Scholarship: This scholarship is made possible through the generosity of PFLAG family and friends to honor John’s commitment to LGBT youth.
Rob Benzon Memorial Scholarship: To honor a beloved and generous friend, Rob Benzon, the Rob Benzon Foundation Scholarship was created to recognize youth who demonstrate a giving spirit and charisma.
Stephen G. Bowersox Memorial Scholarship: Through the generosity of the family, friends and co-workers of the Donna and James Bowersox family, this scholarship has been sustained. Their son, Stephen, was the recipient of a 2003 scholarship. This award is strongly predicated on social justice, demonstrated involvement and high academic achievement, as well as broad, far-reaching interests and activities.
Richard P. Geyser Memorial Ethics Scholarship at the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation: Funding for this scholarship was bequeathed by Philip Flick to honor his partner of 44 plus years and his commitment to ethics. Richard Geyser, who passed away in 2004, was the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation’s first board president and a founding member.
John McCusker Memorial Scholarship at the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation: Established by the family and friends of John McCusker, a community leader, business owner and San Diego Human Dignity Foundation board vice president, the Foundation has continued to fund this scholarship.
Raytheon STEM Scholarship: This is provided by the members of The Raytheon GLBTA Employee Resource Group as a STEM scholarship to attract, support and train future LGBT professionals in science, technology, engineering or math.
Mary Wagner Memorial Scholarship: Mary’s former partner, Sharon Murphy, and her life-long friends, Marilyn and Art Carpenter, have contributed annually to the scholarship to honor Mary’s memory and enduring commitment to education.
The deadline for applications is March 16, 2015. Visit for full information, including guidelines and requirements. 
We congratulate PFLAG San Diego on its continued commitment to supporting LGBTQ youth through education and this robust scholarship program!

Friday, December 26, 2014

PFLAG Columbia-Howard County Receives Free State Legal Project Honors

Great news from Maryland!

Earlier this month, the Free State Legal Project named PFLAG Columbia-Howard County the Community Icon of the Week. The award followed PFLAG Columbia-Howard County’s partnerships with Gender Spectrum and the Ackerman Institute to begin an inaugural Gender Conference East in Baltimore.

Free State is a legal advocacy organization that seeks to improve the lives of low-income LGBT Marylanders. You can read more about them here.

Congratulations to PFLAG Columbia-Howard County! By all accounts the conference was a great success.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Thorons: A Legacy of Love

Today we hear from Jeff Johnson, a Communications and Policy intern with PFLAG National. Jeff had the opportunity to meet with longtime PFLAG leaders Sam and Julia Thoron. Following is his report on their journey to becoming dedicated PFLAG leaders, their many years of service, and what the future holds for their LGBTQ advocacy work.

Sam and Julia Thoron observe San Francisco Pride
This week, PFLAG National expresses its deepest gratitude to Julia and Sam Thoron. On Sunday, December 14, Sam and Julia stepped down from the board of PFLAG San Francisco after 25 years of service. The occasion was marked by an informal buffet dinner. PFLAG members, friends and community leaders were in attendance.

Sam and Julia didn’t have a clue that their daughter Liz might be gay. Then in January 1990, during the winter break after Liz’s first semester at college, Liz came out quietly to Julia. Julia gave Liz a big hug and told her she loved her. She suggested it would be best if Liz would tell her father. Julia spent the next few days waiting for the other shoe to drop until Liz finally pinned her father down at the end of the day while Julia was out of the room.

“Dad, I have something to tell you,” Liz said.

You can imagine all the thoughts that went through Sam’s mind. “She is pregnant, she has flunked out of college, she’s going with someone she knows I will loathe.” So, he replied, “Oh?”

“Dad, I’m gay.”

“Oh, are you sure?”

“Yes Dad, I’m sure.”

“Are you sure you are not Bi?”

“Yes, I am sure I am not Bi.”

“How do you know?”

Liz looked her father in the eye and answered, “Dad, how do you know you are heterosexual?”

Sam tells me, “I got it, I understood that being gay was just who Liz is.”

After receiving a loving hug from her father, Liz left the room, and Julia rejoined Sam to process the new information together. They were upset and somewhat tearful, but not angry. Realizing that Liz had not changed, they began asking each other why they were so upset. They went through a litany of stereotypes: “There won’t be a wedding.” They agreed that they would support any form of commitment ceremony Liz might want. “There won’t be grandchildren.” But, if Liz wanted to bring up children, either as a single mom or in a partnership, there were any number of ways this could be accomplished. In any case, the choice would be hers. In the end, Sam and Julia realized that they were scared. “It never occurred to us that one of our children would be discriminated against and even subjected to violence just because of who she was.”

Sam and Julia understood that their daughter had not changed, but they knew they would need help and guidance in assimilating the new information about her and how that would impact their lives. They figured that there must be a group around these issues. Liz had given them two books, both of which suggested PFLAG. In those days, because of the hostile climate, local chapters often did not have an easily accessible public presence. In order to find the local SF chapter, they wrote to the Los Angeles address shown in the references Liz had given them.

On a February day, both Julia and Sam attended a San Francisco meeting and chose that chapter to return to. As Julia explains, “We felt a lot of connection, a sense of being supported.” It was a remarkable experience, Julia says, especially since there was “nobody we knew, of course”. Those in attendance that first meeting made up a mixed group: a married couple, a single parent, a gay man. I followed up, asking what made the meeting such a draw. Sam answered, “It’s the peer support, from people who had walked the path.”

Sam and Julia lead PFLAG in San Francisco Pride Parade
When you consider that Sam would sit on PFLAG National’s board of directors and serve as its 8th President, it is amazing that he almost stopped attending meetings after his third visit. He says, “I was sitting in my third meeting, and I thought, I’m okay with this. I won’t need this in a few more meetings. I’ll stop going.” Then the chapter president said they had a little business to do before they went home. Sam recalls, “In a gentle voice, she said, ‘If nobody steps up, we won’t have a meeting next month.’” She went around the room several times, and no one stepped forward. Finally, one of the members said, “No one has to do it all. We can share leadership.” Five families, including the Thorons, stepped forward to form a steering committee.

I asked Sam to comment on how he went from being done with PFLAG to becoming a Regional Director and then President, and his answer tells us a lot about how movement activism can start with concern for just one person. He describes a chapter meeting coinciding with Mother’s Day 1991 that he and Julia attended, just a year after they began attending meetings and sharing leadership.

Sam says, “Instead of a regular chapter meeting, it was cookies, coffee, and just a conversation.” He walked up to his wife, took her in a loving embrace, and kissed her. He remembers realizing then, “My daughter can’t do this. Julia and I can do this almost anywhere, anytime. And no one will blink. My daughter can’t do this, and that is wrong.”

Sam reflects, “My activism comes from the particular to the general. I believe that my daughter deserves to be treated with the same respect and dignity that flows so naturally to her two straight brothers in every aspect of her life. I believe that she deserves all the rights, privileges, and obligations of full citizenship. If she deserves this, so does everyone else.”

As shared leaders of San Francisco chapter, Sam and Julia met Mitzi Henderson, who at the time was PFLAG Director of the Mid Pacific Region. One of the many jobs of Regional Director is to guide new chapter leaders, bringing her into close contact with the Thorons. In 1992, Mitzi was elected to be PFLAG National President. Sam reflects, “Getting more involved meant being around long enough to be asked.” As Mitzi moved from Regional Director to President, she asked Sam to serve as a Regional Director; he agreed.

Meanwhile, Julia became very active at the local level. She focused much of her energy on meeting people at the community level, especially partnering with LGBT groups.

“I wanted to be as much of a presence in the LGBT community as I could,” Julia explains.

Sam talks about the importance of that work. He can’t do it, but Julia is good at talking to other people. Julia volunteers, “I like talking to strangers.” She got involved in conventions. Remembering their difficulty finding a local chapter, Julia urged and assisted the steering committee to establish a helpline. Julia says, “This was a publicly accessible phone number so that people could find us, which is really important.”

Sam and Julia receive award at 2011 National Convention
Much of this led to situations wherein Sam and Julia had to consider how visible they were willing to be. As Sam puts it, “If you are around long enough to be asked, the stakes get higher. When we are asked to push the envelope of our comfort zone, we ask ourselves, ‘Okay, do we care about equality for our daughter?’ The answer is always yes. So we agree to push the envelope.”

Sam continues, “So once you’ve been asked enough and you say yes, it gets to be that there is no envelope.”

This is how Sam and Julia found themselves at the forefront of the “No on 8” campaign. They were asked to appear in a campaign commercial against California’s 2008 ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage in the state, known as Prop 8. Sam and Julia’s faces appeared on California TVs all across the state during the 2008 election season defending their daughter’s fundamental right to marriage equality. The amendment passed. “That was a low for me,” Sam remembers. “Our failure to defeat Prop 8.”

But there were plenty of highs.

Julia says, “A seminal experience for me was the 1994 convention.” Julia led the planning committee for the 1994 National Convention held in the Bay Area. She recalls how energizing it was, bringing people together, sharing resources with all of the chapters. “So many people came forward to help, I didn’t do anything really, just went down the checklist, okay we need to do this, and so many people offered their connections, ‘Oh, I know so and so, someone to do entertainment, someone to give a workshop, a speaker.’ Those are the type of people who built it.” Julia reflects, “It was very fulfilling to me to be working with so many people, working on change in the best way possible. I mean, a PR person came forward to help us get the word out nationally. A lot of energy.” The convention is remembered as a big success, with 84 volunteers and 1100 attendees. “There were 15 seminar rooms, and they were never empty.”

After 25 years of PFLAG involvement, Sam and Julia haven’t lost sight of the source of their commitment to change hearts and minds. Prop 8 was eventually overturned, and last April Liz married her partner Lisa. Both Sam and Julia agree. It was the highlight of their careers.

Sam happily notes, “It was a private ceremony at our summer home.”

Julia adds, “It rained the day before, and it rained the day after, but the weather was beautiful on the day of the wedding.”

“It was truly a joyful and fulfilling day.”
Though stepping down from their chapter work, Sam and Julia will always be an important force for advocacy and change for PFLAG.

We will miss their day-to-day wisdom and passion but at PFLAG National, we are already talking about how their historical knowledge can be archived so we do not lose that first–hand narrative and contribution to the organization’s history. 

Sam and Julia have created a legacy of incredible change in the world; we are grateful to them for many years of service to PFLAG, and know that they have truly made the world a better place for all of us, LGBTQ and allies alike.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Linda and Mac Stroupe of PFLAG Greensboro Win Bob Page Equality Champion Award

This week, we would like to congratulate PFLAG Greensboro's Linda and Mac Stroupe on earning Equality NC’s 2014 Bob Page Equality Champion Award. The award, named after a leader in North Carolina’s LGBT movement, was presented to the Stroupes by Equality NC at a gala event on November 22. Bob Page is the founder and chairman of Greensboro-based Replacements Limited, a china, silver, and glassware company (and, of note, a long-time corporate sponsor of PFLAG National). Bob and Replacements Ltd. have been in the news for public support of marriage equality.

Linda and Mac have been active PFLAGers for 18 years. In 1996, their son Carter came out while he was in middle school. The following year, Linda and Mac joined PFLAG Greensboro. Linda now serves as PFLAG South Atlantic Regional Director (NC, SC, KY and TN) and sits on the PFLAG National Board of Directors.

Linda and Mac began gaining the attention of
Equality NC in 2012. That election year, voters in North Carolina passed a state constitutional amendment prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions. The Stroupes vigorously campaigned against the amendment, leading rallies, panel discussions, voter education events, and fundraisers. As Linda has said, “Marriage is a unique event in our society in which we celebrate, and our laws affirm, the union of two people. It is the exact opposite of the lack of acceptance that many gay men and women like my son Carter have known.”

Much of that work was successful. The amendment was found unconstitutional in October 2014.
As Equality NC states, “We’re proud to say Linda and Mac were standing beside us once again at the Guilford County Register of Deeds office when their-long fight for marriage equality in North Carolina came to an end and the freedom to marry became the law of the land.”

Congratulations Linda and Mac! PFLAG National is grateful for all your tireless work to advance equality.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Congratulations to the leadership of Portland Black Chapter!

Great news from Portland:  

Khalil Edwards
Portland State University recently honored Khalil Edwards with a Rising Leaders Award. Edwards is one of the leaders of the PFLAG Portland Black Chapter, the first PFLAG chapter in the nation created by and for the black community, and dedicated to supporting African American LGBTQ persons, families, and friends through love, education and advocacy. Edwards award was presented by another local PFLAG leader, Maurice Evans. 

The award was presented at an event honoring Oregon’s civil rights legacy, recognizing local leaders fighting for equality.

Click here to read more about the event. 

Congratulations to those honored, especially to Khalil! Your work is making a huge difference!

Friday, November 28, 2014

PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois Builds Networks

Retiring National President Rabbi David Horowitz.
Photo by Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer.
A chapter meeting is hard work. Changing hearts and minds is sometimes a balancing act. Attendees are prodded to participate, but discussion must be skillfully facilitated. The payoff of this work might not be immediately clear. It often seems like chapter members take small steps into the larger PFLAG network at a glacial pace.

Toni Weaver is in a unique position to understand both the intricacies of chapter work and the promise of tapping into a larger network. She serves as president of PFLAG McHenry while simultaneously presiding over the PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois. She also knows that networking takes time and careful planning. Almost a year ago, she reached out to other Illinois chapter presidents and members. They began planning a workshop day that was held on November 8th in Palatine, Illinois. “The workshop day evolved over a period of ten months,” Toni explained. “And with each team meeting, ideas were developed or discarded as we watched the workshop take shape through multiple evolutions.”

The planners were particularly grateful to Gail Hanson of PFLAG DuPage. She developed the theme of the workshop, “Building Relationships, Deepening Leadership, Igniting Passion.” Toni said, "The initial theme as articulated by Gail kept the team on focus and on task."

“We billed the November 8 event as a workshop day, not as a conference,” Toni noted. “Because we wanted to stress that the day was not intended for passive listening but for active participation.”

Toni reflected on the team’s goal to strengthen a PFLAG network: “By keeping people together for the entire day, rather than dispersing into break-out sessions, we fostered a sense of togetherness and succeeded in building and strengthening the relationships among all PFLAG chapter members who attended.”

Toni continued, “A sense of belonging to the greater PFLAG beyond the boundaries of one's individual chapter was one of our primary goals, and we feel that we achieved what we set out to do.”

The workshop opened with a keynote presentation by the out-going National President, Rabbi David Horowitz. Quoted in the Windy City Media Group, Rabbi Horowitz said, “Being on the board for 12 years was phenomenal. I cannot begin to tell you how exciting [the past four years] have been. But I have always been and will continue to always be a PFLAG dad. I know that the heart of PFLAG is in your chapters and that’s where we make a difference.”

Rabbi Horowitz’s comment about the importance of chapter work segued into the next activity, “Getting to Know You.” Toni explained, “‘Getting to Know You’ resembled a PFLAG meeting. Workshop attendees were encouraged to move out of their comfort zone to mix and mingle with folks from other chapters. People at each table, under the direction of a table facilitator, introduced themselves and shared their stories of what brought them to PFLAG, much as is done at regular chapter meetings. Conversation was so intense that it proved difficult to wrap up this activity to move on to the next.”

In the afternoon, two Parents of Transgendered Individuals (PTI) support groups presented their work. Toni explains, “The PTI panel's purpose was to discuss how to make individual PFLAG chapters more helpful to and supportive of parents whose offspring identify as transgender. While many of their issues are similar to those of parents of gay, lesbian, and bisexual children, their concerns move way beyond ours, and the information and support they need is so specific to their situation. Through the sharing of their personal journeys, the audience could, for a moment, walk in their shoes.”

Afterward, PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby led an interactive seminar in how to blend one’s story into everyday talk. The goal was to show “how easily one’s story can be woven into casual conversation,” Toni said. “After some basic instruction, PFLAG folks were encouraged to take the floor and practice their own stories.”

By all accounts, the workshop was a huge success. Of course, there are always lessons to learn. To other chapter members interested in planning something similar, one issue to consider is confidentiality. Toni reflected, “In the future, we will ask participants whether or not they wish to be photographed or have their names in publications that will reach a non-PFLAG audience. While this may seem obvious in a PFLAG meeting, it's not so obvious in something as public as a large workshop or conference.”

PFLAG National congratulates the PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois--Toni Weaver of PFLAG McHenry, Gail Hanson of PFLAG DuPage, all the planners and participants--for a great workshop. Network building is tough work, but you pulled it off with much aplomb.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fortune Brings the Fortune Home To Support Her Mom's PFLAG Chapter

Earlier this year, Fortune Feimster--a comedian who, in addition to her many appearances on Chelsea Lately and Last Comic Standing is now developing her own series with funny woman Tina Fey--did a little PFLAG role reversal: instead of her mother supporting her, she traveled home to Belmont, North Carolina to support her mom...and PFLAG Gaston.

After the chapter ran into an issue with a local restaurant owner who declined to allow his business to be used for a fundraiser for the chapter (stating he didn't work with partisan or contentious groups), Fortune traveled home to support her mom, Ginger, participating in the second annual Charlotte Pride Parade.

Fortune one bettered herself: she paid for the float and even rode on it for the parade! And she also set up a crowdfund for the chapter, which in the end raised close to $3,000 for the chapter.

Quoted in the Gaston Gazette, Feimster said, “Since they were running into some obstacles
Feimster with mother Ginger and brother Jay
and I believe their work to be imperative to the gay community, I decided to step in and help. Because I support any group that supports me.”

“It’s always good to be supported and that works both ways,” said Ginger Feimster, in the same Gazette piece. “(Fortune) is very vocal, but she’s also very respectful, in a very positive way.”

To learn more about PFLAG Gaston, visit

Friday, November 14, 2014

PFLAG Metro DC Youth Group Going On 5 Years

In 2008, friends and advocates Carol Lewis and Nancy Brown recognized a problem. Nancy, then-facilitator of the Fairfax support group of PFLAG Metro DC, had noted that many high schools offered space and time to LGBTQ youth by way of a gay-straight alliance (GSA). But this time and space was absent at the middle-school level.

Within a year, Carol had become a co-facilitator of the Fairfax group when a father attended a meeting to find a space for his gay son, who had come out in middle school only to be deserted by his friends. This confirmed for Carol that she needed to put together a youth group.

Carol turned to her own son Ted Lewis, current Director of LGBTQ Life at the University of Richmond. Ted had volunteered extensively for Time Out Youth in North Carolina. TOY, founded in 1991 as an LGBTQ youth organization, employs an executive director and a part-time staff.

“Steve Bentley, the exec, sent me their facilitator’s manual and code of conduct and ethical principles,” recalls Carol. Carol also contacted the Associate Director for LGBTQ Resources at George Mason University to line up some facilitators. Carol then did a letter campaign, writing to local school principals, GSA directors, and healthcare professionals to alert them to her group and ask that they consider the group as a potential resource. With people and policies in place, the first gathering of the Western Fairfax Youth Meeting took place on February 2, 2010.

“Clumsy name but it was a start.” Carol explains, “Later the kids changed it to FLY: Fairfax LGBTQ Youth.”

Carol organized FLY meetings to concur with her regular support meetings, the first Tuesday of every month. The kids meet separately from the adults, though a major strength of the youth group is that the adults are willing to listen and be flexible.

“The kids wanted to meet twice a month so they started meeting on the 3rd Sunday afternoon,” said Carol. “Then the kids said FLY would be better attended if the adult group met then too, so we did that.”

After experimenting with different meeting days, FLY took off when it organized its second meeting as a teen lounge that meets on the third Friday of every month. FLY teen lounge alternates as a pizza and movie night held in a local church and a hangout at an outside venue, usually a coffee shop in nearby Vienna.

“On the whole, we get more kids at lounges than at meetings, usually five or so at meetings, eight to ten at lounges, “ explained Carol. A pottery night attracted the most kids. “We tried ice skating—two kids—and once at a local decorate your own pottery place, which was hugely successful, 19 kids.”

Carol concludes, “FLY provides educational opportunities, but more often than not, the kids just want to talk. They really sort of take over! We've done healthy relationships (HIV/STIs safe sex), mental health, yoga, stress, LGBTQ colleges, LGBTQ history, coming out. But if the kids want to talk, the facilitators are willing to scrap the program. My original intent was for FLY to be a safe place where LGBTQ kids and allies could meet, be together in a confidential environment, and socialize. If we provide some education, that's all to the good, but it's their meeting.“

PFLAG National is grateful to
PFLAG Metro DC and the Fairfax group for all their work to put together FLY. If your chapter is interested in learning more about how to work effectively and safely with LGBTQ youth in your own community, please contact your field manager.

Friday, November 7, 2014

PFLAG Springfield Celebrates 20 Years!

If you had asked Christy Boyce in November 1994 about the future of her proposed PFLAG chapter in Springfield, Missouri, she might have been doubtful. Her classified ad calling for volunteers elicited only one response. However, as current chapter president Kathy Munzinger recalls, “Christy and the ad respondent set to work, a meeting ensued, and the power of two launched a lasting PFLAG chapter that’s provided 20 years of support for the LGBT community.” PFLAG National is pleased to wish PFLAG Springfield a happy 20th anniversary!

PFLAG Springfield is no stranger to the spotlight. It won the National Chapter Advocacy Award in 2013 for its billboard campaign to spread a message of awareness and love. Four billboards in prominent Springfield locations continue to announce, “Someone You Know and Love is Gay.” The campaign is crucial to Kathy and her chapter members. “Springfield is Missouri’s third-largest city and the heart of a socially conservative area, so the advocacy component of PFLAG’s mission is equally important to its 63 chapter members.” Kathy continues, “To heighten awareness of Missouri’s lack of equality protections, three additional billboards were introduced in 2014 with the message that ‘Someone You Know and Love Can Be Fired for Being Gay.’”

To celebrate and reflect on its twenty years in the Ozarks region of Missouri, PFLAG Springfield will host a dinner and movie on November 16th at the Old Glass Place on St. Louis Street. The movie showing will be a local premiere of “Two: The Story of Roman & Nyro.” The film portrays two lifelong partnered fathers and their twin sons. One of the dads is songwriter Desmond Child, whose rock star friend Jon Bon Jovi agreed to godfather his twin sons. The celebration is a ticketed affair, but the $15 cost can count toward 2015 chapter membership. “This allows people who are not members to join at a cost that is less than half of our regular individual membership,” Kathy says.

Over the course of two decades, PFLAG Springfield has participated in many firsts for the Missourian LGBT community, including the first Aids Memorial Quilt and the first PRIDE event in Springfield. Kathy notes that much work remains for the PFLAGers. “The chapter will join a coalition that is forming to counteract an impending repeal effort of the city’s recently amended anti-discrimination ordinance that now includes the protections for sexual orientation and gender identity,” Kathy explains. “Other cities in the central United States have seen similar protections repealed, and we don’t want that to happen here.”

PFLAG National supports your work to build awareness, secure protections, and spread the message of love for our LGBT family and friends. Happy 20th Anniversary! Here’s to many more.