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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

North Carolina Achieves Marriage Equality...and PFLAG is There To Celebrate!

Today is the final day of October, which means one more chance to celebrate LGBTQ History Month. And October 2014 will certainly go down in history as a turning point for marriage equality.
October 06, 2014 may not be easy to remember since no landmark ruling was issued on that day. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s decision not to review lower court reversals of marriage bans in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming set in motion a process that brought marriage equality to those states, plus Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wyoming. With 14 states in one month, marriage equality is now a reality in 32 states. That we and our LGBTQ friends and family were able to see this progress during a month designated for celebrating major achievements in LGBTQ history is icing on the cake!

Jerry Miller of PFLAG Flat Rock/Hendersonville literally saw that progress firsthand. North Carolina officially achieved marriage equality on October 10th, and Jerry was proud to bear witness. “In order for it to be real to me,” he said, “I had to join three couples at the register of deeds (that) morning as they applied for AND received their marriage licenses.” He counts one couple as close friends. He joked that, “the others were the only ones there at 9 am.” What about those in an often thankless and bureaucratic position? “The clerks were fantastic.”

Thank you, Jerry, for bearing witness on a historic day! PFLAG extends congratulations to your good friends, and to all of our LGBTQ friends and family who are able to have their love and commitment legally honored in 14 more states!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Garden State Legislators Honor PFLAG Chapters!

Last Friday, the Garden State officially celebrated the 20th anniversary of LGBT History Month by recognizing all six New Jersey PFLAG chapters during a special legislative session. Then on Tuesday, Congressman Frank Pallone held a conference call with state LGBT leaders to mark the first anniversary of New Jersey marriage equality.

To officially celebrate and recognize New Jersey’s PFLAG chapters and the work they’ve been doing to move equality forward, , New Jersey Assemblymen Tim Eustace and Reed Gasciora reached out to members from all six chapters in the state. The assemblymen invited chapter members to the State House in Trenton for an official reception. Seth Raines of Jersey Shore PFLAG and Linda Murphy of PFLAG Collinswood were able to attend the special legislative session officially recognizing LGBT History Month, where they accepted a written commendation of PFLAG’s role in advancing the work and support of people who are LGBTQ.. Each chapter received an official copy of the commendation.

Then, New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone held a conference call with LGBT leaders on Tuesday, October 21st, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in the Garden State. Abby Maisonave, North Atlantic Regional Director, and member of PFLAG Jersey Shore, participated in call. 

Congratulations to all six New Jersey PFLAG chapters! We are so proud of the work you do on behalf of our LGBTQ loved ones, their families, and friends! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

And the nominees are... Send in YOUR Submissions for 2015 PFLAG National Awards NOW!

Ever get caught up in the excitement of awards nominations? Wonder who will be recognized as the best performers in their fields each year? Find yourself asking how nominees earn their status? Well, now is your chance to get in on some of the exciting awards action yourself: help us determine this year’s nominees for the 2015 PFLAG National Awards!
You can now submit YOUR nominations for some of PFLAG’s highest honors, which will be presented at the PFLAG National Convention, which will be held in Nashville, TN October 16-18, 2015.
You have the opportunity to make nominations in three categories:
  • The Starr Award: This award is named in honor of Adele Starr, founder and first president of PFLAG National. The Starr Award is intended to recognize an individual within our membership who has made special personal contributions to PFLAG and its mission.
  • The Flag Bearer Award: The PFLAG Flag Bearer Award is given in acknowledgement of the accomplishments of a PFLAG or a non-PFLAG individual/s, businesses, and organizations that have made lasting contributions to the safety and/or equality of our LGBTQ children, family and friends. A recipient of the Flag Bearer Award can be a member of PFLAG but the work the person or persons are doing is being done outside the framework of the PFLAG organization.
  • The Betty Degeneres Advocate Award: This award is named in honor of Betty Degeneres, mother of celebrity Ellen Degeneres, who has used her public stature to educate diverse groups, primarily outside of the PFLAG chapter network, about the critical role of parent, family and ally affirmation of people who are LGBTQ.
Betty DeGeneres accept the first ever  Betty DeGeneres
Advocate Award at the 2011 PFLAG National Convention
“Take a look around your state and think about who would make a great Starr award nominee. You likely have someone in your membership who is always going above and beyond. Or perhaps you know of a non-member or even someone in the news who has been helping with the fight for equality who would be perfect for the Flag Bearer or Betty Degeneres awards,” said Kay Heggestad, co-chair of the PFLAG Board Awards Committee. “Nominate them, now’s the time!”
These awards are a prime opportunity for you to take leadership in ensuring that people who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to PFLAG’s mission and goals are getting the recognition that they deserve. All nominations will be reviewed by a panel of PFLAG member leaders, and final recommendations for awards will be submitted to and approved by the PFLAG Board.
“This is a chance for you to help highlight people who can serve as inspirations to us all who otherwise might not get a platform to talk about their work,” said Bobbie Barry, committee co-chair. “And what better place to spotlight this work than at the PFLAG National Convention!”
Ready to get started with your nominations? All nominations are done online, through the ProposalSpace system. You will need to create a login to submit, but doing so is free.

The nomination period closes at 11:59pm on February 1, 2015. So submit a nominee now! Your nomination may just be the one that creates PFLAG’s next big award winner!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Some sad news from Pennsylvania...

Today we hear from John Otto, President of our Philadelphia chapter, about the unexpected death of Melina Waldo. Melina served as a member of the PFLAG National board and as a Regional Director; she remained a passionate advocate in her local chapter, too. 

Among her many great contributions to advancing the PFLAG mission, Melina's 2003 Capitol Hill meeting with Senator Rick Santorum is the thing many of us will remember most. The Philadelphia Inquirer published the letter she wrote about that meeting, and John Otto provides it to us below as a reminder of the powerful impact of the PFLAG voice as told in her own beautiful words. 

We hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.  

It is with the deepest sorrow that I inform you of the sudden passing of Melina Waldo on Monday October 6.  Melina was a long time Philadelphia board member who most recently headed up our Speaker's Bureau.  She was also past chapter president , North Atlantic Regional director and PFLAG National Board Member.  Melina was known for her wise council, her ability to soothe a distraught parent and here willingness to speak her mind, taking on the politicians who for years blocked LGBT civil rights. 

Below is a classic letter to the editor that Melina wrote about her encounter with PA Senator Rick Santorum 11 years ago. 

As the parent of a gay son, I visit Washington occasionally to lobby Congress on equal rights. But nothing prepared me for the heated meeting I had with Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) two weeks ago.

Our son came out as gay during his freshman year at Penn State. Learning that he was gay was as unexpected as it was disturbing to my husband and me.
Worried about his future and afraid of losing our close relationship with him, fortunately I found a group called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. PFLAG is a wonderful organization of caring people with whom I could discuss my fears, and learn from gay people the reality of their lives.
PFLAG’s annual “lobby days” encourage our members to go to Washington to meet with our representatives. On one of these annual trips, I had an encounter with on Capitol Hill with a clergyman who loudly interrupted me and pushed me as I was being interviewed by a reporter.
My son told me at the time: “You’re their worst nightmare, Mom!” He explained that the last thing the far right wants people to see is a mother speaking up for her gay child.
That minister is old by now and Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond are retired; but lest we advocates of equal rights for our gay loved ones grow complacent, along comes Santorum to take up the torch.
What was to have been a routine visit to Washington took on an unexpected urgency when Santorum, in an Associated Press interview discussing the upcoming Supreme Court review of the Texas sodomy law, compared our gay and lesbian children to criminals, linking the rights of homosexuals to pedophiles, polygamists and people who commit incest.
Such false and inflammatory remarks from one so high in our government could not go unanswered. Fran Kirschner, president of PFLAG Philadelphia, through great persistence, obtained an appointment with the senator.
Fran; her husband, Allen; my husband, Dick, and I set out for Washington on the morning of May 1. We hoped to appeal to Santorum on a parent-to-parent basis, not to discuss policy, especially because we were told we would have only 10 minutes.
How to express the hurt to our families, the fears about our children’s safety, and the contributions of gay and lesbian Americans?
We spoke for a few minutes with his aide—who, by the way, could teach his boss something about respect and manners—and then the senator strode in. In my heart at that moment were every gay person who ever told me his or her story, every injustice against gay people known to me, and of course, my own dear son.
As a shorthand way of putting a human face on the issue for him, I placed in front of Santorum a photo of my son and me at my 60th birthday celebration, and something else, which I described as one of my most precious possessions. He barely gave them a glance.
We tried valiantly to make him see the connection between his awful remarks and damage to our families. Hateful words give permission to those who would harm our loved ones.
We talked about our children; he lectured us on the nonexistence of the right to privacy.
We said he was elected to represent all the people of the commonwealth; he talked about his duty to uphold the Constitution (his version).
I objected to his interpretation of the right to privacy, insisting that most legal scholars did not agree with him. I told him the law can distinguish consensual acts between two adults expressing their love for one another and incest. He told me that he was a lawyer, implying, of course, that I am not.
He was arrogant, belligerent, argumentative and condescending. His vigorous defense of himself stretched the meeting to a half hour or more.
He blamed the media for the uproar: He was misquoted, misunderstood, taken out of context. I wondered what had become of the virtue of taking responsibility for one’s words and deeds that conservatives love to preach to others.
I found in him the perfect incarnation of the closed mind. And, yes, as reported, he did trip over a chair in his haste to leave the meeting.
The story, I believe, has implications far beyond the gay community and its supporters, numerous though we are. Santorum and others like him have a view of our beloved country at odds with what the vast majority of Americans want.
The irony of our having just waged a war for the freedom of Iraqis as we lose our rights at home should not escape our notice. I believe Santorum and his far-right supporters oppose civil rights for gay citizens. The question for all Americans is: Who’s next?

Oh, and that most precious possession I tried to get the senator to look at? It was a birthday card from my son that showed a child drawing a heart in the sand. It reads: “Before I could spell it, before I could say it, I loved you, Mom.”
Melina never quit. Her testimony in 2008 in favor of marriage equality is just as moving, just as powerful, just as strong.

Watch, listen...and then take a moment and consider how you might continue Melina's work as you move forward.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The 2014 Northeast Regional Conference

Today we hear from our Eastern Region Field & Policy Manager, Jamie Curtis, who attended and presented at the 2014 Northeast Regional Conference.

Last weekend, 35 PFLAGers from across New England gathered on Cape Cod for the PFLAG Northeast Regional Conference. PFLAG Cape Cod hosted the conference which kicked off with an informal bon fire on the beach Friday night. Some of the early-arriving attendees enjoyed the opportunity to share informally over s’mores on the chilly fall night!

Amy Mesirow, Regional Director for the Northeast Region, started the day Saturday welcoming the attendees and introducing Beth Kohm, PFLAG National Deputy Executive Director, who spoke about PFLAG’s upcoming name, mission, and vision changes that were recently shared in the PFLAGpole. In addition to asking questions, participants shared how the change can help lead to conversations and education.

Like all regional conferences, there was lots of time for learning in workshops. Chapter members throughout the region presented workshops on meeting facilitation, chapter technology, chapter leadership and trans best practices. In addition, participants shared their own experiences and lessons learned in their chapter.

I was lucky enough to be able to present a plenary session to the entire group. I shared best practices for chapters to help build PFLAG’s name in their communities, as well as formal and informal ways for chapters to get noticed and build their reputations.

I helped present a closing session in which PFLAG Greater Boston, PFLAG Cape Cod and PFLAG Providence all shared their best practices for including programming and education in their activities. This informal session provided a great opportunity for all participants to share their favorite education program ideas.

Overall it was a great event, and I look forward to the next one in 2016!

Friday, September 26, 2014

PFLAG New Prague Area Debuts!

Today we hear from Kathy Gage, board member of a new Minnesota chapter, PFLAG New Prague Area:

I was a little nervous, but mostly excited. We are actually going to do this! The New Prague area support group had just become officially associated with PFLAG this past May. Our eight family group knew that there were more people out there who needed the same thing, but were either unaware of our presence or afraid to come for help. Our community is a rural, small town of about 7,400 people. You don’t just hop in the car for a quick trip to Target. Like most other communities, there is a need to be safe, to be accepted, and to belong.

Upon the recommendations of the PFLAG website, we put ourselves out there. We placed an advertisement in the community education catalogue, we put an article in the local newspaper, we got a website, and we met with the PFLAG National Field & Policy staffer for our region, Brooke Senter. 

But this next step is what stretched us even more, made us feel vulnerable, made us visible. We walked in the Dozinky Farm Pride Parade!

At first we didn't know if we could rally enough people. We solicited the support of friends and family and were pleasantly surprised to have over 50 people walk with us! A high school student was instrumental in getting about a dozen teenagers to come along. One woman chased us down on her bicycle and hopped on the float, bike and all. There were scowls and frowns and looks of puzzlement along the parade route after reading our signs. There were also smiles, waving, and clapping for us. One woman said, “Oh, my word!“ Another woman said, “Well, it’s about time!” 

When we passed the parade announcer, I had a feeling of pride as he said our name and our purpose. Yes. Yes, we are here for each other. I’m not sure if it’s possible to communicate to our fellow parade walkers just how important their participation is to us. My heart is full of gratitude. I’m also very proud of the PFLAG New Prague Area Chapter members. Each one contributed in a big way to make the parade float a reality and ultimately our presence known in the community. 

We belong here because there is a need to support, educate, and advocate. I am looking forward to what will happen next, so Czech us out!

Friday, September 19, 2014

PFLAG Philly Board Member to be Honored

PFLAG Philadelphia Board Member, and
Jaci Adams OutProud Transgender Award
Recipient, Dawn Munro
PFLAG Philadelphia proudly announced that their board member, and Trans-activist, Dawn Munro, has been awarded The Jaci Adams OutProud Transgender Award by Philly Pride Presents, and will be honored at the October 12th OutFest Philadelphia .

OutFest Philadelphia is one of the LGBTQ Pride Events associated with National Coming Out Day. It is an annual event that attracts over 30,000 people.

The Jaci Adams OutProud Transgender Award is named for the LGBT and HIV/AIDS activist who passed away earlier this year; Adams was the inaugural recipient of the award at last year's OutFest.

Dawn has dedicated her life to bringing the plight of LGBTQ people to the forefront and continues to work hard toward bringing understanding, affirmation, and civil rights for the transgender community.

Congratulations, Dawn, from PFLAGers everywhere!

Friday, September 5, 2014

PFLAG Madison the Marriage Equality Bus Tour

Today we hear from Jeanne Williams of PFLAG Madison about a fun and exciting event that her chapter participated in late last month:

Members of PFLAG Madison participated in the Marriage Equality Bus Tour to Chicago send-off on Monday, August 25, 2014.  

Members Karen Baker & Casey Garhart are shown below with Keith and Johannes, who are one of four Wisconsin couples suing over the ban limiting marriages to heterosexual couples.  The case, which began Tuesday, August 26, continues in the 7th Circuit Court in Chicago.

And what wonderful timing...just today the 7th Circuit Court issued a scathing, unequivocal ruling declaring that the bans on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin and Indiana were unconstitutional.

Friday, August 29, 2014

East Coast PFLAG Chapters Co-Sponsor Gender Conference This November

Mark Your Calendar for November 14th and 15th!

East Coast Professionals' & Family Gender Conference is an exciting event on the East Coast in support of trans and other gender-expansive children and youth. PFLAG, Gender Spectrum, and the The Ackerman Institute's Gender and Family Project are co-sponsoring this conference, which is dedicated solely to the needs of families with gender-expansive kids. 

Slated for Maryland (final location to be announced shortly), this two-day conference will focus on support, education, and advocacy in for families, and will include tracks for youth.

Friday November 14th will be a day of workshops, discussion and networking for professionals supporting children, teens, and caregivers interested in learning about how gender and gender diversity impacts their work. Content will include issues from various fields, including education, legal, medical, mental health and social services.

Saturday November 15th is a family day, full  of programming that explores and celebrates gender diversity in all of its forms! Informative workshops for parents and caregivers, a separate day of workshops and activities for teens, and specific programming for both kids and tweens.

Visit to add yourself to the update list for plans as they progress!

Friday, August 15, 2014

PFLAG Cleveland Takes the more ways than one!

Today we hear from PFLAG National's Central Region Manager Brooke Senter on her visit with PFLAG Cleveland. 

This week, thousands of LGBT and ally athletes descended on Cleveland and Akron for the 2014 Gay Games. The Gay Games are an international sporting and cultural event held every four years. The Games launched in 1982 and offer a safe environment for LGBTQ competitors. The Games invite participation from all athletes and typically about 10% of participants are non-LGBT, often friends and family who participate to show their support. I had the opportunity to attend the PFLAG Cleveland monthly meeting, present at the Game Change conference, and cheer on PFLAG Cleveland’s bowling team as they took the gold in the social division.

PFLAG Cleveland regularly attracts 40 people to its monthly support meeting. As the field manager for the Central Region I’ve always admired how this chapter reaches out to the community and on Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend this special support group. It’s a true example of the love and support a chapter can provide to the community. People in attendance ranged from those feeling the nervousness of attending for the first time to those praising PFLAG for the support they’ve received for years - some have been attending since the early 1990s. The chapter also welcomed many guests who were participating in the Gay Games - people came from Arizona to El Salvador to Russia. We shared stories, laughed and helped support each other through the long process of coming out. PFLAG Cleveland was started by Jane Daroff and her son 29 years ago. Imagine all of the people they’ve helped along the way. 

My tour of the Games continued on Wednesday at the Game Change Educational Conference. The conference came together through collaboration with PFLAG Akron, CANAPI (Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative), Jewish Family Services, Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation, The University of Akron, Federation of Gay Games, and GLSEN North East Ohio. I presented a workshop session on Cultivating Respect: Making Schools Safe for All Students and I participated in a panel with 5 other influential members of the LGBTQ community to talk about changes in the LGBTQ community since Stonewall. The panelists ages and experiences ranged from a young lesbian woman who attempted suicide at an early age to an 83 year old transwoman who served in The Korean War. We were all asked to talk about how the LGBTQ community has affected our lives. We shared our different experiences and remarked that despite of our different paths, we’ve all experienced highly enriched lives because of the LGBTQ community. One panelist talked about how she found PFLAG after a suicide attempt and how it saved her life to be part of a supportive chapter. Another panelist talked about how his mom was one of the founding members of the PFLAG Akron chapter and he was so proud about the support his mom provided to others through PFLAG. 

Thursday marked the culmination of a fantastic week as I watched the PFLAG Cleveland Bowling team take gold. Months of practice paid off as they edged into first place by a few points. I felt so much pride to work at PFLAG after my experiences this week at the Gay Games. As they played the national anthem and PFLAG Cleveland donned their gold medals, I thought about how lucky we are in this country to change our culture, change our laws, and embrace the LGBTQ community.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

PFLAG Metro DC Member's Son Speaks Out On BSA Leadership, Post Eagle Scouts

We reported back in February of this year how history was made when Pascal Tessier--son of proud PFLAG mom and PFLAG Metro DC board member Tracie Felker--became the first openly gay scout to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest within the scouting organization. 

Becoming an Eagle Scout was a major moment for Tessier.

“It was important for me to become an Eagle Scout because I believe in the values that Scouting upholds: being helpful, trustworthy, loyal, kind, brave, reverent,” he said. “It is Scouting’s highest honor and would be the culmination of over 10 years in Scouting.  I was also inspired to be an Eagle Scout because my older brother, Lucien (who is also gay), is an Eagle.”

Up until January 1st of this year, openly gay teens were banned from the Boy Scouts. At that time, that policy was changed, although the ban on gay scout leaders remained in place. 

That policy hasn’t changed. And sadly, that means that Tessier, who last week turned 18, has now been forced to leave the scouts. 

This policy banning openly gay scout leaders infuriates many, including PFLAG member Felker, who complained about the policy to the Los Angeles Times earlier this year, saying, “On August 4th, [Pascal’s] an Eagle Scout and has the highest honor. August 5th, all of a sudden, he’s no longer good enough to be a Boy Scout?”

Now Tessier himself has penned an open letter to the head of the BSA, Robert Gates; the letter has been published in Time Magazine and online.

In it, Messier says, 
Mr. Gates, only you have the power and experience to bring an end to the unwarranted, unjust and un-Scout like ban on gay adults. Every day that you do nothing, more boys and parents struggle with their place in Scouting, in their communities and in their families.
Not long ago, Mr. Gates, you were instrumental in the repeal of the military’s ban on gay service members, telling the U.S. Senate in February 2010 that, “The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change [to allow gay service members], but how we best prepare for it.”
Openly gay adults will eventually be allowed in Scouting, Mr. Gates. As support for equality continues to grow, Americans will soon demand it. The question before you, then, is not whether the ban should end, but how many more young people like me will be a victim of your failed leadership if you do nothing.

Click here to visit and read the entire letter from PFLAG son Messier. 

Keep up the good fight, Pascal; PFLAG has your back!

Friday, August 1, 2014

PFLAG Nashville President Celebrates Military Pride

Today we hear from Kathy Halbrooks, the President of PFLAG Nashville, and the Tennessee State Coordinator.

I had the pleasure of attending the Second Annual NSA Mid-South LGBT celebration on June 26 in Millington, Tennessee. 

The keynote speaker was Master Chief Tim McVeigh, the first person to win a case against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  

Shown in the photo with Kathy are CSCM Dwayne Beebe-Franqui,
his husband Jonathan Beebe-Franqui, and Master Chief McVeigh

Master Chief McVeigh was reinstated but was not treated respectfully overall. After being given the option to retire at the rank to which he had been promoted, he took early retirement. He didn’t have a retirement celebration, so the event at Millington, cake and all, served as a very late celebration for him.  

He was presented a flag that had been flown over his base at Pearl Harbor.  The flag ceremony was incredibly moving, and I cried throughout.  

The day was a wonderful tribute to how much the military has improved and grown in the treatment of lesbians and gays.

I’m proud of the base because, even though trans people can’t serve in the military, a young trans man took part. His father served in the military.  

The whole event was one of the most amazing celebrations I’ve ever attended, and I was honored to be there. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

PFLAG Tampa at St. Pete Pride

Today we hear from John and Nancy Desmond of PFLAG Tampa, reporting on their experiences as the Grand Marshals of St. Pete Pride!

Last Saturday night, just as the sun set on the horizon, the excitement on the PFLAG Tampa float and among the marchers was over the top. We were so ready! We could see movement in front of us – the lights from emergency vehicles and motorcycles, then the car lights from the male and female grand marshals. As we started to move, we realized that, as the organizational Grand Marshal of the largest Pride parade in the Southeast, we were the very first float and that ahead of us, on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, 170,000 people awaited to cheer us on! We screamed in anticipation as our float lit up, jolted, and started to move!

At the head of our entourage was the 10-foot PFLAG Tampa Grand Marshal banner that had been given to us by St. Pete Pride as winners of their competition to pick this year's Grand Marshal. Behind the banner four students from the Trans+ Student Union at the University of South Florida, who are attendees at our meetings carried four flags: the Pride rainbow flag, the Bisexual flag, and, in a statement to be extra-inclusive of the T, we flanked them with TWO Transgender flags.

Behind the flags, came our lit-up float, belting out “We Are Family” over blaring loudspeakers. The 35'-foot-long float was a surprise gift to us from St. Pete Pride. It was lit and decorated - all we had to do was add our own branding and riders. We took out the thrones and added a 5' square PFLAG logo made from petal paper, along with other decorations adhering to our theme of “Love Wins.” Our branding purposely left off the word “Tampa,” and used PFLAG only, since we knew many of the votes came to us from people who had family members who had been helped by PFLAG chapters across the US. Following the float were marchers who were tossing out 30 gross of beads, which disappeared about halfway through the parade. Bringing up the rear, was the Care with Pride “One Mother's Love” banner.

All told, about 60 PFLAGers, decked out in light-up, heart-shaped deely-boppers, glow necklaces, Love Wins T-Shirts, Care with Pride T-Shirts, and special Grand Marshal beads greeted screaming, waving, cheering throngs who seemed to be making the effort to make eye contact and smile in order to express gratitude for the difference PFLAG made in their lives. Or maybe they just wanted beads! Each float-rider carried a sign custom-tailored to express their love for a specific loved one: gay son, lesbian daughter, 2 moms, etc. Our message was clearly, “We love you,” and their message was, just as clearly, “We love you, too!” Can you imagine?! To a person, we all said it was everything we imagined it would be, and then some!

Despite blistering heat, the festival the next day attracted 50,000 people, many of whom were drawn to our booth where we proudly displayed our Grand Marshal banner. We saw old friends from PFLAG meetings who made a point to seek us out, as well as many other LGBT organizations who were anxious to join us in various advocacy efforts. 

This year is going to be a busy year! Continuing the theme of Love Wins, we offered, for a small donation, buttons that said, “I Love My Gay Son, I Love My Transgender Spouse, I Love My Lesbian Cousin,” etc. in just about every LGBT designation. We displayed our Care With Pride
posters (as we did on the float as well), and gave out the coupons from our booth. We also enclosed coupons in our goodie bags which had smiley-face bubble necklaces attached, so they were eagerly grabbed up. We have been supporting the efforts of a new chapter of PFLAG Pinellas (the county in which St. Petersburg is located), and a sign-up sheet for them at our booth garnered many signatures. Being Grand Marshal certainly gave us all the positive exposure we had hoped for!

In addition to the parade and festival, we also had opportunities to address the public, and meet & greet at social events leading up to the weekend. We were pulled on to the stage at at several Pride events, including at the Fine Arts Museum which included former governor Charlie Crist, and attended a Pride-sponsored Mary Lambert concert. The executive director of St. Pete Pride always introduced us by pointing out that PFLAG was marching in gay pride parades before they were called pride parades. We were extremely happy with newspaper interviews that always picked up our theme of love and acceptance. Of the newspaper interviews, the most interesting to us was the one by our conservative hometown paper, the Plant City Observer. Up to this time, a search on their website for the words 'gay,' 'lesbian,' bisexual,' or 'transgender' returned no results. Now they have one!

And this young reporter really understood our message!

In a typical PFLAG story that PFLAGers have come to experience more and more often, a neighbor whom we know quite well, stopped our car on the street this morning to talk to us. He said he had seen the newspaper article, and wanted to tell us how much he liked it. It turns out his son was gay, and had died of AIDS. We had no idea. Now we have a connection with him, and hopefully we have given him a voice. PFLAGers do that everyday when we publicly share our stories and our love.

Thanks, PFLAG! The message we received loud and clear is that you are changing lives!!

Click here to see a full gallery of beautiful images of PFLAG Tampa at St. Pete Pride!

We are all changing lives, thanks to leaders like you and chapters like PFLAG Tampa!

Friday, July 18, 2014

PFLAG Tampa Helps Move County One Step Closer To Full Non-Discrimination

Today we hear from John Desmond of PFLAG Tampa, reporting on his chapter's successful efforts to move forward an amendment inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity to an already-existing human rights ordinance: 

The Hillsborough County, Florida,  Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted to approve a motion today to authorize the County Attorney’s Office to prepare an amendment to the Hillsborough County Human Rights Ordinance 00-37. The amendment would prohibit discrimination within Hillsborough County on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in connection with employment, public accommodations, real estate transactions and County contracting and procurement. The amendment will provide equal treatment to residents and workers in Hillsborough County, but protections do not apply to those that live or work outside of the county. The motion was introduced by Commissioner Kevin Beckner. John Desmond of PFLAG Tampa spoke first in a crowded BOCC auditorium in favor of the amendment. Opponents also were present, many with Bibles in hand. The motion was approved 7-0.

The Hillsborough County Human Rights Ordinance was first passed in 1988. It currently includes protections against discrimination because of race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, disability and marital status. The inclusion of sexual orientation among the protected classes was first proposed in 1989, added in 1991, removed in 1995, and proposed again in 2000. Currently, eight other Florida counties and 17 cities, including Tampa (which is in Hillsborough County), prohibit employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Nationally, 21 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and 16 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The amended Hillsborough County Human Rights Ordinance will support economic development by helping to recruit and retain a talented workforce. According to the Center for American Progress, employment discrimination also decreases retention rates, impairs job performance and productivity and limits access to consumer markets. Among Fortune 500 companies, 91 percent extend workplace protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 61 percent on the basis of gender identity.

The draft amendment will have to withstand two public hearings and BOCC votes to become law.

Congratulations, PFLAG Tampa! Be sure to keep Focus on the Field posted on your progress!

Friday, July 11, 2014

PFLAG SGV API and "After I Do"

PFLAG SGV API was featured in a piece on Public Radio KPCC about the Asian Pacific Islander LGBT community in Southern California, and the process of coming out based on their cultural needs.

Carol Mannion, president of the SGV API chapter is quoted in the piece, which includes a discussion of why the chapter was created in the first place:

Carol Mannion, who’s Filipino-American, created the group because she felt people would be more open and honest if they met with others who had similar backgrounds.
"And then being vulnerable in your own language really gives you that courage," says Mannion.
Carol is the parent of a gay son, but said something was missing when she attended a support group with a mainstream American crowd.
"I know they totally understand what my process is as a parent of a gay son, but there’s a part where there’s a disconnect with them understanding what it feels like to be a minority."
Her group holds sessions in English, Chinese or any number of languages in order to help people feel at ease. In addition, they'll facilitate a translator for people who do need help coming out to their parents.
But most importantly, members can share their experiences and offer advice to other people worried about how their own parents might react.
Click here to watch a video and hear more from Carol in her own words.

Then, you can click here to read and hear the full piece from KPCC, as well as listen to and read the first two parts in this important and interesting series.

Friday, July 4, 2014

PFLAG Ogden: Pride at Hill Airforce Base

Today we hear from Barb D'Arco, president of PFLAG Ogden, one of our Utah chapters. She writes of a moving, major milestone, one that could not have happened without the hard work of PFLAGers everywhere!

I am a civilian employee of Hill Air Force Base.  When I received an e-mail in March of this year with an invitation to participate on a committee for the first ever Pride Awareness Month on a stateside military installation, I raised my hand high!  

Our committee, a mix of civilians and military members, was excited to get started and got busy planning three events to bring Pride to Hill Air Force Base.   I volunteered to be committee chair for an LGBT Community Resource Fair, which would bring helping agencies from the community to provide information and assistance to the airmen and families serving here.  

The event was held on 11 June and was a huge success!  With the help of the committee and our wonderful LGBT community we had 29 organizations come to base for four hours. They set up booths, handed out materials and chat with about 130 military and civilians employees.  It was an honor that even the Base Commander came out to show her support during this event. 

There were to other events held this month: One was a Pride Night celebration on 21 June, where we showed the Family Acceptance Project short film “Always My Son” with a panel discussion afterwards. We also had various LGBT performers playing music, reading poetry, performing improv and performing in drag.  

On 24 June we sponsored a luncheon where Kristin Beck was our special guest speaker. While Kristin happens to be a transgender retired Navy Seal she is so much more! She spoke of Equality...not just for the LGBT community but for each and every one of us! We are all deserving of love and of loving ourselves! We all deserve to be accepted for just who we are! The  take away for me  was this....."If not me? Who? If not now? When?" Thank you Kristin! You inspire me! This event was even covered in the local news!

As President of the PFLAG Ogden chapter I am overjoyed to have been a part of bringing LGBT awareness to Hill Air Force Base and hope to continue this as a tradition for many more years to come.

Friday, June 27, 2014

PFLAG Indianapolis: Marriage Equality (Finally) Comes to Indiana!

Today we hear from Annette Gross of PFLAG Indianapolis, on the great news out of her homestate about marriage equality!

Yesterday I was witness to what I can only describe as a miracle.  At noon, my fellow PFLAGer Jan Nichols called me to share the fantastic news that Judge Rogers overturned Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage.  Shaking and crying, I drove down to the Marion County City-County Building with some friends to witness history.

Upon arrival, I saw a line snaking out of the Clerk’s office all the way down the hall.  Hundreds of couples - some with children, some in wheelchairs, some dressed in suits and ties, some holding bouquets of flowers – were standing patiently on line, waiting to get married.

Inside the Clerk’s office, I met many of my friends.  As soon as one (or more) couples got married and emerged from “the chapel,” a huge cheer went up from the crowd.  Everyone was a friend today!

In the hall, a man and a woman were cutting pieces of wedding cake they had brought over. Another woman was handing out flowers to each waiting couple.  There were a few heterosexual couples waiting to get married, and some of them were clearly unnerved by this turn of events.  But they were in the minority and nothing could stop the love and joy that permeated the air.

Beth White, who is the Marion County Clerk, and her assistants, did a fabulous job of keeping the wheels turning.  Beth performed many of the weddings, but so did some clergy and other folks who were able to perform marriages.  Everyone wanted to help.

At the end of the afternoon, I headed over to Broadway United Methodist Church for a celebration sponsored by Hoosiers United for Freedom.  The attorneys and plaintiffs in the lawsuit were there, as were hundreds of others who worked so hard to bring this day to fruition.  Quite a few PFLAG members were in attendance, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, and we all hugged in united joy.

I was engaged for 2 1/2 years. To me, that was an eternity. My fiance was in college in Ohio, and we had to wait until he graduated to get married. But I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to wait years - in some cases 20 years or more - to get married to the person you love.  The couples lining the hall were polite, pretty quiet, and really not whooping and hollering – maybe they, like many of us, could not quite believe that this day had really come.

I do know, however, that yesterday history was made in Indiana.  When I woke up this morning, I cleared the fuzz from my head and remembered that yes, my same-sex friends CAN get married now.  I found a big smile forming on my face.  When I went onto Facebook and saw that more friends got married early this morning, I had tears running down my cheeks.  In a little while I’m going back downtown to help out at the Clerk’s office.

I am proud of the role all of the Indiana PFLAG chapters played in this victory.  There are members who came before us who paved the way, and for them I am so very thankful.  PFLAG National also gave us so much support, and I thank them too.  I am so happy that the parents’ voices were heard.  

Even though we have won this battle, there are more to come.  But for now we will enjoy what is in front of us.  And to my heterosexual friends - please don't take the fact that you can get married so easily for granted. You are lucky that there are almost no barriers to you being able to walk into a clerk's office for a marriage license. Heterosexual privilege still exists until we tip the scales towards Full Equality.

Friday, June 20, 2014

PFLAG Utah and Salt Lake City PRIDE!

Today we hear from Regional Director Kathy Godwin about Salt Lake City Pride. PFLAG Utah made a big showing!

PFLAG Utah came together for the 2014 Salt Lake City Pride Parade with the Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Ephraim chapters participating.  This year we marched with a beautiful rainbow float built by the Ogden chapter and colorful PFLAG shirts designed by the SLC chapter.

Contributing to the hand-making of 2,000 flowers that adorned the float were the Ogden and SLC chapters as well as the GSAs at NUAMES, Box Elder, Clearfield, and Kearns High Schools. 

About 70 PFLAG members marched together with homemade signs to show loving support for our family members, friends, and the entire Utah LGBT Community!   It was a fabulous day with so much love and acceptance everywhere we looked, with parade attendance estimated at 35,000.

Wherever there's Pride, there's PFLAG! Thanks for the report Kathy.