Friday, May 1, 2015

PFLAG San Diego and San Diego Human Dignity Foundation are Launching Leaders


This week, PFLAG National brings attention to a partnership forged by PFLAG San Diego County (SDC) and the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF). On May 15, they will co-host the inaugural “Launching Leaders” event. The luncheon and awards reception will celebrate PFLAG San Diego’s nearly 20 years of funding young LGBT scholars. PFLAG San Diego has awarded over $116,000 to LGBT high school seniors.

Quoted over at the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, SDHDF board president Drew Jack is looking forward to the collaboration. “We’re excited to be taking our partnership with PFLAG SDC to a new level this year,” Drew said. “Collaboration between organizations with co-equal goals is the way to go.”

Those interested in attending can purchase tickets here. They are $50 each. Eight-person tables are available for $400. PFLAG National congratulates PFLAG San Diego County and San Diego Human Dignity Foundation. Here’s to a lasting and successful partnership!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Oregon PFLAG Chapter Creates Diversity Scholarship

Roberta Frasier Anderson, 1975
This week, PFLAG National extends its gratitude to PFLAG Pendleton for creating the Roberta Frasier Anderson Diversity Scholarship. Roberta, a longtime member of PFLAG, is having her life and work commemorated by this scholarship, which will help a Pendleton High School senior go to college, exemplifying Roberta’s commitment to social justice. 

Anderson was a Family Life specialist for the Extension Service at Oregon State University from 1959-1974. She received the first Osborne teaching award and the Superior Service Award from the USDA. Anderson's focuses included child development, aging, and communications within families.

Details about the scholarship were reported over here at the East Oregonian. The $500 scholarship can be used by the winning senior at any college institution of higher education. Interested seniors may obtain an application at the ASPIRE Program Office in the Pendleton High School Counseling Center, or call Shari Dallas at 541-276-9622. The deadline is May 1, 2015.

PFLAG National joins PFLAG Pendleton in celebrating Roberta’s life and work to ensure social equality for our LGBTQ friends and family members. Thank you, PFLAG Pendleton, for putting together this worthy scholarship, and good luck to all applying Pendleton High School seniors!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Day of Silence

Here at Focus on the Field, Fridays are when we report out on the incredible work of our members and chapters. 

Today, however, we're going silent for Day of Silence, as we know hundred of our chapters across the country are doing too.

We'll be back next Friday with more great stuff from our network! And, in the meantime, sssshhhhh...


Friday, April 10, 2015

PFLAG Portland Black Chapter Includes LGBTQ in National Black History Month

On February 26th, PFLAG Portland Black Chapter presented its Black LGBTQ History Project at Portland State University. The event was titled “REMEMBER OUR PAST & BUILDING TOWARDS OUR FUTURE: The Past & Future of the Black LGBTQ Movement.”

In honor of National Black History Month, PFLAGers presented video clips of interviews with Black LGBTQ elders. Around the room, posters displayed the timeline of Oregon’s Black LGBTQ History.

Reported by George T. Nicola over here at PQ Monthly, “Award winning graphics designer Rupert Kinnard created much of the printed content. Also helping facilitate the content were GLAPN President Robin Will and GLAPN videographer Daniel Spiro.”

Check out great clips of PFLAGers interviewing Black LGBTQ elders. They can be viewed here.

PFLAG National extends its gratitude to PFLAG Portland Black Chapter’s coordinator, Khalil Edwards, for organizing this great event. By all accounts, it was a successful and educational evening!

Friday, April 3, 2015

PFLAG Jersey Shore Makes Headlines


This week, we are happy to share an article written by PFLAGer Abby Maisonave. Abby is the Regional Director in the East region, and the leader of PFLAG Jersey Shore. The article was published in the Asbury Park Press on Sunday, March 15. Congratulations Abby, and PFLAG Jersey Shore!

SUPPORT, EDUCATION AND ADVOCACY by Abby Maisonave

PFLAG (Parents, Family, Friends and Allies United with LGBT People to Move Equality Forward) has over 350 chapters in the U.S.

Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the nation's largest family and ally organization. Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of LGBTQ people through its threefold mission of support, education and advocacy.

Jersey Shore PFLAG, founded in 2004, is the local chapter for Monmouth and Ocean counties, although there are six PFLAG chapters in New Jersey.

The Jersey Shore PFLAG board is (left to right) Gregory Pilling of Jackson Township, secretary; Michele Nelson of Lawrenceville, vice-president/facilitator; William Gaul of Manchester, fundraising/outreach and facilitator; Abby Maisonave of Howell, president/facilitator; Teri Keynton of Farmingdale, facilitator; and Seth Rainess of Monmouth County, facilitator. (Photo: Russ DeSantis/CORRESPONDENT)

JS PFLAG hosts three monthly support meetings that are strictly confidential, nonjudgmental, and offer peer-to-peer support: Toms River (second Wednesday of the month), for LGBTQ individuals and their parents and supporters; Shrewsbury (second Monday of the month), for parents and family members of LGBTQ individuals; and Shrewsbury Transgender/Transfamilies (third Monday of the month), for transgender and gender nonconfirming individuals and their families.

We also have a helpline (908-814-2155) for those who may prefer to talk confidentially prior to coming to a meeting.

Our goal is keeping families together and providing a safe, warm and comforting environment for those who don't know where else to turn, and to be able to speak openly and honestly without fear of being judged or shamed.

Who better to understand you thanomeone who has gone through what you are dealing with?

PFLAG board members and facilitators are all dedicated volunteers. We do this because we are passionate about helping people and the LGBTQ community.

When we hear someone say something derogatory or hateful about someone who is LGBTQ, we take it personally because you are talking about someone we care about and love. And we hope that the information and the support you receive from us at our meetings will enable you to take that back to your family, to your community, and educate others.

In addition to providing support for families who may be struggling when finding out a loved one is LGBTQ, JS PFLAG also offers support for those struggling to come out, or who have and are encountering difficulties with family, in school, or the work place.

We provide in-service training in the workplace, and do numerous speaking engagements in schools (from kindergarten to post-graduate) with staff, students and Gay Straight Alliances. We also speak to medical professionals dealing with LGBT patients.

Very often a person will come to PFLAG with questions about faith and having an LGBTQ loved one. Although we are not affiliated with any religion, we can help provide support and resources.

Straight allies are welcome in the chapter, as they are the voices for those that sometimes cannot speak up for various reasons out in the community.

JS PFLAG is proud to have been the recipient of a 2014 Resolution by the Senate and General Assembly of New Jersey; the recipient of a 2014 Wells Fargo Community Connection Program Grant; and a 2012 Humanitarian Award by the American Conference on Diversity.


We have done workshops for the Association of Student Assistance Professionals for many years, as well as a workshop for the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians. JS PFLAG co-sponsors many programs with the Central Jersey chapter of Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Ocean County Human Relations Commission. We also have co-sponsored programs with both the Monmouth and Ocean County libraries.

Every year, we take part in community events, including the Pride festival in Asbury Park, and the New Jersey Gay Straight Alliance Forum, presented by GLSEN-Central New Jersey and the Princeton-based HiTOPS.
PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford and 
her son Morty marching in 1972 
New York City Pride parade. (Photo: 
Russ DeSantis/CORRESPONDENT)
We are very proud of our PFLAG chapter.

There is nothing more gratifying or validating than when an individual or family tells us how much we've helped them when they were overwhelmed with finding out that their loved one was LGB or T. Or hearing a teacher or physician say "I never thought about it from that perspective."

At the end of the day, it's still your child, your spouse, your friend. And they need your unconditional love and support.

Friday, March 27, 2015

PFLAG Franklin-Hampshire Inaugurates the Eric Collins Memorial Award

In February 2013, Eric Collins of West Springfield, Massachusetts, died at the much-too-young age of 15. As a high school student, Eric was active in Generation Q, a peer-led support and advocacy group for LGBTQI youth. Through his work with Generation Q, he became known for his passion and commitment to social justice.

This year, PFLAG Franklin-Hampshire inaugurates the Eric Collins Memorial Award to commemorate his life and work. A $250 stipend will be awarded to one senior from Franklin County and another from Hampshire County. These scholarships aim to foster continuing support, education, and advocacy for LGBTQI youth.

Graduating high school seniors in both Franklin and Hampshire Counties who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or an ally are eligible. Applicants should demonstrate strong support of LGBTQI individuals through community work. Seniors can obtain applications (due April 1st) from their high school guidance counselors or by contacting PFLAG Franklin-Hampshire at PFLAGFHC@gmail.com.

PFLAG National extends its gratitude to PFLAG Franklin-Hampshire for founding the Eric Collins Memorial Award. Best of luck to Massachusetts seniors applying for a worthy scholarship.

Friday, March 20, 2015

API Project of PFLAG NYC Brings in Lunar New Year with Parade, Award

February and March this year are an exciting, festive, and rewarding time for the API Project of PFLAG NYC! 

The API Project, founded three years ago, is PFLAG NYC's special support group and outreach/education project focused on helping families of Asian & Pacific Islander backgrounds learn to accept, support, and continue to love their LGBTQ kids. Led by a Korean-American mom, Clara Yoon, the group has come to include both families and LGBTQ individuals from diverse backgrounds from all over South, Southeast, and East Asia -- Pakistan, India & Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam & the Philippines, to China, Korea and Japan.

Lunar New Year, celebrated in many Asian communities in January & February, has become as big an event on the annual calendar for the API Project as June's Pride celebrations are for PFLAG generally. On Sunday, February 22, more than 20 supporters of the API Project and PFLAG NYC joined the Lunar New Year for All contingent in the annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade that wound its way down Mott Street, Canal Street, the Bowery and all the most historic parts of New York City's oldest Asian neighborhood.

After marching, more than 100 people from Lunar New Year for All gathered at Project Reach, a youth center in Chinatown, to celebrate with a huge Chinese banquet. Speakers from Asian LGBTQ community organizations, including GAPIMNY, Q-Wave, and the Asian Pride Project talked about the origins of Lunar New Year for All. For many years, New York's Irish LGBT community has struggled to be included in the famous St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue. Still excluded from that event, the LGBTQ community has rallied around St. Pat's for All, an alternative parade held every year in Queens. In 2010, members of the Asian LGBTQ community were inspired to seek to be included in the Chinatown New Year's Parade. It didn't happen without struggle, but in the first year they tried, the group was allowed in under the Lunar New Year for All name. Ever since, the group has grown and become an important contingent in the parade.

This year for the first time, the involvement of parents and PFLAG NYC's API Project was featured in an article in the U.S. edition of the large Hong Kong newspaper, the Sing Tao Daily. Parents proudly carried the API Projects new banner with PFLAG NYC's logo and the proclamation "We are proud of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children" in English and six Asian languages: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Bangla, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Of course it wouldn't have been a proper "Pride" march showing without a little fun: the Lunar New Year for All contingent was led by two rollicking "sheep" for the Year of the Ram, who were enthusiastic group members in adorable sheep onesies!



This month, the API Project continues the excitement with word that we are to receive a big honor. Clara Yoon, the group's founder, will receive an NQAPIA Community Catalyst Award on March 28 and the annual awards banquet of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA). PFLAG NYC is immensely proud of Clara's being recognized in this way for her work to bring PFLAG's support to API families not only in NYC, but around the country through cooperation with other parents in the API LGBTQ community, like San Gabriel Valley API PFLAG.

NQAPIA's Community Catalyst Awards Celebration will take place on March 28 at Grand Harmony Restaurant in New York City's Chinatown. Anyone interested in attending can get more info at NQAPIA's website, but should be sure to contact PFLAG NYC so all PFLAGers can sit together! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

New Mexico Declares PFLAG Day

This week, PFLAG National recognizes our New Mexico chapters for an incredible honor. Reported by Steve Terrell over here at the Santa Fe-New Mexican, the New Mexico state Senate, by a unanimous vote, declared February 16th to be PFLAG Day. The memorial was sponsored by Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces:

“A MEMORIAL DECLARING FEBRUARY 16, 2015 ‘PFLAG DAY’ IN THE SENATE.

WHEREAS, founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, parents, families and friends of lesbians and gays, more commonly known as PFLAG, has become the nation's largest family and ally organization; and

WHEREAS, for over twenty years, there have been New Mexico chapters of PFLAG in Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Gallup, Las Cruces, Roswell, Santa Fe, Silver City and Taos; and

WHEREAS, uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer with families, friends and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people through its mission of support, education and advocacy; and

WHEREAS, PFLAG chapters in New Mexico have been major advocates for civil rights, including human rights, anti-discrimination, anti-bullying, support of safe schools and freedom to marry; and

WHEREAS, the Santa Fe chapter has a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people scholarship program that has raised over three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000) since 1997;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that February 16, 2015 be declared ‘PFLAG Day’ in the senate…”

Congratulations to all of our New Mexico chapters! What an honor to be officially recognized by your state. Keep up the good work of advancing acceptance and affirmation of our LGBTQ friends and family.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Nancy and John Desmond of PFLAG Tampa Honored by Human Rights Council!

John and Nancy Desmond of PFLAG Tampa receive
Human Rights Council President's Community Award
This week, PFLAG National ecstatically congratulates Nancy and John Desmond of PFLAG Tampa on receiving the inaugural President’s Community Award from the Human Rights Council of Tampa-Hillsborough County (FL)! The award recognizes all of the great work John and Nancy have been doing in their chapter, PFLAG Tampa to advance equality for and affirm the value of our LGBTQ friends and family.

As reported by Catherine Sinclair in the Plant City Observer, Mark Nash honored John and Nancy specifically for their work to adopt the domestic registry program and expand Tampa-Hillsborough County’s non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The award signals that the Human Rights Council of Tampa-Hillsborough is beginning to recognize LGBTQ issues and advancements. As Mark says, “This first-ever award by the President of the Council clearly extends the council’s scope beyond racial civil rights, which is a pretty impressive step, considering how conservative this county has been.”

An impressive step forward that is only possible thanks to all the steps John and Nancy have taken to support, affirm and advocate for our LGBTQ loved ones. We congratulate John and Nancy and wish them all the best!

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 pflagoflancasterpa.org or email pflaglancaster@gmail.com.

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 fieldfocus@pflag.org.

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 pflag.com/scholarships 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.