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.

Friday, June 13, 2014

PFLAG's Southern California Chapters March in LA Pride

And what a fun time was had by all! PFLAG members--including longtime PFLAG mom Betty DeGeneres--marched in the parade, and then made time to spread the news about Care With Pride, the partnership between PFLAG and Johnson & Johnson, the funds from which will go to support programs from PFLAG like Cultivating Respect: Safe Schools For All.

Take a look at the wonderful memories made in the photos below! And then be sure to send us YOUR Pride photos and writeups to share on the blog, by emailing them to fieldfocus@pflag.org.













Friday, June 6, 2014

PFLAG Staten Island Chosen as Pride Grand Marshals!

Today we received the following exciting news from Wayne Steinman, who assists in coordinating the Staten Island meeting of PFLAG NYC:

Great news! PFLAG Staten Island has been selected as the Grand Marshals of this year's Staten Island PrideFest. This is the tenth anniversary of Pride events on Staten Island.  The event will take place on July 12th.

We have been meeting on Staten Island since 2003.  We are a constant source of support for our borough of 475,000 people.  We quite are proud to have been selected for this honor.

Shown in the photo, after being awarded the status of Grand Marshals at the prestigious St George Theater, are (from left to right):  Ralph Vogel, Executive Director of the Staten Island LGBT Center (sponsor of PrideFest), Esperanza Santiago, Sal Iacullo, Joan Wilton, Mary Anderson, Wayne Steinman, Debbie Ellicott, Joanne Waglione (PFLAG meeting coordinator), Drew Tagliabue (Executive Director of PFLAG NYC), Genevieve Cannistraci, Paul Sanders (Director of Staten Island PrideFest) and Vincent Cannistraci.

Happy Pride to all!

Big congratulations to PFLAG Staten Island and PFLAG NYC...we're so proud of you!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Give OUT Day a hit for PFLAG chapters!

2014 Give OUT Day was a real success for LGBTQ organizations across the country, including the many PFLAG chapters that chose to participate.

Even a major technical glitch--the Razoo site going down--was turned into a positive when Razoo and Bolder Giving chose to extend Give OUT Day for a full extra 24 hours!  Everyone benefited from the extension...and some even won prizes from Give OUT Day headquarters!

PFLAG Jersey Shore not only raked in the donations--$2775!--but they also won a $100 golden ticket from Give OUT Day!

Other participating chapters included: 

  • PFLAG Collingswood: $955
  • PFLAG Napa: $770
  • PFLAG Lady Lake: $840
  • PFLAG SLC: $145
  • PFLAG Columbia-Howard County: $188
  • PFLAG Roanoke: $195
  • PFLAG Tallahassee: $175
  • PFLAG Brunswick: $110
  • PFLAG Boulder: $65
  • PFLAG Rehoboth Beach: $60
  • PFLAG Silver City: $50
  • PFLAG Richmond: $155
  • PFLAG Benton-Franklin: $150
  • PFLAG Yuma: $195
  • PFLAG Dayton: $65
  • PFLAG Charlotte: $200
  • PFLAG Houston: $1000
  • PFLAG Ogden: $20
  • PFLAG Oklahoma City: $25
  • PFLAG Butler County: $25
  • PFLAG Spokane: $35
  • PFLAG Tampa: $60
  • PFLAG Greensboro: $25
  • PFLAG Cincinnati: $50
  • PFLAG North Jersey: $100
  • PFLAG Phoenix: $10

Our chapters earned just over $5000 collectively - way to go, PFLAG!

We hope that next year we'll have even greater chapter participation...and perhaps we can get some insider tips from our friends at PFLAG Jersey Shore about what made their Give OUT Day so successful.

Congratulations to all of the chapters who participated!

Friday, May 9, 2014

PFLAG San Diego President Featured In The News

Volunteering for PFLAG comes with many personal rewards, but every once in a while it's nice to see that work honored by others...especially by the media!

How exciting, then, for PFLAG San Diego president Terrie Vorono to nab a feature in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News!

Terrie Vorono c. Adam Bouska/NoH8
Terrie describes her "interesting start..." with PFLAG, "“My parents took me to an adult education class where PFLAG representatives were speaking. I went to my first PFLAG meeting after that, I and went to a board meeting after my second or third meeting."

According to the piece, Vorono said that before she had her own kids, she decided that if God needed a mother for a gay child, she wanted it to be her.
She got her wish!

Click here to read Terrie's whole story, including about the work she does with PFLAG. Congratulations to Terrie and her chapter on the wonderful story...and thanks to Terri for her many years of service!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dear Abby Gives A Special Shout-Out to PFLAG Lubbock!

The relationship between PFLAG and advice columnist superstar Dear Abby goes back years. In fact,  in the early 1980s when her syndicated column mentioned PFLAG as a resource for parents of gay children, PFLAG’s National Office--which at the time was the living room of then-National president Adele Starr!--was flooded with more than 7,000 letters requesting information and support.

Dear Abby accepts the inaugural
Straight for Equality Award from
Executive Director Jody Huckaby and
then-Board President John C. Cepek at
the 2007 PFLAG National Convention
Dear Abby’s one reference to our organization--a group with which she had no immediate connection other than her belief in its mission--changed the course of PFLAG’s history.

Since then, Dear Abby has made reference to PFLAG numerous times, recommending that her readers who need support and education turn to us for that help. Whether it's a need for transgender resources, or a parent who needs help with supporting their newly out child, Dear Abby knows that PFLAG is a go-to in communities across the country.

Her support of PFLAG, in fact, earned her PFLAG National's first-ever Straight for Equality award, which she received in person at the 2007 PFLAG National Convention!

Given the numerous Dear Abby shoutouts to PFLAG, imagine the excitement over in Lubbock, Texas when Dear Abby recommended PFLAG Lubbock to a reader! 

That's right: last week, in Dear Abby's April 25th column, Abby heard from a reader who was desperately in need of the kind of support only PFLAG can provide. Wanting to make sure the reader got this support, she didn't leave it to chance: Abby directed the reader straight to the local chapter!

Said Abby, 
"There is a chapter of PFLAG about two hours away from your community, located in Lubbock. You can find it online at pflaglubbock.org. It can provide information to help you build bridges of understanding with your family."
Chapter members were reportedly excited and honored about the mention in this nationally syndicated column. 

We can't think of a better way to focus on the field than to have it done on a national scale by Dear Abby!

Friday, April 25, 2014

PFLAG Tampa: St. Pete Pride Grand Marshals!

Wonderful news, a followup to this story from March 19th where we asked for your votes of support for PFLAG Tampa.

Clearly the call was heeded, the votes came in and PFLAG Tampa has been voted by the Tampa Bay community to be the organizational Grand Marshal of the 2014 St. Pete Pride paradeThat's right: this year, one of the largest gay pride events in the nation, St. Pete Pride, will be led by the largest family and ally group in the nation—PFLAG! This parade is the largest in the Southeast, attracting upwards of 120,000 people. 

PFLAG Tampa is a great choice for Grand Marshal, given how active the group is in the community. The chapter holds two monthly support groups, at different locations, to support both sides of Tampa Bay. Speakers to these meetings have included Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, the ACLU, the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County, and speakers focused on transgender issues.

PFLAG Tampa representatives often speak at graduate and undergraduate classes at USF and UT. They have represented the LGBT community at two churches in Florida to urge them to become ‘open and affirming’. With USF, they are working to make USF the “go to” source for LGBT studies in Florida.
Of course, PFLAG Tampa marches in and mans booths at St Pete Pride and Orlando Pride. They spoke at the Tampa City Council meeting in support of the Domestic Partnership Registry, which was successfully passed.  They worked with Equality Florida and the ACLU to turn around the negative vote, including meeting personally with commissioners.
They are charter members of the LGBTQI2-S Youth Advocacy Group, which investigates possible solutions to LGBTQ homelessness in Hillsborough County, and the LGBTQ Roundtable at The Spring, Tampa’s domestic violence shelter.
PFLAG Tampa helped the ACLU uncover problematic areas for transgender school-age youth, and to better understand these issues in order to assist them to set legal precedents.
As with most chapters, PFLAG Tampa is staffed entirely by volunteers. The chapter started operating in Tampa Bay in August of 2011 and has quickly immersed itself in numerous educational and LGBT advocacy efforts in Tampa Bay. 

To add to the excitement, the chapter has learned that they will get a float to be decorated as they wish. Chapter leaders and members are grateful to all who voted, and looks forward to sharing photos, videos, and more from the big event!

Friday, April 18, 2014

PFLAG Chapters Speaking Out...in the Press!

PFLAGers always make it a point to speak out, especially when the health and well being of their LGBTQ loved ones is on the line. And when they're given the opportunity to do so in the press, that message can have a powerful and wide-reaching effect!

Two chapters have garnered some positive press in the last couple of weeks, and we're excited to share their efforts with all of you.

First, we have an interview with PFLAG Hastings (Nebraska) on adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the state's employment non-discrimination policy. http://www.khastv.com/story/local-lgbt-activists-hope-lawmakers-pass-workplace-equality-bill-20140406

Next up, we have an interview with PFLAG Ohio State Coordinator Michael Ley on Judge Black's impending ruling on the Ohio marriage ban. http://www.hometownstations.com/story/25167177/same-sex-marriage-ruling.

It's fantastic when a chapter positions themselves as the "go-to" on LGBTQ issues in their area. Working with local press is a beneficial way to help a chapter raise its profile and, at the same time, share widely on issues of concerns to PFLAG members.

Need help sharing YOUR chapter message with local press? Been asked to conduct an interview and not sure how to proceed? Contact PFLAG National Director of Communications Liz Owen or your Field & Policy Manager (listed here) for support and information!

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Powerful Speaker at PFLAG Tampa

Today we hear from John Desmond of PFLAG Tampa, regarding a presentation made at their support meeting. It was a powerful topic and had great turnout...and was even picked up by the press!
Cathy's son, Tyler, and coverage of
their court case in the headlines

We had an important presentation last night at our PFLAG support meeting. Cathy James, a Florida same-sex adoption advocate, talked about her experiences getting on her wife's son's birth certificate as a second parent.

In 1977 Anita Bryant successfully campaigned to repeal a Miami ordinance banning anti-gay discrimination. Further, she helped convince the Florida legislature to pass a law that entirely barred gays from adopting children. In November 2008, a state circuit court struck down the law and on September 22, 2010, Florida's Third District Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the decision. This alone is not enough to allow a same-sex couple equal rights in parenting. An adoption simply transfers all parental rights to the adoptive adult. 

Fortunately, Florida allows second parent adoption which lawyers were able to use to help families like Cathy's. In the process, Cathy discovered that people as highly placed as a lesbian Police Chief, and a room full of judges that preside over adoptions did not know that the ban had been overturned in 2010! Cathy's main point these days is to let gay and lesbian people know that they can adopt in Florida.

Click here to read coverage from the local paper, including comments from chapter members! 


Connect with PFLAG Tampa on Facebook and follow them on Twitter (@PFLAGTampa). 

Friday, April 4, 2014

PFLAG Columbia-Howard County's Catherine Hyde Receives Honor!

This week we hear from PFLAG Columbia-Howard County, with wonderful news about one of its members...who also happens to be a Regional Director, PFLAG National Board Member, and a member of the Transgender Gender Nonconforming Advisory Council (TGNC).

Courtney Watson , Catherine Hyde and
Mary Kay Sigaty at Howard County
2014 Volunteer of the Year Awards
Ceremony on Tuesday April 2nd.
PFLAG Columbia-Howard County is most  proud and happy to announce our own, Catherine Hyde, has been recognized as 2014 Howard County Volunteer of the Year.  Catherine says she is humbled be a part of the powerful voice that is PFLAG: parents, families, allies and friends working with the LGBT community to move equality forward.

Catherine's biography is both touching and impressive. She says she didn't listen to her child when he, at the age of 4, told her that something had gone wrong in her belly and that he was supposed to be a she. She did not understand transgender or gender identity until NPR educated her 11 years later. 

Today, she speaks and trains on transgender understanding and sensitivity. In her day job, Catherine is director of Online Services for the national nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. As a volunteer, Catherine serves on the Howard County Human Rights Commission, the Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Advisory Council for PFLAG National as well as PFLAG National’s Board of Directors and as Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. She is also on the Public Advisory Board of Gender Rights Maryland. 

Congratulations, Catherine, from all of us in your PFLAG family across the country!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Scholarships From PFLAG South Orange County!

PFLAG South Orange County has scholarships up for grabs!

Outstanding graduating high school seniors and college/vocational students are encouraged to apply for the 2014 scholarships offered through PFLAG South Orange County. Monetary awards of $2,500.00 are available to residents of South Orange County between the ages of 17-24 who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queer, and to straight allies who have directly supported LGBTQI youth and/or the LGBTQI community.

Eligibility Requirements for the scholarships are straightforward: a 3.0 Overall GPA, a resident of South Orange County at time of the application, must identify as LGBTQIA, a high school senior panning to continue with higher education, and one who is involved in support, education and/or advocacy in their school or community.

Overall, three $2,500.00 scholarships will be awarded in 2014, and winners will be asked to attend the June 18, 2014 PFLAG meeting in South Orange County to accept their awards personally.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vote for PFLAG Tampa!

Today we hear from John & Nancy Desmond of PFLAG Tampa, with a great opportunity for their chapter...and a chance for you to support the effort!

We are so excited to have been nominated again this year as one of three finalists, in the Organization category, for Grand Marshal of the St Pete Pride Parade. St Pete Pride is one of the largest Pride events in the southeast and is the largest Pride event in the state of Florida. Being named a Grand Marshal of this event is among the highest honors bestowed by Tampa Bay’s LGBT community. There are three Grand Marshal categories: Female, Male and Organization. Three people or organizations have been nominated for each category, with the public deciding which among the three becomes a Grand Marshal. The voting will run through the end of March with the winners announced mid-April.

Now we need your help in getting the word out and the votes in. Anyone anywhere can vote. The competition is tough, as we are competing with organizations with significant name recognition. Imagine Florida PFLAGs leading the St Pete Pride Parade! - That would energize a crowd that already gives us a VERY enthusiastic reception. And what a great way to promote PFLAG!

Please share the voting website, http://www.stpetepride.com/prideweekend/grand-marshals/ as widely as possible and maybe PFLAG will be at the front of the parade!

Can you help?

Friday, February 28, 2014

PFLAG Cedar Rapids: Voices of Diversity

We don't often get to spotlight a chapter where a simple link will allow the entry to speak for itself. But WOW! Check out this wonderful segment from CBS2 Iowa highlighting the chapter!



A Cedar Rapids group is working to pave the way for people supporting family members in the lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and questioning community. Rita Devenney is one of those people. “It wasn't a popular thing to be gay in our community,” Devenney said. Devenney and her wife, Jennifer Rowray, both came from small towns where coming out wasn't easy.   “I didn't really have anyone to look to say, 'it's okay to be me,’” Rowray said. That changed for Jennifer as a college student at a gay rights parade in Chicago where members of the group, PFLAG were marching. “Strangers from the crowd would run out and hug these parents because they didn't maybe have parents of their own to hug. That really struck me and allowed me to be brave and tell my parents and trust that they would be more like a PFLAG parents than more like a parent that would reject me,” Rowray said. 

PFLAG is, a group that supports sons, daughters and friends, that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. PFLAG also reaches out to those who are supporting someone in their life that is LGBTQ. Many of the organizers of chapters across the country are parents of those in the LGBTQ community.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Charley Bowers wins KGLRC Community Award

Today we're shining a spotlight on PFLAG Holland-Lakeshore and Holland Is Ready, a local organization with which PFLAG Holland-Lakeshore is a partner! It's wonderful to see PFLAG chapters become more trans-inclusive, and getting more deeply and vigorously involved as trans-advocates.

Charley Bowers, co-chair of Holland is Ready, has been named the winner of Kalamazoo Gay-Lesbian Resource Center’s “Community Award” for 2014. Bowers was given the award at KGLRC’s Winter Gala on February 1st.

KGLRC noted that Bowers was recognized for her determined advocacy on behalf of Michigan’s transgender community. By sharing her personal story and struggle, Bowers has worked to improve awareness and understanding across the State of Michigan. Her advocacy has had a particular focus on engaging young people and challenging LGBT-serving organizations to be more trans-inclusive. She continues to speak to young people at many educational institutions and organizations.


In addition to serving on Holland is Ready’s board of directors, she is also a long-time volunteer with the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

PFLAG API Chapters in New York and Los Angeles Celebrate Lunar New Year!


The 2014 Lunar New Year was last week, and PFLAGers on both coasts celebrated diversity of all kind by marching in parades with other API constituents. We have reports from both Califonia and New York on these special celebrations!


First up: Carol Mannion, President of PFLAG on PFLAG San Gabriel Valley API’s celebration:
For the second year in a row, PFLAG San Gabriel Valley Asian Pacific Islander (PFLAG SGV API) marched in solidarity with API Equality Los Angeles (APIELA) at the 115th Annual Golden Dragon Lunar New Year Parade.  The event was held in Chinatown Los Angeles, California, on February 1st, 2014.
API Equality LA is the official LGBT contingent at this annual cultural parade.  APIELA invites local API LGBTQ organizations to march with them, carrying their banners.  Participants are asked to wear a uniform red APIELA t-shirt, distinguishing a visual presence of support and advocacy for our Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ populations.  Some of these organizations and other participants are also members of:  Barangay LA (Filipino), Chinese Rainbow Association, Gay Asian Pacific Support Network, Project Alofa (Samoan), Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team Health Center, Koreans United for Equality, San Fernando Valley Japanese American Citizens League, and Satrang (South Asian).  Because we span our services to three different counties of Southern CA:  Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, our chapter, located in San Gabriel Valley, is the centralized access location for all.

The mood was festive and crowd turnout this year was larger than the last.  Some onlookers had colorful, shimmery confetti and noisemakers.  We welcomed the “Year of the Horse” with the theme of “Family”.  Aptly, our API PFLAG led the march, holding our bright yellow banner, all in red t-shirts, some parents brought their Pride signs.  It would be the first time that a group would hold up Pride signs.  These homemade signs stated proudly:  “I love my gay son,” “Gay Son, Proud Mom,” “Proud Asian Dad of a Gay Kid,” “Support Keeping Families Together,” “Proud Filipino Mom”.
As we waved, bobbed our signs up and down, wide smiles underneath the beating midday sun, heads held up high, eye-to-eye contact with the crowds, a few of us could not hide the tears of joy and meaning upon the crowds cheering, applauding, and showering us with the shimmery confetti and noisemakers.  One of the observations made was that there was so much enthusiastic support along the street and that perhaps this was credited to having our API PFLAG at the beginning of the group.  The audience cheered those parents who were brave enough to support their LGBTQ children. The parent signs expressing their continued love for their children made the audience react so positively.  People were taking lots of photos of our signs supporting our children.  This was not a Pride parade, but a quaint cultural parade where the narrow streets of Chinatown, L.A. were lined with tourists, local residents, weekend workers, many Asian and Pacific Islander families with their young children, local civic leaders, and immigrants.
The power of family love, support, and continuity of relationships and cultural values, are conveyed in our SGV API PFLAG chapter and its collaboration with API LGBTQ organizations, locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally.
Indeed, our API PFLAG chapter continues to expand its reach and visibility across the varied Asian and Asian-American groups, our shared values about family, respect for our elders, and resiliency as we adapt to our new nation and our children are born into, become a collective that we celebrate at our support group gathering.
Yes, the spirit of the horse, is in every immigrant and Asian and Pacific Islander’s ethos.  We come to America with an indomitable spirit to improve our lives, to contribute and be grateful for the American dream, to ensure that our children is our legacy who will thrive, beyond just surviving.
We are PFLAG San Gabriel Valley Asian Pacific Islander.  We are the voices and faces of API mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, friends, cousins, siblings, countrymen, driven to adapt and accommodate one another.  We all speak the same language of love.
Next up we hear from Clara Yoon, founder of PFLAG NYC’s API Project:

The API Project of PFLAG NYC comes into 2014 celebrating its second year of raising awareness about lesbian, gay, bi, and trans issues in the Asian & Pacific Islander (API) community. Since the launch of API Project in 2012 to provide information and support to API families with a family member who is LGBTQ with a special focus on meeting the cultural and language needs of API families, we have built ties with LGBTQ organizations in the API community, like NQAPIA, SALGA, Q-Wave, Queer Koreans Alliance, and Dari Project.  The involvement of parents has been warmly received, but there is still a long way to go to help families and allies to receive their LGBTQ loved ones with acceptance and pride.  

The Lunar New Year is an important holiday for many from East Asia, and this year marked the fifth year that the API LGBT community took part in New York's biggest Lunar New Year Parade.  API Project of PFLAG NYC marched for the second time with Lunar New Year for All, a coalition of many Asian & Pacific Islander LGBTQ groups, on Sunday, February 2, 2014.  More than 60 people took part, including LGBTQ people, their families and allies, and helped make LGBTQ people visible in the broader API community. Clara Yoon, the founder of API Project and current board member of PFLAG NYC also invited Asian colleagues in her work place to join the parade and many showed up with their own families and friends, making the event even more special.   The board president Suzanne Ramos who also marched with the group said, "The parade was a wonderful New York experience.  We were proud to be marching together with our API members and in support of all LGBT people in the API community and their families."

The API Project also joined Lunar New Year for All to march in the Flushing Lunar New Year Parade held in Queens on Saturday, February 8, 2014.  This was the first time an LGBTQ contingent marched in Flushing. 
Parents from the API Project were warmly received by many from Asian LGBTQ groups for whom the presence of parents was especially moving.   We plan to continue participating in the Lunar New Year parades throughout the city in coming years.