The Rebranding of PFLAG (and how it affects us)

Last week, not only did PFLAG National swear in a new Board President (the dedicated Jean Hodges— welcome!!) but an announcement has also been made regarding the “change” to PFLAG’s official name. When the organization was founded by Jeanne Manford in 1972, its name was created as an acronym for “Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays”. A trans-inclusive stance was officially adopted in 1998, and the name will now reflect that. For the sake of historical importance and identity, we will still be called PFLAG, there will no longer be a definition attached that excludes a particular group of the LGBTQ community.

Read the full article by The Blade here.

Welcome to the NEW PFLAG!

Advertisements

LGBTQ+ 101

We’re shaking up the meeting a little bit next month and planning a fun educational session! Get ready to learn a little something. You don’t want to miss it as we explore the myths and stereotypes that have plagued the LGBT community for decades in the form of a game of “Mingle”!

august meeting flyer jpg REDO

For now, here are some resources for you to brush up on our topic:

UCLA – LGBTQ+ Terminology

University of Michigan – Lesbian History: Cultural Issues

Huffington Post – Gay Men Stereotypes That Need To Be Challenged

ACLU – Article on Transgender Discrimination

Nine Anti-Trans Slurs to Avoid

“WOMEN in English” – artist, Carol Rossetti

Carol Rossetti is a graphic artist from Brazil who has begun sharing her empowering illustrations on Facebook. Since uploading them to an album on the popular social media site, Rossetti has received gratification and praise from people around the world. Here are some of her beautiful images that are particularly relevant to PFLAG:

image credit: Carol Rossetti

image credit: Carol Rossetti Designs

image credit: Carol Rossetti

image credit: Carol Rossetti Designs

image credit: Carol Rossetti

image credit: Carol Rossetti Designs

I think these and the rest of Rossetti’s portfolio are absolutely gorgeous and seriously liberating.

God Is Great And Annie Is Awesome

(Disclaimer: Permission has been obtained to publish this article from all parties involved. All contents herein remain under the ownership of the original writer.)

Vanessa and her daughter, Annie

Vanessa and her daughter, Annie

God Is Great and Annie Is Awesome

by Vanessa, her mom

 

Born this way? Yes, I’m sure, sure, sure she was born this way. I knew it, felt it, sensed it when they put her in my arms in the hospital. I knew she was different. Of course, different is a relative term. I mean she was different than me– a controlled, sensible, follow-the-rules-at-all-costs and do what “they” expect type of human. She was born a freedom-seeking, do the opposite of what “they” expect kind of person. But not necessarily to ruffle feathers– simply because the opposite of the norm expresses exactly what’s inside of her.

annie 4

Annie- born a freedom-seeking, opposite of what “they” expect kinda girl!

Ya, ya, we’re all special, but she makes ‘special’ seem so… ordinary. Half a dozen times in her 10 years, I have heard the same comment from grown women: “I want to be Annie when I grow up!” I suspect it’s her style, her views on life, her desire and ability to connect with people of every age. Her perceptiveness, her charm, her humor, her confidence are what make her an unassuming role model. Words are hard to find to fully capture the richness of character she has been granted.

She has changed me deeply with the wide and explosive array of color she has brought into my basic, black and white life. All the colors of Manic Panic in her hair, brightest of 1985 fluorescents in her outfits, every color of the palette shining through from her electric energy… now, folded into the mix of color and light: the rainbow of course, the gay pride rainbow!

 

Annie's Electric Energy!

Annie’s Electric Energy!

In May, she came out. I asked. She told. She cried. I hugged her with the tightest grip of love and joy and utter relief that she would not have to be the only one to know anymore, not for one more minute. Not for one more lonely, scared, shameful minute would she be alone in this. I eschewed her terror about going to Hell and what she thought the Bible said about homosexuality. “The BIBLE??!! Oh honey, it’s all about love and our unconditional, loving, huge God made you exactly the way you are, in all the ways that you are. He loves you desperately and remember, sweetie, fear and shame are NOT from God. God’s on our side, as always.”

 “God is on our side, as always.”

One of my first motherly responses was to assume a protective, defensive posture against the world at large. I thought, as people learn about Annie’s sexuality, we will simply and surgically separate the men from the mice, no second chances. You’re in the “Annie Is Awesome Club” or you’re dead to us. Then, after a day of that toxic mind set, I started to see the similarity of that line of thought with that which fosters homophobia and intolerance. Back to that ‘love’ thing. I will choose love and acceptance of our community, wherever each individual stands on the issue, I decided. And now I stand firm on that. As much as anyone’s “pray the gay away” tactics won’t be necessary, I will not need to pray in a condescending manner for those people who don’t turn in their “Annie Is Awesome” membership form for immediate approval.

PFLAG meetings: check! Gay Pride Parade: check! LGBT Gay Pride Exhibit: check! Even a Rainbow-themed Christian Fish Bumper Sticker!

LOVE ONE ANOTHER (photo credit: newegg.com)

LOVE ONE ANOTHER
(photo credit: newegg.com)

As we identify with and choose our Christian faith as a way to get through and beyond this life on earth, I recently thought about the rainbow that God created as a sign to His people. It says in Genesis, “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” I know it’s about God not sending another flood, but now, when I read that and reflect, all I can dwell on is that phrase “creatures of every kind.” Yes!!! An everlasting covenant between God and EVERY KIND OF CREATURE, EVERY KIND OF PERSON, EVERY KIND OF GIRL, EVERY KIND OF BOY. Lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, questioning and everything in between. EVERY!

Thank you, PFLAG CDA, for providing us a community of love, acceptance, pride and support. Right now, it appears the world is set up for people coming out in their teens or later, not when they’re 10! In all my research, in Arizona and in Idaho, only PFLAG has been able and equipped to welcome the youngest of the gays. Our whole family thanks you.

 

Our whole family thanks you!!

Our whole family thanks you!!

Straight 4 Equality

Straight For Equality is a subset of PFLAG National which focuses specifically on what straight allies who may not necessarily have any other ties to the LGBT community can do. If you’re wondering what you can do to help, maybe give their website a visit. There is an online pledge you can sign to promise to stand up against bullies and to educate others on proper terminology. You can check out the “Ally Spectrum” or get some training. We over at PFLAG Coeur d’Alene are participating in some online activism– putting a face on those who are allies and those who need allies. GAY RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS.

Here is the start:

Christine Juli Mandy MoePatrick

This project will be ongoing throughout June with a focus after July’s meeting, which deals specifically with the ideas of allyship.

Marriage Equality Moves Forward

In the last week, we have seen monumental progress for marriage equality in our country. We have celebrated (and backtracked) in Idaho; we have cheered wholeheartedly for Oregon. And, just today, we welcomed Pennsylvania to the list of states that will officially recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. Congrats to all!

Since the United States Supreme Court struck down a critical section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June of last year, Pennsylvania’s Judge Jones makes the eleventh federal judge to nullify a state statute restricting gay marriage as unconstitutional.  In eighteen states, same-sex couples now have the freedom to marry.

(except imagine Pennsylvania is a beautiful dark green)

(except imagine Pennsylvania is a beautiful dark green)

If we keep going at this rate, the other half of the country will be on board by the end of the summer! Only four states have bans that are not currently being challenged in court.

Mother’s Perspectives: Part Two

Once again, thank you to the speakers who, on Tuesday, decided to share with us their experiences. From what I could tell based on the conversation that followed, there was a great deal of takeaway from these two families’ stories.

Part Two: Verna and Josh

“I taught Josh when we was younger, and he’s teaching me now.”

Josh is twenty years old, and he came out to his mother, Verna, two years ago. Verna, having been brought up in the same generation as Susan, faced the same situation in a very different time.

She said she had an idea about Josh’s sexuality when he was as young as three. “If any one of my four boys is gay, it’s Joshua,” she retells this thought jokingly.

But she opened her story, not with the distress of Josh’s coming out to her, but with the unconditional love she felt then and still feels now for him and all of her children. She strives to teach them to be strong, knowing they (especially her second son) will face adversity. She taught them to take others’ opinions with a grain of salt. It is within your own self and the people that love you that you should find comfort.

One day, Josh called his mom, and she could tell he was nervous. She could tell he had something big to tell her, and it was tough for him.

“Mom, I’m gay.”

“And…? I know Josh; I’ve always known.”

And the simplicity of realizing that maybe his identity was not as secretive as he had thought has forged an even stronger bond between mother and son. She never pushed him; she never even asked him. It was his story to tell. When asked a direct question, Verna’s advice, based upon her own experience was: wait for them to tell you. Even if you have an idea and you want to test the waters, be vague, generic and open-ended. Don’t make them feel pressured to tell something they’re not ready to tell yet. They’ve got to come to terms with it themselves before they can trust others.

For a time, after that confirming conversation, Verna felt legitimate fear for her child. As a Catholic, she honestly believed that, as a gay man, Josh could not go to heaven. Reconciling her feelings for her son and the knowledge that this is something with which he was born, with the belief system of the Catholic church has been a struggle. From the beginning, Verna told Josh to never “lose his faith in God.”

Josh is adamant that he owes all his success to the encouragement from his mother. As of next weekend, Joshua will be a college graduate, having served on the North Idaho College student senate body (ASNIC), as President for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance and as Treasurer for the NIC Signers’ Club.

Verna said of Josh’s accomplishments, “I couldn’t be more proud– not because he’s gay, but because he’s my son.”

josh and verna

Josh and his mom, Verna

josh swan 2

This award was presented to the North Idaho College Footsteps Committee by the Task Force On Human Relations for their work in diversity and human rights.

josh swan

Josh (center) and his siblings

Mothers’ Perspectives: Part One

First off, a heartfelt thank you to Bev Moss, her daughter, Susan and Verna Swan and her son, Josh. It was courageous to stand up the way you did last night and bare your honest experiences with the group. It was wonderful to see how perspectives the same exact situation could differ, even to the point of reminding one another what had happened.

Part one is for Bev and Susan Moss:

“Isn’t it wonderful when one person loves another?”

In the case of Susan Moss, her coming out story began at age 16, nearly 25 years ago. Obviously, the societal climate toward the LGBT community was much different. (If you think we’ve got work to do now, just imagine how far we’ve come.) Susan noticed something different about herself as she entered her teenage years, but didn’t have a definitive answer until her first relationship with another girl at 16.

She didn’t want to tell anyone. It is important to note that Susan and Bev never really talked about it.They began the reminiscence by disclaiming that neither one really new what the other was going to say. “Let’s see how this goes,” they said. Bev, Susan’s mother, chimed in to take over a little of the story then. She told us that she had confronted Susan. “Are you gay?” After giving the confirmation, Susan felt like a ‘failure at coming out.’ She felt as though the control she had over her own story had been taken from her, and she ran from the situation, eventually leaving North Idaho altogether for a period.

In the year 1988, Bev cried over the news that her daughter was gay. Not necessarily the fact, but the struggles of disclosing the information to other family members, the unhealthy high school relationship Susan was in and the widespread misinformation of HIV and AIDS during that time. Even though, she’d had suspicions, the confirmation meant she couldn’t hide with her “head in the sand” anymore; she had to wage this uphill battle alongside her daughter.

Advice given to Susan’s parents is universal and so important for all to hear:

Ask your child for three years to fully adjust. It’s likely that it took that long or longer for your child to come to terms with this part of themselves. Do as much research as you can. Get the facts because having knowledge is the best way to assuage fear. Remind yourself that this person is the same person you called your child yesterday; you’ve just learned some new information about them.

This wise, before-his-time man was also quoted as saying “Isn’t it wonderful when one person loves another?”

Bev has long since fully accepted this piece of Susan’s identity, spending years manning the hotline for concerned parents of LGBT persons and providing a safe, accepting place in her home for Susan’s peers. And Susan has returned to Coeur d’Alene and is working tirelessly to make Coeur d’Alene schools secure and inclusive for all students.

Bev

Bev

Susan (2nd from the left) and her gorgeous family

Susan (2nd from the left) and her gorgeous family

Support PFLAG National Programs

A couple of exciting (and easy!) ways to support our parent organization are set for the fundraising extravaganza that will be May 2014.

giveOut-logoIn addition to our own rummage sale, for which we are still taking donations, and whatever support we can lend Spokane PFLAG on National Give OUT Day (our status is not ready this year for it), everyone can chip in to help the national nonprofit.

care with prideFirst, for the third year running, the Johnson and Johnson Company is partnering with PFLAG’s Safe Schools Program to raise money to go toward anti-bullying strategies. Johnson and Johnson understands the unique struggles faced by LGBT students, and with their Care With Pride initiative, they can help to make a difference. Watch an informative and heartwarming video about the way the world could be here and then be sure to text “HERO” to 41010 to send $5 to Care With Pride. Johnson and Johnson will match every dollar for up to $150,000 to PFLAG’s LGBT youth programs. That’s $300,000 to help make schools a safe place for all students. Just send the text and $5 will be added to you cell phone bill– easy peasy.

 

this day in juneSecond, there is an amazing new book that is available now for preorder on Amazon. It’s called “This Day in June”. Here is the Amazon.com description:

This Day in June is an uplifting and upbeat book that shares the experience of attending an LGBT Pride festival and a day when everyone is united. It includes back matter that informs the reader of various aspects of LGBT history and culture.

Inspired by founder, Jeanne Manford’s, bravery and hoping to instill in the next generation feelings of love and solidarity, this book is written for parents and children to enjoy and learn together. A copy of the book costs $8-11, depending on whether you want hard or soft copy and a portion of the proceeds will benefit PFLAG National when you order through Smile, Amazon’s charity giving program (as soon as we have the necessary documentation, we’ll have one of these too, so every time you order though Amazon, you    can support your local PFLAG chapter). Simply select PFLAG National as your chosen organization when you order.

amazon smile

So, that’s it! $15 later and you helped raise nearly half-a-million dollars for safe schools as well as provided your family with a valuable tool for educating our youngest allies.

Laramie and CDA – Not So Different by Josh Swan

Josh Swan is a soon-to-be graduated student at North Idaho College, having completed his general course of study and planning to move on to systems and design thinking and sociolinguistics. In addition to his most recent project of joining the board of directors for the renewed PFLAG CDA, Josh has served on the Associated Students of North Idaho College (the student senate) for two years, as the treasurer for NIC Signers Club and was the president of the NIC Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) for the 2012-13 school year.  He volunteered to be on a talk-back panel for the play. Go ask him a question tonight!

If you want to see the play, there is still a chance! Tonight (followed by guest speaker and actor panel) and Saturday; 7:30PM at the Boswell Hall Schuler Performing Arts Center.

The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later was a phenomenal production by the North Idaho College Theatre Department. If you are unfamiliar with the original Laramie Project, it is a play based on the events following the murder Matthew Shepard, a 21 year old gay student of the University of Wyoming.

As this murder attracted national attention, one crew that went in to interview was the Tectonic Theatre Project. Tectonic differed from other media sources as it decided to take the interviews, court transcripts and create a play out of them. A cast of around 8 then presented the play, each with the possibly of playing up to ten different characters. The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later is a follow up to that play.

Following the murder, there was a 20/20 episode that worked to discredit the court cases that this was a hate crime. They tried to make the implication that the assault was not about discrimination, but rather a drug deal or robbery gone way too far. The Tectonic Theatre Project re-entered the scene and did some follow up interviews. They spoke with anyone involved or just members of the community whether they were for or against. They even went as far as interviewing Matthew’s mother Judy Shepard, and his murderers Aaron McKinney, and Russel Henderson. This play discusses the changes in climate of Laramie, work done in the state of Wyoming, and even work Judy has done to create federal hate crime laws.

As a native of the Coeur d’Alene area, it was interesting to see. Coeur d’Alene and Laramie have a lot more in common than one might think. In both cities, the college is the “liberal hub”  and while the town of Laramie faced the hate crime that led to Matthew Shepard’s death, Coeur d’Alene has been known for it’s struggle with the Aryan Nations. Both cities resent that past and wish to fully put it behind them. They wish to “forget about the past” in order to move forward. This comes up whenever a law to make a change is suggested or someone digs up a past wound. There even is similarity in arguments in board meetings and senate meetings regarding how the marriage needs to remain an institute between one man and one woman. Hearing the same arguments over again in play format allowed me to realize that every testimony against it was like a stab in the chest, another invalidation of my existence or ability to love. By the end of the play though, there has been some progress forward for change very similarly to Coeur d’Alene. There is still a ways to go, but overall it is stepping in the right direction.