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

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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!!

Safe In My Hands (new Allstate campaign)

We’re all familiar with the personal property insurance company, Allstate and the deep-voiced African American spokesperson, Dennis Haysbert. Well, Allstate has a new campaign in honor of Pride Month.

Singer/songwriter, Eli Leib, has offered his talents to provide the music for the new commercial. Watch it here:

It’s very sweet. You can download the song for free here.

In addition to providing services tailored specifically to the needs of LGBT domestic partnerships, they are running some hashtag activism, much like our own Straight For Equality photo drive (more on that here). Go here and upload a photo of you and your loved one #outholdinghands.

“Being visible should never leave you feeling vulnerable… everyone deserves to be in good hands.”

PRIDE and Fathers

What a crazy amazing weekend!!

pride 2014 logo 2-1 jpegPFLAG Coeur d’Alene had the honor of marching in the 23rd annual Pride Parade with Spokane PFLAG, and it was a wonderful, colorful day full of laughter, hugs, love and community. While some amateur WBC wannabees paced in their square, sequestered off with yellow caution tape, right at the entrance to the park, throngs of people blocked them with both their bodies and their cheers as floats of proud groups walked past. They waved their message of hate, and we waved our messages of love and family, and we were the vast majority. Even though the clouds loomed threateningly above, nothing could rain on this parade!

WE ARE FAMILY!!

WE ARE FAMILY!! (photo credit: Juli Stratton)

 

PFLAG showed up strong with nearly two dozen marchers– parents, friends, advocates, couples, familiar faces, newcomers, children, a dog and even some supporters from the Unitarian Universalist Church of North Idaho. There is nothing like the feeling of belonging to something great, something meaningful. The parade route covered several blocks of downtown Spokane and there was not a space on the sidewalk where no one stood watching. The best was when a marcher would recognize someone from the crowd and they would run up to hug them, grateful for being surrounded by support and joy. A cacophony of “I love you!” and “We are family!!” and “Out and proud!!” drowned out the hateful amplified voices as we turned the corner to end the parade and enter the Rainbow Festival.

A heartfelt thanks to Spokane PFLAG for inviting us to partner with you in this special celebration!! It was certainly a memorable event.

pflag dad

(photo credit: PFLAG National)

And we also need to thank the fathers. All you dads out there who love your children unconditionally, who are raising your children in an adverse society. Those fathers that nurture us, that worry for us and that sit up nights with us while we talk it out. Whether you’re just beginning this crazy journey of child-raising or if you’re a seasoned professional who has been there through the trials and triumphs– WE THANK YOU! If you were there for us, thank you for listening, for understanding, for being patient.

happy father's day

(photo credit: Human Rights Campaign)

 

 

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.

June Fast Approaching

As we roll into National Pride Month, we face new challenges and opportunities. For the PFLAG chapters in both Coeur d’Alene and Spokane, our calendars are chock-full of community events, pride outreach and team-building. Be sure to check out the Google calendar on this website to update your own agenda– I wouldn’t want you to miss anything!

In national news, we lost a star yesterday. Dr. Maya Angelou was a tireless champion for all human rights and her voice, so often the only voice of reason and compassion, will never be forgotten.

maya angelou

In happier news, today, Houston, TX (a very conservative state) passed a city-wide non-discrimination ordinance, protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.

hrc houston

June is going to be a BIG month for PFLAG! Hope to see you OUT and about!!

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.

History: Made

Tonight, we received amazing news: an Idaho judge has struck down the 2006 amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage. This means that, as early as Friday, clerks will begin issuing marriage licenses to every.damn.couple that walks in the door.

Incredible.

Momentous.

Unbelievable.

Read all about it here or here.

Send Judge Candy Dale a “thank you” card here.

idaho freedom to marryI’m so overwhelmed right now, I can barely form a coherent thought about this. I just want to hug everyone I see and hope balloons will start falling from the sky!!

Idaho, we did it!!!

No Rational Reason to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

On Friday, an Arkansas judge struck down the state’s 2004 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage stating “This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality. The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.” This makes Arkansas the 18th state in the Union to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay people. Judge Piazza of Pulaski County in Arkansas cited the 1967 decision to repeal laws which up until that point prohibited interracial marriage in his decision.

interracial marriage protestArkansas has become the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize marriage equality, which is huge.

As many of you already know, we are awaiting news on oral arguments heard on May 5th by the Federal Court in Idaho to decide the constitutionality of our own state’s 2006 amendment.

Learn more about marriage equality battles by state here.

Come on, Idaho!!

rainbow idaho

 

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