Special Presenter at Spokane PFLAG in September!

For the month of September, our big sister chapter over in Spokane will be discussing the topic of Advocacy in Healthcare as it pertains to the LGBT community. This is a very important topic– I recently attended a meeting of the Houston, TX chapter of PFLAG. As you may know, Houston became the largest city to pass a blanket non-discrimination ordinance, locally known as HERO. The panel of speakers for the first month of fall were four transgender individuals– three trans-women and one trans-man. The man described an incident wherein he had to go to the emergency room to receive care for kidney stones. His outward appearance being male, the healthcare providers were shocked to see internal female reproductive organs on the scan of his abdomen. The physician actually audibly scoffed and refused to treat this man. Somehow, the nurse was able to get him medication to ease his pain, but the fear of ever returning to any doctor’s office remains.

Press Release from Spokane PFLAG:

On Tuesday, September 16, 2014, PFLAG Spokane is pleased to invite the community to a public discussion about how local citizens can educate and advocate in effective ways regarding access to health care for all families and individuals. This facilitated conversation will take place from 7pm to 8:30pm at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 2607 S Ray St.
The evening will start with a short film about the impact of mergers at the National level, a short presentation on the status in Washington State and specific concerns for the LGBT community and their friends and family members. The final part of the evening will involve specific possibilities for activism and advocacy at the local level- making sure that all voices are heard as important health decisions and access to care are being made.

Kathy Reim is the facilitator. She is the former Regional Director for PFLAG in the Pacific Northwest and has a long history as an activist and educator on behalf of the gay community, women, and older people. She also serves on the board for Mount Baker Planned Parenthood and the Pride Foundation.

She lives with her husband, daughter and her daughter’s wife in rural Skagit County.

Check out the details on the Facebook event page here.

spokane pflag september

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The 2014 LGBT Pride Exhibit

As many of you know, the local Human Rights Education Institute has been a champion of supporting equality and using trials of the past to create a well-informed future generation. For the first year, during the month of June, HREI has asked for an installation celebrating the history of Pride and the LGBT movement. A rag tag group of a half dozen local LGBT rights activists embarked on this intrepid journey with less than a month to plan.

In short, the result is pretty phenomenal. Wading through a century (and even a little beyond) of oppression and uprising, the culmination of this project saturates a quarter of the display room. Images, stories, memoirs and marches act as guides through the transition from a closeted, hidden, tormented group into an out and proud army clashing with stereotypes and demanding equality.

There will be a reception for the opening of the exhibit on Friday from 5-7PM.

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The Human Rights Education Institute is located at 414 Mullan Rd in Coeur d’Alene.

This exhibit was made possible by the partnership of:

The Coeur d’Alene Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity

PFLAG Coeur d’Alene

The Gender and Sexuality Alliance of North Idaho College

with

The Human Rights Education Institute

and

The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations

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

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.

The Laramie Project- 10 Years Later

In October of 2008, a young man named Matthew Shepard was lured from a bar, beaten and left tied to a fence in rural Laramie, Wyoming in the middle of the night. He died in the hospital a few days later from his injuries and hypothermia. He was brutalized because of his sexuality– Matthew was gay.

Following the news of this egregious hate crime, the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie and conducted over 200 interviews with the citizens regarding the causes and effects of the horrible event. It bred the most performed play in the United States and an HBO film that went to Sundance and was nominated for 4 Emmys.

Laramie_Book_cover For more information on the Tectonic Theater Project, go here.

North Idaho College and the Theater Department are bringing “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” to Boswell Hall in April 2014. The original creators of the play did a follow-up investigation in Laramie, a full decade after the murder of Matthew Shepard. What they discovered was more that just a epilogue they were expecting.

Read the original article in the Press about the upcoming performances here. (Once again, if you read the comments, you will fume… North Idahoans sure are fun…)

Show dates are April 17-19 and 24-26 at 7:30PM.

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