PFLAG Appleton holds its September meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 9, at the Goodwill Community Center, 1800 Appleton Road (entrance 2), Menasha.
The guest speaker is Lawrence University Biology Prof. Nancy Wall, speaking on the topic, “What’s Biology Got To Do With It?”
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays meets the second Wednesday of every month at the Goodwill Community Center in Menasha. For more information, call Jennifer P. at 920-740-8331 or visit the group’s Facebook page.
Rob and Linda Robertson did what they believed was expected of them as good Christians.
When their 12-year-old son Ryan said he was gay, they told him they loved him, but he had to change. He entered “reparative therapy,” met regularly with his pastor and immersed himself in Bible study and his church youth group. After six years, nothing changed. A despondent Ryan cut off from his parents and his faith, started taking drugs and in 2009, died of an overdose.
“Now we realize we were so wrongly taught,” said Rob Robertson, a firefighter who lives in Washington state. “It’s a horrible, horrible mistake the church has made.”
The tragedy could have easily driven the Robertsons from the church. But instead of breaking with evangelicalism — as many parents in similar circumstances have done — the couple is taking a different approach, and they’re inspiring other Christians in the United States with gay children to do the same. They are staying in the church and, in protesting what they see as the demonization of their sons and daughters, presenting a new challenge to Christian leaders trying to hold off growing acceptance of same-sex relationships.
It’s not clear how much of an impact these parents can have. Evangelicals tend to dismiss fellow believers who accept same-sex relationships as no longer Christian. The parents have only recently started finding each other online and through faith-oriented organizations for gays and lesbians such as the Gay Christian Network, The Reformation Project and The Marin Foundation.
But Linda Robertson, who with Rob attends a nondenominational evangelical church and blogs about her son at justbecausehebreathes.com, said a private Facebook page she started last year for evangelical mothers of gays has more than 300 members. High-profile cases of prominent Christian parents embracing their gay children indicate a change is occurring beyond a few isolated families.
James Brownson, a New Testament scholar at Western Theological Seminary in Michigan, last year published the book “Bible, Gender, Sexuality,” advocating a re-examination of what Scripture says about same-sex relationships. His son came out at age 18.
Chester Wenger, a retired missionary and pastor with the Mennonite Church USA, lost his clergy credentials this fall after officiating at his son’s marriage to another man. In a statement urging the church to accept gays and lesbians, Wenger noted the pain his family experienced when a church leader excommunicated his son three decades ago without any discussion with Wenger and his wife.
The Rev. Danny Cortez, pastor of New Heart Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in California, was already moving toward recognizing same-sex relationships when his teenage son came out. When Cortez announced his changed outlook to his congregation this year, they voted to keep him. The national denomination this fall cut ties with the church.
In the United Methodist Church, two ministers with gay sons drew national attention for separately presiding at their children’s same-sex weddings despite a church prohibition against doing so: The Rev. Thomas Ogletree, a former dean of the Yale Divinity School, ultimately was not disciplined by the church, while the Rev. Frank Schaefer went through several church court hearings. He won the case and kept his clergy credentials, becoming a hero for gay marriage supporters within and outside the church.
Kathy Baldock, a Christian who advocates for gay acceptance through her website CanyonwalkerConnections.com, said evangelical parents are speaking out more because of the example set by their children. Gay and lesbian Christians have increasingly been making the argument they can be attracted to people of the same gender and remain faithful to God, whether that means staying celibate or having a committed same-sex relationship. The annual conference of the Gay Christian Network has grown from 40 people a decade ago to an expected 1,400 for the next event in January.
The collapse of support for “reparative therapy” is also a factor, said Susan Shopland, the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary who, along with her gay son, is active with the Gay Christian Network. In June of last year, Alan Chambers, the leader of Exodus International, a ministry that tried to help conflicted Christians repress same-sex attraction, apologized for the suffering the ministry caused and said the group would close down. At a conference on marriage and sexuality last month, a prominent Southern Baptist leader, the Rev. Al Mohler, said he was wrong to believe that same-sex attraction didn’t exist, but he continues to believe sexual orientation can change through the Gospel. Baldock, The Marin Foundation and the Gay Christian Network all say Christian parents have been reaching out to them for help in notably higher numbers in the last couple of years.
Some evangelical leaders seem to recognize the need for a new approach. The head of the Southern Baptist public policy arm, the Rev. Russell Moore, addressed the issue on his blog and at the marriage conference last month, telling Christian parents they shouldn’t shun their gay children. Mohler has said he expects some evangelical churches to eventually recognize same-sex relationships, but not in significant numbers.
On the Web …
PrideFest inevitably brings out the haters – the infamous protesters who stand at the gate of the Summerfest grounds wielding signs warning of damnation and eternal hellfire.
But also standing at the gate – with positive, welcoming messages and supportive hugs – you will find a contingent of volunteers with Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and several church groups.
Over the years, we counter-protesters have learned a few things that will help make your PrideFest experience positive. First of all, don’t engage with the protesters. Speaking with them only opens the door for them to badger you with their talking points about how they love you and want to save you. Trust me: You don’t need to be saved by them.
Secondly, do not make eye contact with the protesters. Doing this invites them to engage with you as well.
If protesters hand you literature about God’s condemnation, feel free to dispose of it in the garbage bags that church volunteers bring to PrideFest for that purpose. Please tear the literature in half and then deposit it in one of the garbage receptacles. We have seen the protesters retrieve their handouts and brochures from the garbage and re-distribute them. Printed materials are expensive, and tearing them in half not only prevents them from foisting the handouts on someone else, but frustrates them as well. Please don’t drop the handouts on the ground. We don’t want to litter.
Navigating the protesters is easier when you know there are people waiting to welcome you with hugs and kind words. We at PFLAG hope our presence helps you have a positive PrideFest experience that encourages you to come back year after year.
So watch for our signs of welcome and have a great time!
Georgia Henry is president of PFLAG Milwaukee.
On a chilly December day, Fox Valley leaders from every sector of the community took The Plunge.
They dove into an initiative to promote tolerance, celebrate diversity, understand LGBT issues and create safer schools.
“Every student deserves to come to school and feel safe and feel their voice is heard and respected,” said Ben Vogel, an assistant superintendent for the Appleton Area School District who took The Plunge.
The Plunge is an annual activity in the Fox Valley area sponsored by the Community Health Action Team led by ThedaCare. In December 2011, the team brought together 60 community leaders to delve into issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. They explored language and terminology and discussed religion, politics and education.
“It’s really good to bring together people to have these conversations,” Vogel said. “Sometimes we get scared to talk about certain issues, and if you don’t talk about them, bad things can happen, and misunderstandings can happen. The first step is to get people to have conversations – honest and open dialogues.”
Vogel attended the daylong event as a representative of the school district. Other educators, business leaders, health-care experts, elected officials and police attended.
From The Plunge came an initiative called INCLUDE, sponsored by CHAT, the Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region and the Les & Dar Stumpf Family Fund. Partners in the initiative include the Harmony Cafe, the Fox Cities and Oshkosh LGBT Anti-Violence Project, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and more.
The goal has been to “make the Fox Valley more inclusive, safe and welcoming for everyone,” said Chad Hershner, an INCLUDE steering committee member and development director at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
INCLUDE is a four-month, communitywide campaign that was launched at a breakfast in January attended by more than 350 people. An emphasis of the campaign has been reaching students and staff in schools with cautions against bullying and affirmations for acceptance.
To reach those in the schools, the INCLUDE team turned to Jamie Nabozny, a safe-schools advocate who, in the mid-1990s, challenged anti-gay bullying in Ashland, Wis., and won a settlement in a landmark federal case.
For four years, Nabozny was subject to relentless anti-gay abuse in his middle school and his high school. Students urinated on him, pretended to rape him during a class and, in one incident, kicked him so many times in the stomach he was hospitalized and needed surgery.
Nabozny attempted suicide, dropped out of school and ran away in an effort to flee the harassment. Complaints from him and his parents were ignored or dismissed by school administrators.
Eventually, Nabozny went to court, with the support of attorneys from Lambda Legal. In July 1996, he won a federal appeals court ruling that said public schools must protect students from anti-gay abuse. Months later, a jury in Ashland found school administrators liable for failing to protect Nabozny. Before the jury could decide damages, the school district settled with a nearly $1 million award.
Nabozny, who lives in Minneapolis, said he learned of INCLUDE through a PFLAG representative.
He’s used to traveling to speak to schools about bullying, but the Fox Valley community campaign is the biggest he’s been involved in, with 23 speaking engagements.
“I was blown away by what happened,” he said. “Out of this will come change, huge change.”
Nabozny went to Appleton for the INCLUDE breakfast in January, gave community talks at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley and Lawrence University and led school assemblies with students and staff. His program generally included a screening of the documentary “Bullied,” followed by a discussion about the lasting impact of bullying and what students can do to change their schools.
Nabozny proved persuasive.
Students, in a series of emails to Nabozny and also in Facebook posts, admitted saying “that’s so gay,” “fag” and “queer” without understanding the harm. They confessed to bullying others and promised to apologize. They also praised the assemblies as the best part of 12 years in school.
Vogel and others with INCLUDE also were impressed.
So impressed, Vogel said, that Nabozny might be returning to Appleton in the 2013-14 school year to talk with staff and perhaps middle school students.
“The message to students,” said Vogel, “is that they have the power to control the culture of a school. They have the power to create an environment that will be inclusive of all. …You can’t sit there and be a bystander.”
Barker carries on son’s work
But more than 15 years after Nabozny’s legal victories, a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network survey of students found that a hostile climate remained in Wisconsin’s public schools. Eighty percent of LGBT students in Wisconsin said they experienced verbal harassment, 38 percent experienced physical harassment, 92 percent said they felt excluded or ostracized by their peers, and 80 percent said they were the subject of rumors and lies.
Those numbers don’t surprise Darla Barker of Shiocton, whose 17-year-old gay son Cody committed suicide in September 2010. Cody, who had been working to organize a gay-straight alliance at Schiocton High School and attended an LGBT youth group at the Harmony Cafe in Appleton, hung himself in a barn on his family’s farm. He’d been a high school senior for nine days.
“He had a tough time,” his mother said. “He had a lot of pushback in school. And he was such a positive young man. He just wanted to make the world better.”
Darla Barker followed her son’s lead and became a safe schools activist. She’s involved in PFLAG and with the gay-straight alliance her son worked to create.
And Barker is involved in INCLUDE, offering a mother’s reflection on the consequences of anti-gay harassment and bullying in a documentary made for screening in schools.
“INCLUDE, I think it’s great,” Barker said. “It’s important to reach kids, especially the ones out there struggling.”
President Barack Obama on Feb. 15 will present the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second highest civilian honor, to Jeanne Manford, the mom who founded PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
In 1972, Manford and husband Jules co-founded PFLAG, which has grown into a national organization.
The White House said, “Manford had always supported her son Morty, but was inspired to act after the police failed to intervene while Morty was beaten and hospitalized during a Gay Activists Alliance demonstration in April 1972. In the years that followed, Manford continued to march and organize, even after losing Morty to AIDS in 1992. Today, PFLAG focuses on creating a network of support and advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”
Manford died in January at the age of 92.
Others also will receive the award.
In a statement on Feb. 8, the president said, “It is my distinguished honor to award these individuals the 2012 Citizens Medal for their commitment to public service. Their selflessness and courage inspire us all to look for opportunities to better serve our communities and our country.”
The ceremony will take place at the White House beginning about 10:45 a.m.
The medal was established in 1969 to recognize American citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.
The president said he is recognizing Americans whose work has had a significant impact on their communities but may not have garnered national attention.
• Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto of Newtown, Conn. The White House statement said: On Dec. 14, 2012, the names of six courageous women were forever etched into the heart of our nation as unthinkable tragedy swept through Newtown, Connecticut. Some of these individuals had joined Sandy Hook Elementary School only weeks before; others were preparing to retire after decades of service. All had dedicated themselves to their students and their community, working long past the school bell to give the children in their care a future worthy of their talents.
• Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of Boston. Brazelton is one of the foremost authorities on pediatrics and child development as well as an author and professor. One of Brazelton’s best known achievements was the development of the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale, which is used worldwide to recognize the physical and neurological responses of newborns, as well as emotional well-being and individual differences.
• Adam Burke of Jacksonville, Fla. Burke is an Iraq combat veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart, which he received for injuries occurred by a mortar attack while running combat operation in Iraq. In 2009 he opened Veterans Farm, a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm that helps teach veterans of all ages how to make a living from the find healing in the land.
• Mary Jo Copeland of Minneapolis. Copeland founded Sharing and Caring Hands in 1985, which has served as a safety net to those in the Minneapolis area through the provision of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical and dental assistance.
• Michael Dorman of Fuquay-Varina, N.C. Dorman is the founder and executive director of Military Missions in Action, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that helps veterans with disabilities, both physical and mental, achieve independent living. • Maria Gomez of Washington, D.C. Gomez founded Mary’s Center 25 years ago with the mission to build better futures through the delivery of health care, family literacy and job training. Mary’s Center is part of the working group launching First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Read Let’s Move Campaign.”
• Pamela Green Jackson of Albany, Ga. Green Jackson is the founder and CEO of the Youth Becoming Healthy Project, a nonprofit organization committed to reducing the epidemic of childhood obesity through nutrition, fitness education and physical activity programs. YBH was created in memory of Pamela Green Jackson’s only brother, Bernard Green, who died in 2004 from obesity-related illnesses.
• Janice Jackson of Baltimore. Jackson is the creator and program director of Women Embracing Abilities Now, a nonprofit mentoring organization servicing women and young ladies with varying degrees of disabilities. She is also a professor at the University of Baltimore.
• Patience Lehrman of Philadelphia. Lehrman is an immigrant from Cameroon and the National Director of Project SHINE, an immigrant integration initiative at the Intergenerational Center of Temple University. SHINE partners with 18 institutions of higher learning, community-based organizations, and county and city governments across the country.
• Billy Mills of Fair Oaks, Calif. Mills co-founded and serves as the spokesman for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, an organization that supports cultural programs and provides health and housing assistance for Native American communities. Mills gained prominence during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when he unexpectedly won a Gold Medal in the 10,000 meter run.
• Terry Shima of Gaithersburg, Md. Shima was drafted into the US Army on October 12, 1944 as a replacement for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This unit was composed of Japanese Americans who volunteered for combat duty. In November 2011, Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal collectively to the 442nd RCT, the 100th Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service.
• Harris Wofford of Washington D.C. Wofford served as a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania from 1991 to 1995, and from then to 2001 was the chief executive officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service. From 1970 to 1978 he served as the fifth president of Bryn Mawr College. He is a noted advocate of national service and volunteering. He began his public service career as counsel to the Rev.Theodore Hesburgh on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and was an early supporter of the Civil Rights movement in the South in the late 1950s. He became a volunteer advisor and friend of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1961, Kennedy appointed him as special assistant to the President for civil rights. He was instrumental in the formation of the Peace Corps and served as the Peace Corps’ special representative to Africa.
Jeanne Manford, the founder of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – the organization that adopted so many LGBT people and helped so many come out as the parent of an LGBT kid – has died.
The gay rights pioneer was 92. She died at home in Daly City, Calif.
A statement from PFLAG’s national executive director, Jody Huckaby: “Today the world has lost a pioneer: Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the Mother of the Straight Ally movement.
“Jeanne was one of the fiercest fighters in the battle for acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is truly humbling to imagine in 1972 – just 40 years ago – a simple schoolteacher started this movement of family and ally support, without benefit of any of the technology that today makes a grassroots movement so easy to organize. No Internet. No cellphones. Just a deep love for her son and a sign reading ‘Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.’
“This simple and powerful message of love and acceptance from one person resonated so strongly it was heard by millions of people worldwide and led to the founding of PFLAG, an organization with more than 350 chapters across the U.S. and 200,000 members and supporters, and the creation of similar organizations across the globe.
“Jeanne’s work was called ‘the story of America…of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury,’ in a speech by President Barack Obama in 2009.
“All of us – people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies alike – owe Jeanne our gratitude. We are all beneficiaries of her courage. Jeanne Manford proved the power of a single person to transform the world. She paved the way for us to speak out for what is right, uniting the unique parent, family, and ally voice with the voice of LGBT people everywhere.”
The family requests that any donations be made to the Jeanne Manford Legacy Fund to support the ongoing work of PFLAG National: 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 660, Washington, DC 20036.
In one sense, Catherine Tuerk’s story is not so remarkable: Soon after her son went away to college, he told her he was gay. “When my son came out to me,” she writes, “I was deeply fearful that he could never be happy. And I felt profound sorrow, almost as though he had died.”
What sets Tuerk’s story apart is that her son’s coming out marked the wrenching beginning of something extraordinary: His mother’s commitment to breaking the silence, educating herself and others about gay people. Tuerk became a leader in PFLAG, enjoying a successful and award-winning stint as president of the Metro DC chapter. She wrote articles for varied publications and appeared on many television and radio shows, sometimes in the company of her son, with the aim of dispelling homophobia and promoting pride-inspired advocacy.
Eventually Tuerk and her husband went international. On frequent vacation trips abroad – in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia – the intrepid couple served as pro-gay ambassadors, going out of their way to get to know gay people and their parents in other cultures.
Concerned that the unique realities of gay and transgender children are often overlooked or ignored, Tuerk was instrumental in establishing the Gender and Sexuality Advocacy and Education Program at the Children’s National Medical Center. The pioneering program supports and affirms gender-nonconforming children and their families.
Catherine Tuerk has been writing candidly about her journey all along the way. Her recently published book, “Mom Knows: Reflections on Love, Gay Pride, and Taking Action,” is a selection from her writings of two decades.
“My hope for this book is that LGBT people will read it and find the perfect essays to help their parents become more accepting,” Tuerk says. “And that parents who love and accept their LGBT children, but uneasily, will read ‘Mom Knows’ as part of their parenting homework.”
Selections from “Mom Knows”
The power of PFLAG: “When my son came out to me … he said, ‘Go to PFLAG. If you don’t, we will always be on a different page.’ It took me a while. It wasn’t easy. I cried a lot. I blamed a lot. But I didn’t have the luxury of staying away, because my son would not let me or his father off the hook.”
Her son’s childhood: “Attending support groups for parents and gay people became my monthly fare, searching for the relief that I knew was possible. When it came, the sadness was replaced with anger and a new kind of sad realization. I realized that my son had suffered needlessly and he suffered totally alone. My love for him never reached into the most painful part of his secret life.”
“Good gay” vs. “bad gay”: “Other parents take a second direction. They may say, ‘Tommy is fine, but all those other gay people are bad.’ Their child becomes the ‘immaculate exception.’”
Feeling different: “Recently, I spoke at an orientation program for school nurses. … Squeezed between the ‘Inoculation record- keeping’ and ‘How to handle stomach aches,’ I was able to talk about the pain of being gay that begins with the very early feelings of being different. This feeling of being different can be apparent in the feminine interests of some gay boys. Sometimes these little boys need special support, even as early as nursery school.”
Gay children: “People were reluctant to face the fact that all human sexuality begins in childhood, and they certainly did not want to think about gay children. They much preferred the idea that some awful parenting style, or sexual abuse, was turning teenagers gay.”
Learning about gay sex: “‘How did you have your first sexual encounter?’ I asked my good friend, a gay man. I was doing my home- work. I knew that if I were ever going to be able to be fully affirming of gay culture, I had to get over my hang-ups about gay sex.”
What our kids want: “Our kids are the way they are from the very beginning – not better, not worse, just a little different. When they fall in love, everything is exactly the same. All they want is a normal life. They want life partners. They want to nurture like the rest of us. They also might want to dance.”
The Madison chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays was told that its members could march in a May 14 parade in Stoughton – but only if they removed the words “lesbian” and “gay” from their banner.
Karen Baker, PFLAG Madison chapter president, said the board organizing Stoughton’s annual Syttende Mai parade was concerned there would be something inappropriate or outwardly political on the group’s float that might cause kids along the parade route to ask questions. So members of the PFLAG chapter used a bright rainbow patch to cover the words “lesbian” and “gay” on the sign they carried.
But the Madison PFLAG group was able to turn the situation into a positive experience. The group invited a newly-formed Gay Straight Alliance from Stoughton High School to march with them, and the negotiating that had to be done ahead of the parade was a good lesson for the youth. It introduced them to the art of working with people who can’t deal with their openness.
Despite – or perhaps even as a result of – such challenges, the PFLAG organization is growing in the state. Wisconsin is home to 14 chapters, including three that have formed since 2008.
“Things definitely are more difficult in a smaller town,” says Joanne Vogt, founder and president of the three-year-old PFLAG Sauk Chapter. “I know people with a family member who is gay and they never, ever talk about it.”
Vogt went on a Pride march about 10 years ago and met other involved parents. She also talked to her gay son about what she could do to improve the situation for young people in her town facing the kind of harassment he endured in high school.
News about the Sauk chapter is getting around. Recently, a new family showed up at some meetings, including a mother, grandmother and the grandmother’s sister. In all, they have five gay children.
“It was so wonderful to have them come,” Vogt says. “They told us their stories, they cried, we cried with them.”
“By far, the biggest thing we see with the people who come to the PFLAG meetings, and the people who just show up for the first time, looking for answers, is their need for someplace to turn,” says Joe Wiedenmeier, president of the PFLAG chapter in Oshkosh. “They have a child, somebody close in the family, who has just come out to them, and they’re looking for support and information.”
Wiedenmeier got the Oshkosh PFLAG chapter going just over three years ago, after working through an existing group at his church called SOFA – Students of Oshkosh For Acceptance. Several members of that group realized they not only needed to provide places for the kids to go, but also that there were plenty of parents who needed support, too.
Wiedenmeier has worked to connect with other organizations in the Fox Valley, including suicide prevention and counseling groups, other youth groups, the GSAs and larger PFLAG chapters.
“We try to be a resource for someone who walks through the door,” he says. Whether it’s a question of a family accepting their son or daughter’s sexuality or dealing with bullying at school, the PFLAG group knows how important it is to address whatever issues are brought to them.”
Wiedenmeier’s son, age 29, who is out and living in San Francisco, started a GSA at North High School in Oshkosh. It was one of the first GSAs in northeastern Wisconsin. Once he left, though, the GSA group died out, Wiedenmeier says.
“That was part of the impetus for SOFA, which got us into PFLAG. In the last year, both high schools in Oshkosh now have GSAs back in them,” he says. “The biggest thing we’ve done is just to get the word out about PFLAG. We’ve done things with the university and worked to re-form the PFLAG chapter in Appleton.”
Laura Goetz was instrumental in getting the PFLAG chapter started where she lives, in Stevens Point.
“I was involved with PFLAG a little bit several years ago, when we lived in Iowa,” she says. After the family moved to Wisconsin, “I just took it for granted there were things like that in other cities, but in Stevens Point, there was no organized advocacy group.”
Goetz is busy with outreach, including showings of the documentary “Out in the Silence.” She hopes an upcoming screening at the library in Wausau will encourage people in that area to organize.
The Stevens Point chapter, like the one in Sauk County, is a small group, with 5-10 members attending every month.
“Sometimes there are more,” Goetz says, “but then we have people who come in and out, new people who need support for a meeting or two, then come back for a while.” She says UW-Stevens Point GSA and the local GSA are fairly active, with 70-100 people attending a recent movie screening.
Goetz and her husband have gone beyond the PFLAG chapter to work directly in local schools, doing “safe school” training.
“We work with staff on harassment – that’s where my passion lies right now,” she says. “Schools are a firestorm, they can be such horrendous places. It doesn’t have to be like that.”
Goetz went into the Wisconsin Rapids school district this past spring and conducted two in-service trainings for staff, addressing harassment and LGBT issues.
Goetz takes a fairly broad perspective of the challenges faced by PFLAG chapters. Although aware of the Stoughton incident and the situation in West Bend – where students recently won the right to have their GSA group be an official school club after filing a lawsuit in federal court – she remains optimistic.
“I think for me it’s just really being conscious about equality,” she says. “For me, I think this is definitely our place in time, that we can make a statement for equality, similar to the equal rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s. This is our time.”