Saturday, May 31, 2008

An interesting little book

I just finished reading a little book that I imagine a lot of PFLAG members would enjoy reading, so I’m going to donate it to the PFLAG library. It is Summer at the End of the World by Kristen Kingdon, a former executive director at PFLAG National.

The book is strange in that it is ostensibly a novel but really more of a memoir. In an introduction, Kingdon explains that everything that takes place in the book up until a certain point is a retelling of her own life story and that everything after that point is fiction. The part that she says is fiction reads like a novel, as it should. The reader gets wrapped up in the lives of the characters and can empathize with their feelings. The parts that are memoir are less captivating and too brief. Major events such as childhood sexual abuse and getting pregnant and putting the baby up for adoption are glossed over way too briefly. Reading those sections I felt as if I were reading a synopsis, not the real story. I wanted it fleshed out much more. I wanted to share her feelings not just hear her recite what happened. I wanted to read a palpable description of how she felt when her mother made light of the sexual abuse. She sums up: “…the worst was when (mother) became defensive, protective toward the neighbors (the abusers), and minimized what had happened and its impact on me.” If she had adhered to the old writing dictum “show, don’t tell,” that could have been powerful writing.

But then she gets to the heart of the story – the protagonist’s escape to the wilderness after the death of her husband, and the writing gets much better. Here she allows the reader to picture events and not just hear about them. Living alone in an isolated cabin in Nova Scotia with visits first from a sister and later from her son and his partner, she takes an inner journey to find meaning in life and strength to carry on, which leads to a new awakening during a mule-packing hike in the mountains with her son, his partner and a dog named Amber.

The more interesting parts of the story are her struggles to accept her son after he comes out as gay and her struggles with her church over the issue of ordination of gay pastors. Her journey to acceptance is similar to such journeys many PFLAG parents have talked about in meetings, and the part about the ordination is based on fact, as the writer is an elder in the Prebyterian Church and did take part in the church’s debates over the issue.

It is a very small book and an easy read.

- Alec

Saturday, May 24, 2008

PFLAG National Launches a Campaign with Calpernia Addams to Highlight Organization's Commitment to the Transgender Community


In September 1998 PFLAG became the first national GLB organization to include the transgender community when it added "gender identity" to PFLAG’s mission statement.

In 1999
Private Barry Winchell was murdered in a hate crime when two fellow soldiers decided that dating Calpernia Addams made him gay, and a candidate for execution in his sleep. Their story has been told in the 2003 film Soldier's Girl.

In 2002 the PFLAG board of directors adopted a policy to only support legislation that explicitly includes transgender people, and TNET became the first official 'special affiliate' with the same privileges and responsibilities as all PFLAG chapters.

In 2007 PFLAG became a founding member of
United ENDA to stand for fully inclusive employment non-discrimination laws.

And now in 2008...

"I am grateful to PFLAG for their deep commitment to the transgender community and excited about the opportunity to educate our community about PFLAG's important work on behalf of transgender Americans," Addams said. "PFLAG was the first national LGBT organization to include transgender people in its mission statement, and has adopted a landmark policy to only support legislation that includes the transgender community. They are a champion for equality and an irreplaceable ally for transgender people. Their love story with our community is long and significant, and I am proud to help them tell it through this remarkable campaign."

Addams announced the partnership today at A PFLAG website, titled Transform the Movement, will also be launched later this summer, in conjunction with the campaign, at The site, like the campaign, will highlight PFLAG's work in the community and showcase the stories of transgender people who have worked with PFLAG on equality issues.
Read the May 19th press release at PFLAG Launches New Ad Campaign with Calpernia Addams, Highlighting Organization’s Commitment to the Transgender Community ‘This is Our Love Story’ Campaign Will Debut This Summer.

Download the ad featuring Calpernia Addams and PFLAG.(pdf format)

Listen to an interview with Calpernia by Christine Burns: Half an Hour with Calpernia Addams.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Caution to the Wind

PFLAG’s mission is a three legged stool of support, education, and advocacy. In many ways they are hard to separate. Right now I want to focus on advocacy. Our next program speaker is Josh Friedes, Advocacy Director for Equal Rights Washington, who will talk to us about upcoming legislation in Washington that is related to the GLBTQ community we are a part of.

For more information about how this works and what we are allowed to do and not, you can read these documents (all in PDF format) from Alliance for Justice:
Permissible Election Activities Checklist
for more information as to how this relates to candidates, and
When Does Your Activity Become Lobbying?
and Public Charities Can Lobby: Guidelines for 501(c)(3) Public Charities
as to how it relates to lobbying on issues.

If you are not sure about how this works, ask us – the PFLAG-Olympia board. If we don’t know, we will help you find out, which will also educate us.

And remember that when you are not speaking for or acting as PFLAG, those restrictions do not apply.

So what about caution?

Self care is so important. Burnout is palpable and it is to be avoided. I experienced it once – before moving to Olympia and long before Bill’s death. But what I went through was complex, and it is defined both with the word burnout and with a word I didn’t know at the time: compassion fatigue. What’s the difference? Burnout is from working too hard and with too little - sleep, money, etc.. Compassion fatigue is from caring too much. It has been said it is the cost of empathy, but that casts empathy in a bad light which it does not deserve. Rather I believe it is a possible effect of losing too much of yourself to a cause – to the point where you don’t know when to say no, and you misplace other parts of what makes you whole. In doing so, while you probably do this believing it is necessary and a good thing, you lose sight of the fact that it means you bring less to the cause you are working for.

Why did I call this “Caution to the Wind?” While the wind can be frightening, it is a powerful and renewable source of energy, as are we. We need to take care of ourselves – AND each other, and sometimes we may need to pick up each other’s pieces. We need to know it is okay to say no sometimes so that we are able to also say yes, and so we can be in this for the long haul because while the changes we strive for are happening, it is not going to be a short sprint to reaching our goals.

It can be scary to take a stand and be vocal and visible on the issues PFLAG works on. Absolutely. And I am quite aware that ‘even’ for allies there can be safety concerns.

However, doing nothing is what really scares me.

When talking to people about this work, they say to do self-care you should “pick your battles” but I prefer to use words that don’t have a war connotation. So pick your strivings. Yes, do something!

Remember that none of us are acting alone. We have an amazing community to strive with, and we can lead and carry each other along the many paths to our goals.

And while we are doing that we should take the time to celebrate each other and our accomplishments, no matter how small they might seem, because they all add to the better world which we are still imagining.


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