My Cause - PFLAG - Parents, Families, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians

Yes, I still spend a ridiculous amount of time working, and I do still play softball in the summer and watch too doggone much TV. But that's not all I do. I've been actively involved in politics and volunteer work for all of my adult life. Over the past few years, my political and social activities have essentially merged, as I've become a full-fledged Gay Rights activist.

As it turns out, through various activities, I've spent enough time in the company of good, honorable, thoughtful, and conscientious gay people, and done enough reading, studying, and reflection to be convinced that gay people and homosexual relationships are a natural and appropriate part of the diversity of life, and to realize that gay people suffer in unacceptably disproportionately ways from anti-gay discrimination and harassment. Through PFLAG, I have been actively involved in the reconciliation of families that were healed as they came to understand, accept, and appreciate the sexual orientation of their loved ones. I've sat with people mourning the loss of long-time partners, and tried to encourage teenagers who have received death threats because they dared to speak against harassment and discrimination. I've also spent significant time studying the Biblical passages that are reputed to speak directly about homosexuality - and have met and worked with several Christian ministers, and Rabbis, in that effort. My involvement is serious enough that I'm now the President of the Cleveland chapter of PFLAG. PFLAG is a national organization, composed largely of parents of gay people, but, as the name implies, a lot of other family members and friends (both gay and straight) are involved, as well. I won't tell PFLAG's story here, since that can be done well by the PFLAG-Cleveland web site, and the National PFLAG web site.

But I can and should take just a minute to explain why I'm doing this - especially since many people very close to me are, well, not in synch with my cause.

I learned a long time ago that the stereotypes about homosexuality that I learned as a child are not accurate. Some of the very best people I know are gay. They are among the most devoted parents, loving children, dedicated Christians, effective community workers, and passionate patriots I know. I believe that there is no right, opportunity, or privilege that I have that gay people shouldn't have - especially the opportunity to live a life free from unreasonable abuse and discrimination, and including the right to marry! (I started to say, "marry and raise children", but, of course, gay people do raise children, and do a fine job of it, despite widespread discrimination and outright antipathy from large segments of society.) Heterosexual couples can count on dozens of social benefits that help us maintain our relationships and take care of our children. All gay people can count on is that many of the very political, social, and religious institutions that are supposed to provide a social foundation are actively working to prevent them from having stable social and family lives!

Oops - I'm digressing into a manifesto rather than just explaining how I came to participate in this cause...(At the bottom of this page, you can find plenty of links to digressions into Gay Rights issues.)

By the mid 1990's I had developed a general social and political sympathy toward Gay Rights, but no active involvement or even deep understanding. Four seminal events that took place in 1995 and 1996 propelled me to get involved. They're listed here in no particular order - except the last)

  1. A gay kid in a Minneapolis suburb died in a murder/suicide. It was a complicated case that was played out in the media in some detail. Essentially, he got mixed up with his eventual murderer - a young gay man - because he had no safe outlet in his family, school, church, or community where he could be accepted as gay, and find out that he could lead an honorable and fulfilled life as a gay man. When I realized that the institutions that were supposed to nurture him lied to him about what he was and what he could be, closed off his opportunity to grow, and effectively chased him into the arms of his murderer, I realized that someone needed to speak out.
  2. A church friend from high school days, whom I hadn't seen in at least 20 years, died of AIDS. When I realized that he was gone, and that I didn't take the opportunity to let him know that being gay was just fine with me, I realized that I had missed an opportunity to speak up.
  3. A gay-friendly remark I made in a casual conversation brought on an anti-gay reaction that shocked me with its ferocity, and by its focused use of an out-of-context Biblical quote that, I believe, dramatically misrepresented the intended in-context meaning of the passage. When I saw the Bible being misused with such passion and purpose to put down gay people, I realized that I really should speak out. (If you wish, you can read my view of that specific passage.)
  4. Finally, when I moved to Cleveland, I decided to contact the local PFLAG chapter to see what this organization for friends and family of gay people was about. At the same time, Cleveland had its own traumatic incident. A bright and eloquent 14-year-old boy killed himself, after seeing abuse and being abused just for seeming not sufficiently macho, and after realizing he was, in fact, gay - and despite the expressed love and support of his family. His mom, Leslie Sadasivan, came to PFLAG for support about the same time I came for political reasons. Leslie and her son Robbie became the catalyst for an awakening in Cleveland much as Matthew Shepard's death became a catalyst for a national awakening a couple of years later. Robbie's death was not nearly so politicized - or as polarizing - as Matt's, but his amazing mother moved a lot of hearts as she spoke out through her grief, defending the legacy of her wonderful son, and decrying the institutions and the messages that led her son to say (I'm paraphrasing here...) "But, of course, gay people are homophobic, too. After all, we learn the same lessons as everyone else." Clearly, those lessons need to change, and that's what I'm trying to do.

Some of the organizations with which I am personally affiliated:

To read some of what I've written about homosexuality and gay rights, go to...

Updated July 21, 2008.
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