PFLAG-KC Hosts Regional Conference
Despite the attraction of the spring sunshine, more than 90 people chose to gather indoors April 10 to soak up the fresh radiance and warmth of advocacy. The Kansas City chapter of PFLAG hosted the group’s regional conference that day at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kan. Local experts and nationally based presenters were on the agenda, including Missouri State Sen. Jolie Justus.
The Kansas City chapter’s president, Randy Fowler, and a committee of fellow volunteers planned and executed the details of the conference, which included several seminars to choose from.
The idea for a Midwest regional conference came about after Fowler received word of a PFLAG area gathering in Oklahoma. The meeting notification came too late for most Kansas Citians to arrange to attend. This regional miss and the cancellation of a 2009 national meet-up led Fowler to inquire about the possibility of a Kansas City-based conference.
He contacted PFLAG field and policy coordinator Brooke Smith, formed a local steering committee and worked with the national organization to develop topical themes. Particularly because this would be one of Fowler’s last big projects as PFLAG-KC president, he wanted the conference to foster unity within the local community and among the region’s other PFLAG organizations, improving upon inter-chapter cooperation.
Highlights from the Seminars
Cultivating Safe Schools: In this seminar, which Brooke Smith presented, she stressed that all students deserve advocacy, not just LGBT youth. She told attendees that some educators claim there are no gay students in their schools and that others aren’t even familiar with the acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).
Smith discussed cyber-bullying as the new front in harassment, the bewilderment of not knowing which school official handles bullying issues and how sometimes personal stories can make a world of difference in helping people understand why safe schools are important.
If you are an educator or counselor, PFLAG has resources for you with regard to safe schools. If you are an advocate, consider donating books or videos, sharing your story or volunteering your time to your local school.
Straight for Equality: Launched in 2007, Straight for Equality (straightforequality.org) brings together straight individuals who don’t necessarily have a family member who is LGBT, but who want to stand up for equal rights because it’s the proper thing to do.
Elizabeth Fregiato, director of policy and programs with PFLAG national, told her audience how straight allies can help secure justice for LGBT citizens by speaking up on issues involving work, faith, health care and everyday discrimination.
Love Won Out: Fregiato also presented on this group, the “traveling ex-gay road show” started by Focus on the Family but now run by Exodus International. She spoke of the group’s genesis as one of the religious right’s responses to the 1960s homosexual movement.
Fregiato shared many humorous anecdotes, such as the fact that two Exodus International founders left the group and united in a same-sex commitment ceremony — as well as stories of her own undercover assignment at a Love Won Out conference. But there’s no denying how pernicious the actions of this group can be. The Love Won Out message and leaders inspired the Uganda “kill the gays” bill.
The group has adopted much of the PFLAG and LGBT-advocate nomenclature in an attempt to appear warm and welcoming, but it uses the tactic of “getting to the straights to get to the gays,” i.e., instead of attacking LGBT people directly and forcing them into things such as reparative therapy, Love Won Out appeals to the religious-minded friends and families of queer people to try to set them straight.
It never works. These people are misguided. God loves you just as Zie made you.
Faith Panel: A panel of Kansas City ministers — Kurt Krieger, Gerald Palmer, Jeff Clayton and Meg Peery McLaughlin — addressed the “clobber scriptures,” especially those from Leviticus and Romans, that are cited out of context to vilify gays. They called out the hypocritical message of some churches that say, “Being gay is wrong, but you’re welcome to sit quietly in our pews.” The panel spoke with unanimity of the goal of justice, love, grace and the inclusivity of Jesus Christ. Krieger said, “I know a God who loves you for who you are.”
Other Presenters and Seminars
The full slate of offerings was too much for one person to attend, but it included the following:
LGBT Grandparenting: Facilitated by Midwest Alternative Family Alliance and organized by Lynn Barnett.
Transgender Awareness: Presented by Donna Ross, whose Chrysalis Mission combines education and faith to teach others about transgender issues.
Financial and Legal Planning: Kent Rains and Jason Purinton of the Rains/Purinton Group and Denver Vold, LLM, spoke to conference-goers about domestic partnerships, investments and other legal issues that affect LGBT people.
Adoption: Attorney Sandy Krigel shared his expertise on LGBT adoption in the Kansas City area and beyond.
What’s PFLAG All About?
Founded the year after Jeanne Manford’s historic 1972 march with her son, Morty, in a gay pride parade in New York, PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) supports, educates and advocates on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and those who love them.
The organization now has roughly 200,000 members and supporters, with local affiliates in more than 500 communities in the United States and abroad. PFLAG (pflag.org) is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
The Kansas City chapter of PFLAG has been active for about two decades. President Randy Fowler serves as an unofficial state coordinator, helping to bring together chapters at the sub-national level. PFLAG-KC is often the first call people make when they don’t know where to turn regarding a gay or lesbian family issue.
Fowler and his colleagues have fielded calls from as far as Wichita and Joplin, Mo., and the Kansas City chapter has put together presentations for several communities, including Pittsburg, Kan. and Maryville, Mo.
With around 30 active members, PFLAG-KC meets at 3 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kan. Everyone is welcome to drop by the meetings, and many non-members regularly do so.
An open board meeting precedes each general meeting, followed by treats, member/guest introductions, announcements and small group/special needs time. Each meeting then has a presentation or speaker.
All discussion items are held in confidence among the attendees. Smaller or individual meetings are available for those uncomfortable with a group setting. If you have an LGBT family or friend issue that needs to be addressed, please come, call or write to PFLAG-KC.
PFLAG-KC also helps to spread the word about the Straight Spouse Network.
May 9 Mother’s Day Potluck – Bring a covered dish.
June 6 Kansas City Gay Pride Parade —
March and wear your PFLAG T-shirt.
Meetings & Contacts
3 p.m. meetings,
second Sunday of each month
(1:30 p.m. open board meetings)
Village Presbyterian Church
6641 Mission Rd.
Prairie Village, Kan.
pflagkc.org email@example.com or 816-765-9818