Stovall steps down as PFLAG co-chair
For just over three years, H.G. Stovall has led PFLAG Nashville in his capacity as co-chair of the esteemed organization. Having only become active in the group about a year prior to stepping into the position that he recently vacated in order to become membership chair of the Tennessee Equality Project, Stovall helped to lead PFLAG Nashville to bigger and better heights.
Under his careful guidance the group re-connected to the GLBT community in ways it previously had neglected by reaching out to and partnering with other community organizations such as TEP and the GLBT Chamber of Commerce. Widely respected and well liked, Stovall also helped to implement PFLAG’s recent well-received move to the Scarritt Bennett Center, allowing the group to raise their numbers by at least 75 percent.
Stovall credits his success with PFLAG over the past three years to the enormous support given him by his parents as he went through his own coming out. On Mother’s Day Stovall spoke with O&AN on the phone while driving to visit his mother in Alabama about his tenure with PFLAG as well as the challenges he faces as he steps into a new leadership role with TEP.
O&AN: You openly credit your family with your success in the past several years. Do you feel you could have accomplished what you did without their presence and constant support?
Stovall: I could not have done anything that I have accomplished so far without the help of my parents. I went to PFLAG essentially for them in the beginning, and it has been a labor of love because of that. The help and support of my parents over the years has certainly informed the success that I have had with PFLAG in my time with them. Knowing that I was essentially helping other parents who were going through what my family did even though my family adjusted fairly quickly.
The social events with PFLAG are always kind of like family reunions because it’s really nice to be able to see faces I haven’t seen in a long time that don’t seem to need the support that they once did. It really makes me think of how important my family is to me because I have always felt that I was doing PFLAG for them even though they will tell you that they are involved because of me. It’s an incredible feeling.
O&AN: I understand you kind of stumbled into the role as co-chair of PFLAG rather than actively seeking work with them. How did that process come about?
Stovall: It was very accidental. We had two co-chairs who had retired and I was approached about the job, so I said that I would do my best to pick up the slack in the organization. They tell me that I have been very successful, so I feel like that is something to be proud of.
O&AN: As the co-chair of one of the most visible GLBT organizations in the Middle Tennessee area, I am quite certain you have met your fair share of challenges while doing your work. What do you feel was the biggest obstacle for you to overcome during your time with PFLAG?
Stovall: One of the biggest challenges we have faced is the fact that parents in Nashville don’t seem to have as difficult a time sitting in a room talking about their problems as they do getting out in the world. They really seem to enjoy the support that PFLAG offers them, but they seem to have a really hard time fulfilling the activism piece of the equation.
We also have a very large transient PFLAG population consisting of parents who will come to one or two meetings and never come back. We can only imagine that means that they don’t need as much support as they have needed in the past. We try to ask sensitive questions about their experience so as to make sure that we aren’t scaring anybody off and it doesn’t appear that way, so we can only assume that means they aren’t having as much difficulty as they have in the past.
O&AN: I know that PFLAG is very dear to you. It must have been a hard decision to make in order to move on to another position with TEP. What challenges do you foresee for yourself as you take this momentous step into your future?
Stovall: I really just don’t want to disappoint anybody. PFLAG is very close to my heart and the answers came very easy for me. I am just now getting re-involved in politics, so it’s a challenge for me to learn all of the things that go into that. My biggest challenge as the membership chair of TEP will be just getting the word out. I think that everyone really supports TEP and realizes the work they do is important, but the difficulty lies in sometimes not knowing what to do to help. My big challenge is to get that information into people’s hands so they will know there are a number of ways that they can help out in order to help improve our state.