Thursday, September 24, 2015

Family, Faith and PFLAG

I took the day yesterday to spend time with my sister, Joan. We started the day at 3:30 AM and arrived at the White House gates at 4:45am. As my colleagues at PFLAG National know, arriving early isn’t a trait associated with me, but my sister inherited that always-on-time/if-not-early trait from our mother. We snaked our way through the security lines of the White House with the dark pre-dawn sky above us accompanied by greetings of welcome from joyful sounding voices of White House staff along the barricades, arriving on the South Lawn by 6:00 AM.

Family reunion! With PFLAG National
board member, Stephanie Battaglino.
Yes, we arrived three hours and 22 minutes “early,” before the scheduled start of the arrival ceremony. Joan and I had not seen one another in 16 months, and, as close as we are, Joan and I simply continued the conversations we had started when she arrived from Baton Rouge 12 hours earlier. She is just “Joan” to me, but she is “Sister Joan” to her fellow sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph, and to the faculty members and students at St. Joseph Academy in Baton Rouge. Joan is a mother of two sons, a grandmother of four, a sister to seven of us siblings, and, for me, most importantly, she is my Godmother. Joan asked me 38 years ago to be the Godfather of her oldest son.  Yes, Joan and I are close.

Without wifi or cellular service to contact my colleagues who were also part of the PFLAG contingent that made up the 1,500 Catholics and Catholic allies invited by the White House, and no ability to post on social media or send email or text messages, these 3+ hours would be rare “family time” to catch up and reconnect. We started as we always seem to do by going through the list of siblings, their spouses, partners, children and grandkids and traded notes and stories. We covered the last 16 months of our own lives, the joys and the challenges, achievements and the breaking points.
Joan asked about my work and PFLAG. She asked me to walk her through how it was that PFLAG National would be invited to be at this important ceremony where, as was evident from all the close chatter around us, we were among some powerhouse people with important positions in all kinds of sectors across the U.S., and some Catholics whose stories we were hearing indicated passionate faith and bold work in social justice. I laughed and said, “Well, we only have three hours left, and I have 42 years of PFLAG stories to share that would fully answer that question.”

I reminded her of the work PFLAG has done in and around faith communities: PFLAG’s focus on the people in the pews and the power of peer-to-peer learning and faith sharing; the unique perspective PFLAG has, clearly illustrated in our Straight for Equality in Faith Communities program, meeting people where they are, even if it’s not where we are and even if we wish they were farther along on their journey. I talked about how proud I am that PFLAG’s presence--invited by the President and the First Lady to welcome Pope Francis to the White House--is, for me, an acknowledgment that PFLAG’s perspective is critically important, particularly in the area of faith and religion, which we know all too well is so very personal and often politically divisive.  I said that PFLAG takes the time to be with people on their journey and walks with them. I told her that we take this approach with institutions, with corporations, and yes, with faith communities.  

Joan smiled, put an arm around me and said, “Wow, Jody, I’ve got goose bumps. Look at where we are standing. We are waiting for the President of the United States, the First Lady, and, seriously, THE POPE, to come out and greet this crowd.” She looked at me and she said, “I think I get it now. I think I understand PFLAG in a way that I really didn’t before.”

We had our moment. A few tears between us, a big hug, and then I said it. “My legs—I can no longer feel my legs.” It was the inevitable leg cramping that occurs after a few hours of standing in place with hundreds of others close and another 13,500 packed onto the Ellipse behind us.
But the picture perfect bright blue sky, the cool breeze and the warm sun, along with the growing anticipation for the start of the arrival ceremony made us forget the leg cramps as the military band began. The three and a half hours were gone, filling the gap for us in ways that conversations of family, faith and PFLAG can do.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Press Statement: The Equality Act


Contact: Liz Owen, Director of Communications, PFLAG National | | (202) 657-4026  

PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby:
“PFLAG’s values are America’s values, and that means
full protection from discrimination for all people...”
WASHINGTON, DC—PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby issued the following statement regarding today’s bicameral introduction of The Equality Act:

“Everyday, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender have the risk of or are losing their jobs and homes, and are being denied access to public education and to federally-funded programs; no one should have to live with that reality because of who they are. PFLAG’s values are America’s values and that means full protection from discrimination for all people, and having the same rights and responsibilities as others.

PFLAG is proud to support The Equality Act, a bill that will strengthen anti-discrimination protections not just for the LGBTQ community but for everyone, including women and communities of color, and we thank Senators Merkley, Baldwin and Booker, and Representatives Cicilline and Lewis for its introduction. PFLAG National and its chapters across the country are committed to working together toward its passage, sending an unequivocal message in communities everywhere that it’s time for the values of fairness and being judged on merit to be realized.”


Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the original family and ally organization. Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy. PFLAG has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. To learn more, visit

Monday, July 13, 2015

PFLAG National Statement on BSA Resolution Vote Regarding Scout Leaders

PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby has issued the following statement regarding today’s unanimous vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Committee, approving a resolution allowing gay and bisexual adults to serve as employees and volunteers. 

“This is a huge step forward for this decades-old institution. And while this new policy will still allow discrimination in troops that are chartered by religious organizations, the majority of troops will be open to all adult leaders who are loyal, helpful, courteous and kind, regardless of their sexual orientation. That means that scout leaders like Pascal Tessier and David Knapp—both members of the extended PFLAG family and both longtime scouts—will be able to serve the organization they love, without fear of repercussions based solely on who they are or the people they love. We commend the BSA on this monumental step forward toward full inclusion, and hope that this new policy will be fully ratified by their National Executive Board on July 27th.”

Friday, June 26, 2015

PFLAG National statement on Obergefell v. Hodges

Moments ago, PFLAG National board president Jean Hodges released the following statement regarding today's incredible victory for marriage equality at the Supreme Court:

“Today feels like a wedding that the entire country was invited to, and the whole PFLAG family is right up front with hearts overflowing and tears in our eyes. By affirming the rights of all loving couples to commit to each other with the full weight of legal protection that marriage affords, the Supreme Court has affirmed a founding principle that we must all continue to strive for: a more perfect union.

While we celebrate today’s victory, we are dedicated to continuing and redoubling our advocacy work to secure legislation that explicitly protects people who are LGBTQ from discrimination in the workplace, in their homes, in their schools and in their communities. Now is the time to expand federal law--law which already protects people from discrimination based on race, sex, age, ethnicity, disability, and religion--to include explicit protection from discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

PFLAG National Statement on Texas Dept. of Housing v. The Inclusive Communities Project

Earlier today, PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby issued the following short statement regarding today's 5-4 decision in Texas Dept. of Housing v. The Inclusive Communities Project:

"Today’s Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) ruling of 5-4 in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project clarified that The Fair Housing Act (FHA) allows lawsuits against discrimination in housing regardless of whether the law or policy intends to be adverse or discriminate. In this ruling, SCOTUS affirmed PFLAG’s - and America’s - value of bringing fairness and equality to all, addressing systemic housing discrimination that disproportionately harms the most vulnerable among us."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

PFLAG National Statement on King v. Burwell

Moments ago, PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby issued the following short statement regarding today's 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell:

"Today, the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) rightfully honored the intent of Congress when making the 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell regarding the Affordable Care Act. By deciding in favor of a healthier America, SCOTUS has affirmed PFLAG's--and America's--value, of equal opportunity for all persons, allowing accessible health insurance coverage to include more people, with the goal of fully covering everyone, including all LGBTQ people in the U.S."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In the Afterglow of the Bruce Jenner Interview: So Where Do We Go From Here?

As I settle in to write this, 48 hours have passed since the airing of the Diane Sawyer interview with Bruce Jenner. 17 million viewers, over 675,000 tweets and innumerable Facebook posts (including mine!) later, I feel compelled to ask the question: so what has the transgender and gender non-conforming community gained as the afterglow of this past Friday's watershed event ever so slowly begins to fade? In a word: Plenty.
To better substantiate my claim, let me first take you back to Tuesday of last week when I found myself at the ABC News studios in Manhattan in a conference room with Diane Sawyer and her production team. We were all gathered together that evening to screen, for the first time, the program in its entirety. I was asked to serve as a consultant to the team at ABC because it was very important to them that a trans person not involved with the production itself had a chance to provide input and offer insights on the show. From the moment I met everyone, it was very apparent that Diane and her entire team had a sincere desire to make sure that the finished product was a genuine, honest and human portrayal of not only Bruce's journey, but of the myriad issues that the transgender and gender non-conforming community face. And you know what? They hit it completely out of the park in all respects.
The point that I made that evening that thankfully was not lost on anyone in the room was the importance of not losing sight of the larger context within which Bruce's story was being told. To be sure, the main drawing card of the show is Bruce's story: to finally hear what he had to say -- his feelings, his emotions and his journey thus far -- it provided a much needed counterpoint to the tired, overblown and all-too-intrusive tabloid coverage that we've had to endure of late.
But the program would have done a horrible disservice to the trans/gnc community if it did not employ the forum that the story of Bruce's journey to embrace his authentic and true self provided. Thankfully, that was not the case at all -- and that's a very good thing.
The legacy that the show will leave behind has yet to be fully written. For one thing, Bruce's transition is far from over. In so many ways, it is only just beginning. Months from now, when we look back on what transpired last Friday night, that fact will be quite apparent. But the immediate -- and I hope lasting impact -- is its ability to instantaneously create a public discourse -- a conversation about not only the issues facing the trans/gnc community, but who we are as human beings -- in places where perhaps it has never happened before across the country. The opportunity this presents for our community to simply tell our stories, have them be heard and, most importantly, to educate -- is what the real legacy of this moment is.
As I was rushing home on Friday night from another commitment I had in New York City, I had one eye on my Facebook feed to see what people's reaction to the interview was. Honestly, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Having already seen the show I knew that it was a solid, non-sensationalistic portrayal, but that was just one trans person's opinion, and obviously mine was just a bit biased.
What I saw amidst the repeated pinging and buzzing of my phone was one very obvious truth: people were all talking to each other about what was unfolding before them on the television screen. They were sharing their stories. They were sharing their feelings. They were teaching. Teaching everyone that we share one common desire: to be happy. The pursuit of happiness -- a concept our founding fathers got a long time ago.
To see such a display of truth and authenticity left me feeling grateful -- for having had the opportunity to serve as a consultant to Diane and her team, emotional -- because there are so many parallels I can draw from my own journey to Bruce's, and last and most importantly -- so very proud of who I am, my history and the community I am a part of.
As a runner, I subscribe to inspirational quotes that I receive in my email each morning. They help me get out on the road on those days when I would rather do anything but that. Much to my delighted surprise, today's edition was from another American Olympic hero, Frank Shorter, which beautifully provides inspiration for not only my newest sister, but for all of the transgender and gender non-conforming community: "Be willing to move forward and find out what happens next."