Today, National Board Member and Northern Plains Regional Director Kay Heggestad is our guest blogger. I am especially moved by the way this group reached out to a newly-formed teen group to help make their presence known in their town. The spirit of PFLAG is alive and well in Stoughton!
Syttende Mai, Norwegian Constitution Day, is a really big deal lasting three days every year in Stoughton,WI, a city of 13,000 people, twenty miles south of Madison. The PFLAG Madison Chapter President, Karen Baker, had the idea of working with the newly formed GSA of Stoughton High School to have a float in the smaller of the two parades.
She sent in the application using just the acronyms PFLAG and GSA and was called and asked what those letters meant. She explained...and eventually a followup call came, telling her that we could not be in the parade. Not to be stopped, Karen then called the person in charge of the entire three-day event. She was told that the board was concerned since there might be something inappropriate for youth or outwardly political on our float, e.g. signs about marriage equality. They did not want anything there that might make kids “ask questions.” Karen reassured her that we would only be using words like equality, harmony, peace, love, justice, and acceptance. We got the signoff to be in the parade.
And then, about 19 hours before the parade was to begin, Karen received a call saying they had changed the decision, and that we could not be in the parade after all: apparently, the coordinator thought we were going to represent all diversity and not just LGBT. Karen reported, “Finally, the coordinator cut to the chase and told me that the words ‘gay and lesbian’ were the deal breaker. Then she asked if we 'could we just cross them out somehow on the banner'.” So, we did just that. In the photo, you can see a rainbow banner covering the "controversial words."
Eight members from Madison braved the cold and overcast day along with eight kids from the GSA. We all waved little rainbow flags. We saw a few frowns, a few puzzled looks, but also many smiles, and waves and thumbs up, sometimes hidden, from the crowd on the sidewalks. Several folks ran up the float to thank us for being there.
As a card-carrying Norske who can actually sing, in Norwegian, the first four bars of the Norwegian national anthem, I am a bit ashamed of the Stoughton folks. On the other hand, maybe next year they will let us use our entire sign. Our nose is under their tent.