Friday, October 18, 2013

The PFLAGXpress to the 2013 National Convention: All aboard!

Tomorrow, two PFLAGers from San Francisco--Lori Hawkins and Brandon Brock--are hitting the road, taking a train from San Fran to D.C. for the 2013 PFLAG National Convention! You'll be able to read their updates here, and follow them on twitter with hashtags #1voice13 and #pflagxpress! 

Today, they introduce themselves!

Brandon Brock:
Hello! My name's Brandon and I'm nuts about PFLAG. I'm on the Board of Directors of PFLAG San Francisco and California's newest chapter, PFLAG Napa. 

I consider myself a PFLAG success story. When I was a kid, I was raised in small town Arkansas during the 1990s. The LGBT climate there wasn't exactly affirming for a young gay guy. This was before Will & Grace, Ellen Degeneres and the Internet of course, which makes a big difference.

One day, PFLAG crossed my path and it changed my life. I met a PFLAG Mom named Carolyn Wagner who drove over two hours in the pouring rain to meet up with me. She was my mother's age and I was her son's age and we talked for hours. For the first time, I was able to articulate my feelings with another person about being gay (at thirteen years old). 

There were so many questions and unknowns at that time that I couldn't go to my parents about being gay; it was too difficult. The fear of rejection, unfounded as it turned out, was too scary and my 13-year-old self couldn't face it. 

She taught me to embrace myself and helped me to understand my parents' perspective, which proved to be invaluable. Over time, my parents and I grew into understanding and we all learned a lot. My Mom and Dad always taught me to be proud of myself. Carolyn helped teach me to be proud of being gay.

Years later, I now live in The Castro neighborhood in San Francisco with my husband, Alexis Caloza, and our puppy, Mr. Humphries. Alex and I met when we were living in New York City and got married there in 2011 during the first week of same-sex marriages. Alex's family flew in from Florida and my family flew in from Arkansas and we were even featured in a national news feature on New York State's new marriage law on CBS. I was very active in the same-sex marriage push and lobbied politicians and became a volunteer community organizer. It was incredible to get married under the very law I pushed to create.

San Francisco is a great city but it's always fun to travel. Tomorrow, my pal, Lori, and I will board a train and head east towards Washington, DC for the PFLAG National Convention! We'll pass through the Rocky Mountains, through the famous "amber waves of grain",  through the Great Lakes region and finally the Northeast as we pull into Washington, DC's Central Station.

Along the way, we'll talk to other train passengers about those people in their life who changed their world. We've all had inspirational people in our lives and a long train trip is a great time to ponder. PFLAG has blossomed into an organization that welcomes straight allies, friends, and families in support of the entire LGBT spectrum of people and it all began with a single voice over 40 years ago.

I had three voices that changed my world: my Mom, my Dad and Carolyn Wagner. 

Over the next three days, we'll be covering our 2,800 mile trip towards Washington, DC and celebrate the unique insights and victories that PFLAG works towards: support, eduction and social activism for the equality of all people.

What could be more American?

Lori Hawkins:
I am a New York City born Chinese-American who graduated from Columbia University with a B.S. in Engineering and an MPH in Environmental Science. In 1987, I became a San Francisco Bay Area resident when I took a job as an engineer at Lockheed Space Systems. After spending 18 years at Lockheed, I went to Wells Capital Management where I spent 3 years as an analyst and short-term bond trader. Currently, I am a self-employed writer who writes gay romance novels and short stories. 

In 6th grade I learned about African American civil rights and I have been an advocate for minority rights ever since. As a product of a New York secular humanist up-bringing I have always accepted the LGBTQI community as my own and have lived in it as friend and sister. However, when Prop 8, a piece of legislation which wrote marriage discrimination into the California constitution, passed I felt that I needed to take tangible action and joined PFLAG. I am currently a member of the board for PFLAG San Francisco and the Regional Director for PFLAG Mid-Pacific region. 

Since joining PFLAG, I’ve seen a nearly unstoppable wave of change in attitude towards LGBTQI acceptance but I also know that there is much more work to be done and sometimes, I wonder; is my impression of progress correct? I also wonder about those people who live outside the Bay Area bubble; especially when I still encounter San Franciscan’s who don’t know about PFLAG, where are they in this wave of equality that seems to be spreading across the country? So, when the biannual PFLAG convention in Washington DC was announced, Brandon (whose bio is also featured here) and I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet people outside the bubble. 

On October 19, Brandon and I will travel by train from San Francisco to the convention in Washington, DC. Along the way, as we travel through America’s Heartland, we’ll be talking to people and raising awareness about PFLAG. 

Join us on our journey as we blog, post videos, and update our adventures!

Like our FB page: PFLAG San Francisco and follow #PFLAGXpress and #1Voice13 on Twitter to keep up with our adventures for the day.

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