Message to PFLAG Parents: Continue to Love, Accept and “Get Out of Your Own Way”

PFLAG,Donna R. Gore, LadyJustice,Shattered Lives

Although being gay, lesbian or transgendered may represent a “shattered dream” from the perspective of mainstream society and unenlightened straight parents… it is by no means a life tragedy. Being gay represents but one facet in the multicultural spectrum of diversity which is defined as loving someone of the same gender- a human right …pure and simple. It becomes complex when society judges…. reflecting their own misunderstanding, discomfort, and bigotry.

To listen to the discussion CLICK HERE

The first people in history to demonstrate the power of self-help groups were alcoholics. Alcoholics Anonymous was started in 1935 to help “hopeless alcoholics” recover from alcoholism, something the medical profession had been unable to do…In the 1960s, civil right movements began to evolve in many developed countries, as people became aware of their collective power. These power-to-the-people movements provided avenues for the development of the self-help group movement In Japan; people who had come to enjoy a free society welcomed “the peak of circle movements” in 1955.

The concept of PFLAG began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her son, Morty, in New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March, the precursor to today’s Pride parade. During and after the parade, many gay and lesbian supporters urged her to continue her efforts and the first support group was created in 1973.  The first formal meeting took place in 1973 at a local church. Forty years and five hundred PFLAG chapters in the US and over 200,000 members later…. The rest is history as they say…

John & Becky Glezen began their personal journey when their oldest daughter, Sharon courageously came out of the closet and helped her parents pave the way to understanding.  Long story short, although it was a rocky start, John & Becky have served as well respected advocates and co-facilitators for PFLAG –Hartford chapter and gay rights in Connecticut for 23 years.

Ladyjustice had the pleasure to discuss the issues of this important topic with John and Becky on “Shattered Lives.”

  • The beginnings with the Glezen family- what they did right and “going into the closet” on many levels;
  • Living in the hope for total acceptance –due to the information highway…
  • A bothersome statistic regarding rejection;
  • Hearing other people’ stories is an amazing power of connection and the missions of PFLAG;
  • When to begin educating about diversity…. Teaching about feelings;
  • Stories… “Having my bag packed by the door;” , a transgendered friend  whose acceptance  has evolved;  “The white robe story”
  • The transgender phenomena – energizing meetings;
  • Delilah asks about “ex-gays’ and  “the cure “- two responses; Biologic, genetically pre-determined and the mental health and faith communities  positions;
  • Welcoming Resources…and the upcoming holidays….
  • A facilitator’s perspective- health and well being is key- “Get out of your own way”
  • We need more activists…;
  • When you don’t need PFLAG that’s when PFLAG needs you…
  • Legislation- Non-discrimination in schools to Marriage to DOMA;
  • The blessing of being gay;
  • “Aggravated homosexuality” and the atrocities in other countries;
  • Contact Info PFLAG- Hartford-;
  • National PFLAG contact info: ;

Ward 5B- San Francisco General Hospital (The First AIDS Ward)



Ladyjustice was struck by this one of a kind facility introduced historically within the new documentary/DVD “We Were There” as an interested party on many levels, LJ was fascinated by its origins “out of necessity”. Described as participants going to war… indeed the early1980’s through the1990s was a battle field with little direction- more questions than answers.

A variety of sources yielded the following facts regarding this precedent setting hospital.  References:


ü Ward 5B opened officially on july25,1983 driven by fear of a contagious disease which was escalating;

ü Nursing staff were solicited from the gay community – lesbians and many male nurses who were also infected with the AIDS virus;

ü San Francisco General became a national and international model for compassionate care with just one dozen nurses initially

ü Treatment plans were holistic in nature including psychological support for patients, families and friends;;

ü For the first time, same sex partners were welcomed and included every phase of treatment, thus advancing the civil   gay couples and re-defining the meaning of “family;”

ü Dr. Mervyn Silverman, former Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health opposed the unit…. He later said at their 20th anniversary in 2003, “Fortunately, I was proven completely wrong.”

ü City-wide, a total of 19,393 San Franciscans died from AIDS between 1981and 2003;

ü Admissions within San Francisco General from the first patient to 2003 totaled 21,500 stays;

ü Clinical research was initiated freely prior to the regulation of today including he use of medical marijuana;

ü Marijuana studies were inspired by Mary Jane Rothburn, better known as “Brownie Mary” who furnished the day clinic and AIDS in-patients with “pot-laced sweets;”

ü  Steve Keith who was a volunteer nurse on the unit for nearly 20 years became the unofficial historian/archivists, collecting files saved by head nurse, correspondence, books, other publications, videos and scrapbooks;

ü The most treasured entry-signature was that of Mother Theresa;

ü Nurse George Jalbert was the first nurse to die in 1987. Today a plaque bears the names of 42 nursing staff who succumbed to the virus;

ü With the advent of protease inhibitors (a class of anti-viral drugs that prevent the replication of HIV proteins) Ward 5A had empty beds. Therefore, they expanded treatment to include other oncology patients – 1/3Aids;1/3 oncology; 1/3 general medical patients;

ü US World &News & Report recognized SFG among the best hospitals in AIDS care from 1991-1997, with other facilities attempting to implement their model.

ü A highlight every week was the appearance of dancer and single Mom “Rita Rockett” who entertained and ultimately cooked her way into everyone’s hearts. She sponsored pot lucks, birthday, pajama parties and holiday dinners.  Rita stated, “I come from a large family. …. Whenever there is something wrong, you bring food.”

ü A 2011 Center for Disease Control report stated 1,200 million Americans are infected with HIV which causes AIDS.  Of those, 2o% or 240,000 don’t know they have it due to the “underground nature” of the virus, whose symptoms may not be revealed for years;

ü Only 40% of the 1, 2 million afflicted are receiving HIV fighting medications on a regular basis. In addition, only 28% have achieved low levels of viral infection in their blood.  Thus, 850,000 Americans do not have the virus controlled. Officials say… “We could be doing a lot better.”

ü Low levels of treatment may be attributed to a number of factors… lack of money, not allowing sufficient time before medications take effect and a small percentage in which treatment is not effective;

ü “The Good News” – Once tested, diagnosed and treatment begins, with effective medical care provided, the virus is brought under control about 80% of the time;

ü On the day of the 20th anniversary of Unit 5Bthere were but four patients with HIV on Ward 5A;

ü Testing for HIV alone isn’t good enough, according to CDC officials. San Francisco has aggressively and routinely offered HIV testing and follow-up treatment in emergency rooms;

ü A Novel Approach– A Department of Motor Vehicles office in Washington, D. C. has offered $5.00 gift cards to patrons waiting for address changes and licenses if they agree to take an HIV test (Due to the city’s widespread infection rate);

ü Black gay and bi-sexual men reportedly account for about a quarter of all new HIV infections in the U.S. currently;\

ü Parting Comments Re San Francisco General:

ü Steve Keith, one of the original nurse volunteers who stayed to work with patients and family members for nearly29 tears accidently stuck himself six times with needles over time and learned he was HIV positive in 1995.  He commented on his longevity on the Unit at SFG in a 2003 article this way: “It’s like an old boyfriend… You never stop loving that person…or place… They are always a part of your life.”

ü Nurse Diane Jones, another original Ward 5B recruit described working with a patient who previously was very handsome and worked as a model.  Due to the virus, he developed the worse case of Kaposi’s sarcoma .they had ever encountered.  His features were so distorted with purple lesions, he resembled the “Elephant man.” The vigil for his death was so prolonged his family had come and gone… While bathing him one day, he explained to Diane why he “couldn’t simply give up and die.”  He said, “I have a commitment to life. I cannot turn off the life force.”  “Life doesn’t usually teach those lessons in your 20s and 30s,” Jones said.

AMEN…. Ladyjustice




Robin McHaelen & Our True Colors: Truly Transformational for Today’s Gay Youth

true colors logo

Robin McHaelean, an MSW and true pioneer in the field of sexual minority and gender issues, appears very comfortable in her own skin…  She speaks with a clarity, passion and compassion which are so vital to the workings of her non-profit, Our True Colors.  She is the Founder and Executive Director of Our True Colors.   She has travelled the journey personally and professionally dealing with the invisible and often “throw away” youth since the early 1990’s. Was it prophetic that her very first conference for lesbian, gay and bi-sexual youth was called “Children of the Shadows” with 250 kids in attendance?  And… although it was transformational, no one could have predicted that this organization and this conference would surround the forgotten children with love and safety since 1992.

Listen to interview with Robin and Kamora of  True Colors on Shattered Lives:


Robin and her Mentoring Program Coordinator, Kamora Le’Ella Herrington, spoke with Ladyjustice and Delilah of Imagine Publicity in a lively and information packed fashion that seemed to fly by!    Perhaps the best way to capture all of the information is in a factual manner point by point. However, readers are encouraged to listen to the audio version as well… (Minus a little technical difficulty with someone’s phone in the beginning) The audio version and their repartee bear witness that  they are part of a dedicated team, they are articulate, witty, filled with conviction, realism, hope and LOVE for those they serve!

  • Our True Colors is an education and advocacy organization for sexual and gender minority youth with its  grass roots efforts  beginning in 1992 (Refer to detailed Timeline on their website);
  • Components include a mentoring program, the largest LGBT conference in the World (3,000 attendees at this month’s conference); a private professional partnership with the Department of Children & Families and model program including foster home or group home placements and training of 2400 professionals to date;
  • Robin began by “filling gaps” and kept moving to meet the ever increasing needs as more and more youth indeed began to “come out of the shadows” and make themselves known with the safe haven she was building;
  • Gay-straight alliances within school in Connecticut numbered just four in the early 90’s with  as many as 170 currently in high schools and a few middle schools;
  • The average age of “coming out” is currently 11 to 13 years of age.  True Colors is attempting to build support for this age group with a greater presence and continued trainings;
  • Guidance counselors and school social workers may be very supportive within their respective school settings…. However, it depends on the individual as they may carry their own biases and feel uncomfortable as well.
  • Readers should be aware that “coming out is a process…. Foe some youth it is “no big deal…for others it is a very big deal. Kamora credits Robin as being an integral part of the number of GSA’s in Connecticut and creating an environment in which gay youth can have their own space, feel part of a majority and be safe…;
  • Mentoring – Technically, Kamora states that her mentoring program has 52 matches… However, although those enrolled are supposed to be aged 14 to 21, others on the periphery of the age limit consider themselves part of the extended program. She has managed the program for 7 years but it has not yet been replicated;
  • In order to mentor, an applicant must be 24 years and participate in an extensive and not necessarily gay or share the same background.  They may share different types of trauma or social history and will still be a successful match; True Colors services those in CT, New York or Massachusetts and border communities;
  • Kamora provided a sense of realism in her witty style that many gay youth get the wrong impression that “all gay persons are wonderful and all heterosexuals are hateful… “ At the same time, gay youth come with issues beyond orientation and gender such as PTSD, ADHD, mental health issues and addiction cultural issues,  other family dysfunction….or general loudness and obnoxiousness.  The sky will not open up nor will doves fly….just because they are accepted in one environment or by one person…  HOWEVER, we cannot stress enough that there are so many gay youth who have absolutely no one to love them and need that mentoring influence and love!
  • Kudos to DCF social workers who go the extra mile to embrace their clients, such a Tonya Sutton.  Kamora commented that if paid professional work with clients but don’t love them it is a problem for these displaced kids who frequently don’t live with their families of origin (their bio families) as they have been rejected and kicked out of their homes.   Social workers have bias as well and may not be able to work effectively with them.
  • STATSTrue Colors XiX “Celebrating Our Allies” March 16-17, 2012 Conference:  A total of 3.113 participants; 115 high schools; 30 colleges and Universities with 14 different states represented throughout the U.S;  In addition, the Conference is very diverse in race, ethnicity and gender…… (And isn’t that the way it should be??)
  • Although National and local organizations like PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) do a stellar job of advocacy, education and support to family members, at times, it becomes a challenge to provide the support needed to different cultural and ethnic families who are not comfortable with their format  and services due to differences in beliefs or “privacy matters.” Therefore, True Colors seeks to pull in kinship relationships to assist gay youth…such as aunt, uncles’ cousins who can be accepting. TC’s work with adults is limited, and not a primary focus. However,  they interface with many adults who work with youth;
  • At the conclusion of their recent conference, a crisis was averted when two young men, each 18 who were described as “gentle and not streetwise”   were thrown out of their family homes and had nowhere to go.  As they were 18, DCF could not assist.  Robin provided shelter information for the Hartford area. However, more importantly, she looked to her network of mentors who stepped up… and provided temporary refuge for these vulnerable young men.  STATS- Depending upon the study used, gay youth represent 5 to 10 or 11% of homelessness overall; whereas the homeless population among gays increases to between 25 to 40%;
  • If gay youth are under the care of the state and placed in a group home, such kids may be targeted within that environment and may not be safe; Many have experienced abuse and trauma;
  • How do you prepare kids and prepare families for the process? Robin states that in the ideal situation you want to intervene early in the process. The number one predictor of how gay kids will do is the initial response of parents. When they struggle, most families move from rejection to ambivalence to acceptance (if they progress though all of these stages)
  • Providing wrap around services and providing time and space for parents and providing kids a yardstick comparing how long it took each kid to recognize and then accept their orientation or gender  (and then multiply that by five)
  • Kamora stated that “Life is messy…..  We can set ducks in a row…but orientation and gender is only part of it… The larger picture must be considered such as the time and space needed Teenagers need things to happen immediately and do not understand that in time there may be acceptance …or not. [For whatever reasons of their own, Ladyjustice was not able to progress as far as she would like on the continuum with her bio family.]  In such cases, the alternative is to develop surrogate families with other groups of friends.  It is indeed more complex when one has a disability as well…as society frequently cannot look beyond physical characteristics that get in the way for the judging party;
  • BULLYING & HARASSMENT:  Robin reported that youth who are targeted most are those who are gender non-conforming (i.e. effeminate boys and masculine identifying females) and therefore are the most at risk for harassment. 7th, 8th, 9th grades are the most targeted populations, particularly those with special needs or are gender non-conforming;
  • One in Five gay youth stay home from school daily due to bullying or harassment. And… they are seven times more likely to be assaulted by a weapon!
  • Hyper-Vigilance: Robin gave the example of a high school youth who was in a CT high school with many resources, but still had to be hypervigilent…. Wore the hood of his jacket up, slumped his posture, stayed close to the wall trying to be “an unobtrusive gay person”…  The fact is gay youth cannot be protected 24/7… parking lots, hallways, bathrooms remain territories which represent unsafe areas even if they are partaking of school resources.  Can you just imagine the stress?  As one educator said… “If you see mean…intervene!”
  • Kamora recounted the case of a bullied student who was harassed unmercifully… when he finally fought back, that is the point that resources were brought in to the picture.  This sends the wrong message…. It is okay to harass the gay kid until he tries to defend himself!  No!
  • Robin, Kamora and Delilah spoke to the matter of progressiveness regarding gay issues and human rights issues depending upon thee geographic area in which you live.  It is generally thought that the south maintains a higher level of prejudice against sexual minority and gender issues… ignore it altogether or has few resources; whereas the “progressive northeast – New England area is “miles ahead…  Kamora warned that we in Connecticut are often “lulled unto a sense of complacency regarding our acceptance as a state.”  ‘Just a couple of years ago, she cited an example in which a youth in CT had an exorcism videotaped.  Such things are supposed to happen “elsewhere.”
  • Media portrayal is difficult to gauge in terms of help versus hindrance.  The fact is, most of today’s gay youth now get there first dating experience over the internet which can be both good and bad…;
  • Robin consults with other states and has even trained others in Brussels….  She welcomes the opportunity to share with other states;
  • Those who are interested in contacting Jamie Goddard in Bridgeport who manages a program for gay persons seeking employment who also happen to have disabilities- physical or mental health contact the CT Department of Labor;
  • ***Her most important message is addressed to families who may have the opportunity to foster youth or mentor them.. It is powerful, meaningful and life changing.  “If you don’t have a dollar… If you don’t have a spare bedroom… If you don’t have extra time, Kamora advised to “just smile or start a conversation with a gay youth”.  It will mean the world to them….  And make their burden that much lighter… (LJ)
  • To make a donation or inquiry regarding programming please contact:

When Courage Partners With Justice….Wonderful Things Happen!

Justice comes in many forms…  When it comes, whether in small doses or as a matter of significance, it is frequently precipitated by acts of courage.  This writer has the utmost respect for those who have demonstrated acts of courage in their pursuit of justice.  When courage is linked with justice, it can be for a personal cause or “for the greater good” as a means of helping others to open the door for change.

Here are but two cases- one recent and one considerably less recent, but no less impressive!

A recent case for the pairing of courage and justice for the greater good concerns the story of Katie Miller, a former United States Military West Point cadet, Class of 2012.   Katie was no slouch as she ranked ninth in a class of 1,157.  Although she was attracted to West Point’s holistic educational approach, she realized sometime earlier that her true sexual orientation was that of a lesbian.  Katie felt stunted living a double life despite her achievements.  Katie saw a window of opportunity to create a positive impact for others in the military who suffered the same torment, as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is not consistent with coming out of the closet.

According to an article from the Yale Daily News, the officer accepting her resignation (versus serving out a commitment of seven years in uniform) told Katie  that she was “throwing her life away” and that she should be disciplined enough to “sacrifice a small portion of her life to remain in service.” [LJ- Excuse Me… a small portion of her life??? Why oh why does the military persist in thinking it’s about sex?]

To date, Katie has chosen to complete her education at Yale University, continuing her major in sociology and the opportunity to explore the freedom from oppression in the LGBT community surrounding Yale. Three cheers for Katie!  She bucked the system, kept her dignity and continues her educational pursuits….and maybe even ROTC at Yale in the future!

LadyJustice’s heart was touched many years ago by the following story.  The fact that it is folded in her wallet and well worn – at least ten years or more is a testament to its value.

This is a re-print of a “PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Family Profile” written by Glenda Glass, matriarch of the family, in Henderson, Kentucky.

“Our story began on August 15, 1991, the day after my husband and I celebrated our 31st anniversary.  As we kissed goodnight, I remember noting how easy and trouble free our life had been: our daughter, Dana had finished her education, married and had a good job.  Our son Ben was in his second year of divinity school.  Neither of them had given us any problems.

The very next day, Dana came to us to tell us that she was getting divorced and asked for our support.  During the conversation, we learned that Ben was coming home to tell us he was gay.  In the previous months, both my children had always been supportive of each other.  This is one part of the story that makes me happy as a mother…

Our daughter Dana made sure that we understood that Ben could never change; that it is not a choice for him; that he had never planned to admit it but he could no longer live with the lie.  As a mother, what happened next, made me cry…

Dana told me that Ben was driving around town in his car waiting for her pre-arranged signal:

If her car was still parked at our home, it meant that we are still talking and he was supposed to keep riding around;

If her car was gone, it meant that she told us and we were not accepting and that he should go home;

But… if Dana told us and we were accepting, she would put the light on in his former bedroom window.

My heart nearly broke…  We immediately jumped up and turned on every light in the house including the porch lights, the front spot light, the attic and even…every closet light!  When our son drove into the driveway the house was a beacon to him that our love was unconditional and that we would always be there for him.  It was a magic moment for all of us.”

Please support PFLAG national or your local chapter…. They need allies as well as those in the community!

Wouldn’t it indeed be wonderful if each of us could have every light turned on for us?  That’s the day I live for!!

Moral of the story:  When courage is paired with justice, wonderful things happen!

Proudly Written by:

Donna “LadyJustice”