Bravery Takes All Forms: A Life Lesson

By Shannon Bowman

Earlier this week, Terry Coffey from Salem, Oregon made a post on his Facebook that would send the Internet and social media into a frenzy. The post read like this:

BraveryAs I see post after post about Bruce Jenner’s transition to a woman, and I hear words like, bravery, heroism, and courage, just thought I’d remind all of us what real American courage, heroism, and bravery looks like!

My first thought was frustration that Coffey had missed the point of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition. Why does one person’s bravery have to be measured against another’s? Everyone can be a hero. By recognizing someone else’s bravery, it in no way negates the fact that there are many other heroes in the world. Heroes exist in our hearts because we need something that is bigger than us to believe in. We’d all like to think that we are brave, but the fact is, many of us aren’t. So seeing someone, anyone really, who goes against the grain and makes a decision to stand up for themselves and for others is by definition a hero. Aren’t they?

As I read his statement and the emotionally freighted picture Coffey chose to include, I became increasingly irritated…both at Coffey’s narrow-mindedness and at the friend who sent me the post, knowing I was an advocate for LGBT rights. But as I read on, I was glad that I did.

The next day, Coffey posts:

This is the photo I shared yesterday in the spirit of spotlighting “true bravery.”

This photo that accompanied my words, was chosen from a quick image search. Just wanted something to fit my words. I wanted to find out who the photographer was, so I could credit his work.

In an ironic twist, I have discovered that the photo is part of a documentary created by a man who was beaten nearly to death outside of a bar in 2000. After spending 9 days in a coma, suffering severe brain damage and being unable to walk or talk for a year, he chose to try and cope with his pain from the tragic event, by creating a world of stories and characters and photos set in WWII. The image I chose, was one of those created for an upcoming documentary. Why was he nearly beaten to death by 5 strangers?

Because he was a cross-dresser.

I could have chosen one of hundreds of other photos. But I didn’t, I chose this one. Do I think it was an accident? I don’t.

What happened to this man was wrong, cruel, and unforgivable. Hate helps nothing. Love wounds no one. and God heals all. (and irony makes us think).

I tried to reach out to Coffey via Facebook and guess what? I wasn’t alone. His page had over 10K friend requests within a day…several hundred request appearing just minutes after the post. Because of this, Facebook disabled his ability to accept friends or have people message him. I had to wonder if this might have been a good thing for him. As I looked through his feedback from friends and people that did make it through the initial cut before the Facebook lock-down, many of them had an issue with calling Caitlyn Jenner brave and felt it was slap in the face of veterans and service men and women who defended or currently defend our country.

11350600_392599097598170_6435863685316577541_n I watched the Jenner interview last month – along with a lot of others – and I don’t recall her ever using the words “brave” or “heroic” to describe her transition. She was made a hero and called brave, because other people needed someone to look up to. They needed to believe that there was someone who could do what they couldn’t or recognized how hard making that transition would be. Transitioning from one gender to another is an incredibly terrifying prospect for many people. All too often, we read about, or hear of teenagers who choose suicide over being who they really are, or how they experience the pain of being turned away from their families, simply for having the courage to be the person they always felt they were. Identifying with, or sympathizing with someone who is experiencing a situation like Jenner’s, and seeing an opportunity to provide hope doesn’t take away from the bravery of others.

Back to the artist who helped change Coffey’s thinking, Mark Hogancamp: Unable to afford therapy, Mark decided to create his own. In his backyard, he built Marwencol, a 1/6th scale World War II-era town that he populated with dolls representing his friends, family, and even his attackers. He used the small dolls and props to redevelop his hand-eye coordination, while he dealt with the psychological trauma from his attack through the town’s many battles and dramas.

marwencolMark started documenting his miniature dramas with his camera. Through Mark’s lens, these were no longer dolls — they were living, breathing characters in an epic WWII story full of violence, jealousy, longing, and revenge. And he (or rather his alter ego, Captain Hogancamp) was the hero.

When Mark’s stunningly realistic photos were discovered and published in an art magazine, his homemade therapy suddenly became “art,” forcing Mark to make a choice between the safety of his fictional town and the real world he’s avoided since his attack.

Shot over the course of four years, Jeff Malmberg’s documentary intertwines the dual realities of Mark Hogancamp to tell the whole story of Marwencol — a surprising tale of love, secrets, pain, and adventure.

So, perhaps we can all just take a moment to remember that bravery takes all kinds of forms. It’s PEOPLE that have the capacity for bravery, regardless of how they show it. Soldiers are people…the LGBT community is made up of people too. The fact remains – one person’s bravery doesn’t diminish anyone else’s.

More about Hogencamp’s work –








Pride Partner: PFLAG

Jack Peirson visited a recent membership meeting for HR Pride and told the story of PFLAG and his personal journey that lead him to the group that has changed him forever.


Jeanne_Manford_marching_with_her_famous_sign_in_a_Pride_Parade_in_1972The idea for 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. After many gay and lesbian people ran up to Jeanne during the parade and begged her to talk to their parents, she decided to begin a support group. The first formal meeting took place on March 26, 1973 at the Metropolitan Duane Methodist Church in Greenwich Village (now the Church of the Village). Approximately 20 people attended. It was a mom, defending and supporting her son, and declaring her unconditional love. PFLAG is still performing that mission today. The organization provides peer to peer support to the Parents, Friends, Families of Lesbians, Gays, Allies, Trans, Bi, Questioning or Curious. If you have questions or a story that you want to tell, we at PFLAG Norfolk/South Hampton Roads will help you.

I know a lot of you personally and some of you I have known for a long time. I would not be here this evening speaking to you if it were not for the assistance of my friends and LGBT community. When I came out in ‘91’ there were so many things going badly in my life. A messy divorce, I lost my job, I lost my house, I lost my family, I lost my church, and mostly, I lost my identity.

Things were not all bad. I found things in ’91 – 92’ as well. I found friends that I could count on. I found a community that was stronger than the forces that were confronting me. I found my husband of 22 years, John Mueller. I found that I was a person that was stronger because all that I had gone through. I found I still had compassion and wanted to be the one to reach back and assist the person going through their hard times. The struggle that I went through.

That struggle is still happening today across Hampton Roads, and all across the United States. The PEW research shows that LGBT youth make up roughly 5% of the overall youth population, 5 out of 100 young people are LGBT. But, they are 41% of the homeless youth population. Out of 100 homeless people under the age of 18, 41 are LGBT. That statistic is staggering. These young people are going through one of the most difficult realizations and also facing the worst circumstances. And many times they are doing it alone, with no safety net.

As I have said, our mission at PFLAG is to provide peer to peer counseling, to educate and support. It is to equip our members with the tool kits to meet the challenges that they are facing. It is to not just help them survive, more importantly it is to help them to THRIVE. Before someone can be a real part of pride, they have to FEEL that they are a part of PRIDE. PFLAG helps to build the bridge that goes from finding out who they are – to who they are destined to become.

So, why PFLAG? We have marriage equality, we are getting our rights? It is simple. Carolyn Caywood, local PFLAG President and all-knowing oracle, said this in a meeting the other day. “You can go from the courthouse on Friday getting married, to the person whom you love, to the unemployment line on Monday because your boss does not support your right to get married.” The members of our group are asking these questions and so many more. They have concerns that they need a safe place to meet and talk things out. PFLAG is cultivating the members of Pride for tomorrow. We are changing the conversation one family, one person at a time. We are changing the conversation from, “Why me? Why my child?” to a conversation of “Why Not, You? Why Not, Your Child?” Why can’t you be the next Harvey Milk, Rita Mae Brown, Christine Jorgensen, Jeanne Manford. “Why can’t your child be the next Laurel Quarberg or John Osterhout? Once a person is comfortable in their own skin and can live a life that is open, honest and out, they can live a life with Pride and then the possibilities become limitless.

We meet on the Third Tuesday of every month at the LGBT Center off 24th and Llewellyn in Norfolk. The meetings start at 6:30 and end at 8:30. Find us on Facebook PFLAG Norfolk South Hampton Roads, like us and follow what we are doing to move equality forward, come to a meeting and get involved, there is a lot to be accomplished in 2015.

We are so happy to be a Partner in Pride. I leave you with this. You may not need PFLAG – you may be perfectly happy with who you are, but PFLAG needs you and someone needs to see you as their role model.

You can find more details about PFLAG online at Facebook or Instagram.

2015 HR Pride Headliner Announced

A Request from Our Friends in Richmond & The Virginia Anti-Violence Project

019The Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP) is partnering with the Richmond Triangle Players and TheatreLAB for a new project entitled NERVE: Stories of Queer Resilience!  This new project will focus on stories of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, bullying, and harassment in Virginia.  We are currently collecting stories from the LGBTQ community about the violence we face and how we survive.  There will be multiple story gathering events throughout Richmond:

You can also complete this online form to share your story.

Sharing our stories can be healing!  So please help share this opportunity.

The stories will be combined to create a script and then the production of NERVE: Stories of Queer Resilience will debut in Richmond in late May.

Call for Pictures!

140213-same-sex-marriage-va-jms-2300_9af9d34bad066e465b4c00e97ed4e419Arcadia Press is considering the LGBT picture book, The Making of LGBT Hampton Roads. Dr. Charles Ford and Dr. Jeffrey Littlejohn will be writing and researching this project. Some of the work already been done — thanks to the placards exhibition at the 2014 Hampton Roads Pride and hope that will continue to grow and be enhanced this year.

How can you help? Dr. Ford and Dr. Littlejohn need 225-250 pics for the entire book.  They are requesting the use of your photographs to match the table of contents and chronology of the book. They need about 20 pictures for Chapter 1, and then 40-50 for each of the other chapters.

The pictures should be preferably of people, in color, high-resolution, or scannable.

All proceeds from this book will go back to Hampton Roads Pride so your help will help continue the mission and growth of our organization.

Proposed Table of Contents:

Acknowledgements and Permissions
Chapter 1, Before Stonewall in the Old Dominion, 1969-Before
Chapter 2, “Mildly Militant”: The Advent of Gay Liberation, 1969-79
Chapter 3, Building and Sustaining Our Own Communities, 1979-88
Chapter 4, Triumph and Tragedy: Enduring the Plague Years, 1988-98
Chapter 5, Treading Water in Transition: Our Own After Our Own Press, 1988-2007
Chapter 6, Renaissance and Transformation in the New Century, 2007-Present

Submissions will be accepted through February and March and can be sent directly to Dr. Ford.

Equality Virginia Announces the 2015 OUTSTANDING Virginians

EV2011Statistics show that knowing someone within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community increases support for LGBT rights. This positive correlation makes coming out a critical component of the LGBT movement’s future progress.

In light of the importance of being out to the LGBT movement, each year Equality Virginia recognizes OUTstanding Virginians who have represented the community with distinction. In 2013, for the first time in its history, Equality Virginia extended this recognition to allies for the contributions made on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The 2015 OUTstanding Virginians:

  • Keri Abrams
  • Claire Guthrie Gastanaga
  • William Hall, Jr.
  • Rodney Lofton
  • Paula Prettyman and Kelly Schlageter
  • Todd Rosenlieb
  • Mothers & Others

Purchase your 2015 Commonwealth Dinner tickets here! 

More details

Governor’s LGBT Tourism Task Force

McAuliffe_1Governor Terry McAuliffe announced this week a new task force geared towards promoting tourist spots for gay and lesbian couples. Since the same-sex marriage ban was lifted in Virginia late last year, the Governor wants to prove that Virginia is for all kinds of lovers. He appointed 21 people from around the Commonwealth for the task force.

Along with promoting tourism among same-sex couples and members of the LGBT community, the task force is also hoping to tackle the conservative mindset that has shadowed Virginia for years.


Governor’s LGBT Tourism Task Force for Virginia

  • Barbara Cage of South Boston, Co-owner & Manager, Bistro1888
  • Kevin Clay of Richmond, Principal, Big Spoon Agency
  • Phil Crosby of Richmond, Managing Director, Richmond Triangle Players
  • The Honorable Adam P. Ebbin of Alexandria, Member, Senate of Virginia
  • Patrick Evans-Hylton of Norfolk, Food Journalist, Virginia Wine Lover Magazine
  • Tammy Freeman of Prince William, Founder, Say I Do! LGBT Wedding Expo.
  • Matt Gaffney of Rehobeth Beach, DE, President & CEO, Capital Region USA, Inc.
  • Peter J. Goldin of Mechanicsville, Associate State Director, AARP
  • Brad Kutner of Richmond, Editor, GayRVA
  • Virginia Lamneck of Richmond, Programs Manager, Equality Virginia
  • Jesse LaVancher of Richmond, Central & Northern Virginia Development Manager, Virginia Opera
  • Jeffrey Marsh of Chicago, IL, Director of LGBT Marketing, Orbitz Worldwide
  • Amy Sarah Marshall of Charlottesville, President, Charlottesville Pride Community Network
  • Bruce Newton of Hampton, Group Sales & Visitor Center Manager, Hampton Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Katherine O’Donnell of Richmond, Vice President of Community Relations, Richmond Regional Tourism
  • Robert G. Roman of Virginia Beach, Vice President & Co-owner, Decorum Furniture
  • Jim Schuyler of Richmond, Executive Director, Virginia Community Action Partnership
  • Stephanie Shaw of Richmond, Account Supervisor, The Martin Agency
  • Michael Sutphin of Blacksburg, Member, Blacksburg Town Council; Board Member, Equality Virginia
  • Michael Thorne-Begland of Richmond, Director, Brand and Trade Channel Integrity; Assistant General Counsel, Altria
  • Bob Witeck of Arlington, President, Witeck Communications, Inc.


How Do You Make Change? Get on the Bus…What Else?

On February 3rd, you have a chance to make a difference in the lives of people in the LGBT community in Hampton Roads and the entire state of Virginia. You can sign up here for a FREE trip to our state’s capital and let your voice be heard. Here are just a few reasons that you should care and lend a voice:

1. We should all be nicer to each other.

2. Kids know it’s ok.

3. Even big kids.

4. We all just want to be ourselves.

5. Really, what’s the big deal anyway?

6. You’re gonna have to tell your mom sometime – why not do it while making change?

7. The LGBT Community is made up of every type of person.

8. We still have a lot of educating to do.

9. We all want the same thing.

10. Enough said?

Find out how you can be a part of change in Virginia!

Transgender Terminology

Transgender GlossaryTerminology within the transgender community varies and has changed over time so we recognize the need to be sensitive to usage within particular communities.

Members of the transgender community struggle with issues those outside the community never deal with. While, those outside the community can sympathize, they can’t empathize. A step towards equality in the transgender community is understanding the terminology that is appropriate use it to educate the those around them. Words have power, so let’s use them in a meaning way.

Below is a glossary, specific to transgender issues, provided by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Transgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is a broad term and is good for non-transgender people to use. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.” (Note: Transgender is correctly used as an adjective, not a noun, thus “transgender people” is appropriate but “transgenders” is often viewed as disrespectful.)

Transgender Man: A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a man (see also “FTM”).

Transgender Woman: A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a woman (see also “MTF”).

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Gender Expression: How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.

Transsexual: An older term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth who seeks to transition from male to female or female to male. Many do not prefer this term because it is thought to sound overly clinical.

Cross-dresser: A term for people who dress in clothing traditionally or stereotypically worn by the other sex, but who generally have no intent to live full-time as the other gender. The older term “transvestite” is considered derogatory by many in the United States.

Queer: A term used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender, people. Some use queer as an alternative to “gay” in an effort to be more inclusive. Depending on the user, the term has either a derogatory or an affirming connotation, as many have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used in a negative way.

Genderqueer: A term used by some individuals who identify as neither entirely male nor entirely female.

Gender Non-conforming: A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.

Bi-gendered: One who has a significant gender identity that encompasses both genders, male and female Some may feel that one side or the other is stronger, but both sides are there.

Two-Spirit: A contemporary term that refers to the historical and current First Nations people whose individuals spirits were a blend of male and female spirits. This term has been reclaimed by some in Native American LGBT communities in order to honor their heritage and provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

FTM: A person who transitions from “female-to-male,” meaning a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as a male. Also known as a “transgender man.”

MTF: A person who transitions from “male-to-female,” meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives as a female. Also known as a “transgender woman.”

Sex Reassignment Surgery: Surgical procedures that change one’s body to better reflect a person’s gender identity. This may include different procedures, including those sometimes also referred to as “top surgery” (breast augmentation or removal) or “bottom surgery” (altering genitals). Contrary to popular belief, there is not one surgery; in fact there are many different surgeries. These surgeries are medically necessary for some people, however not all people want, need, or can have surgery as part of their transition. “Sex change surgery” is considered a derogatory term by many.

Sexual Orientation: A term describing a person’s attraction to members of the same sex and/or a different sex, usually defined as lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, or asexual.

Transition: The time when a person begins to living as the gender with which they identify rather than the gender they were assigned at birth, which often includes changing one’s first name and dressing and grooming differently. Transitioning may or may not also include medical and legal aspects, including taking hormones, having surgery, or changing identity documents (e.g. driver’s license, Social Security record) to reflect one’s gender identity. Medical and legal steps are often difficult for people to afford.

Intersex: A term used for people who are born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome pattern that does not seem to fit typical definitions of male or female. Intersex conditions are also known as differences of sex development (DSD). Drag Queen: Used to refer to male performers who dress as women for the purpose of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events. It is also sometimes used in a derogatory manner to refer to transgender women.

Drag King: Used to refer to female performers who dress as men for the purposes of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events.

PrideFest Video from 2014 (In Case You Missed It)

PrideFest 2014 Norfolk, Virginia – August 23, 2014 by Hampton Roads Pride

26th Annual Festival – Norfolk’s Town Point Park

Presenting Sponsors: Decorum Furniture, Absolut Vodka

Video Credits:

Editor: Danny Epperson

Videographer: Neil Grochmal

Music: “Pride” by Cher

Thank you for your support!