LGBT Liaison Officers Appointed at Police Departments in All Seven Hampton Roads Cities

NORFOLK With the appointment of Sergeant Jessica Pennington as the LGBT Liaison Officer for the Newport News Police Department, Hampton Roads Pride is delighted to announce that LGBT Liaison Officers have been appointed in all of the seven major Hampton Roads cities. 

The relationship between the LGBT community and law enforcement is rapidly evolving in response to changing laws, policies, and social perceptions about people who identify as LGBT.  Hampton Roads Pride and regional law enforcement agencies are taking pro-active steps to enhance our relationship and to establish a meaningful, ongoing dialogue so that we may better serve our community.

Hampton Roads Pride has advocated for the appointment of LGBT Liaison Officers in local police agencies since Norfolk Police Department created the first program in August of 2015.  Hampton Roads Pride, in cooperation with our local, state, and federal partners, has played a critical, coordinating role in advocating for, establishing, and supporting these important positions.

In January, Hampton Roads Pride and WHRO presented a community Town Hall conversation at the Chrysler Museum of Art.  Over 300 people attended “Law Enforcement, Rights, and Safety” where members of the community and law enforcement professionals gathered to help establish and enhance vital bridges of trust and understanding. 

The specific responsibilities of LGBT Liaison Officers vary from agency to agency, but some responsibilities include: 

  • Serve as both a spokesperson for the organization to a local LGBT demographics as well as a representative of LGBT interests to the leaders of the organization. LGBT liaisons typically play an advisory role to organizations or government branches.
  • Promote equity and inclusion in the workplace, which can enhance an agency’s ability to attract and retain the brightest talent.
  • Liaison officers, who typically oversee diversity training on sexual orientation, attend special events and generally function as go-betweens, are viewed as critical to bridging the historically deep divide between the LGBT community and law enforcement
  • Help to build mutual trust, respect, and understanding
  • Break down barriers and preconceived ideas that both sides have of each other.  Officers serve not just as an asset for the LGBT community but also as a resource for fellow officers if they have questions or concerns about how to deal with different situations they may face.
  • Assist, advise, and consult other officers on cases involving LGBT issues
  • Provide training for members of the department on LGBT topics
  • Meet with business owners, community groups, and individuals of the LGBT community and present information on relevant law enforcement issues
  • Attend events in the LGBT community as a representative of the agency
  • Identify and attend training related to LGBT topics

Hampton Roads Pride president Michael Berlucchi: “We are grateful that every municipal police department in Hampton Roads has appointed an LGBT Liaison Officer.  Hampton Roads Pride is encouraged by the law enforcement community’s affirmative response to the changing social and political landscape for LGBT individuals.  We are committed to working with law enforcement agencies across Hampton Roads to do our part to ensure that everyone in our community is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.  I believe that Hampton Roads will become safer and more equitable place to live and work as a result of the historic appointment of LGBT Liaison Officers across all Seven Cities.  This is a positive step forward for everyone.”

Sergeant Craig Lovelace, LGBT Liaison Officer, Norfolk Police Department: “I see the appointment of LGBT Liaison officers as a cultural shift, both within the police department and within society. The LGBT liaison role is to serve as a bridge between the LGBT community and the police department, helping to build mutual trust, respect, and understanding between the two groups. The liaison officer can advocate for the LGBT community by making sure their concerns are heard by the police department. Also, by ensuring that LGBT people feel safe and protected, particularly when reporting crimes.

Being an openly gay officer gives me credibility within the LGBT community and helps to foster trust with a population that historically has felt mistrust toward law enforcement. An openly gay officer or LGBT ally can say to the LGBT community, this is what the police are saying and this is what it means, and I can say to the police, this is what the community is saying and this is what it means.

The appointment by police departments of liaison officers for the LGBT community can greatly assist with the department’s progression and support of the LGBT community and thus build a stronger bridge of communication between the two groups, thus enhance police legitimacy within the greater LGBT community and society in general.”

Sergeant Michele “Shelly” Meister, LGBT Liaison Officer, Virginia Beach Police Department: “Liaison positions are incredibly important for public service organizations, regardless of the focus group. Liaison positions can be temporary to serve an immediate purpose for a specific event, or have a long-term vision to support greater goals. The LGBT law enforcement liaison position is incredibly important because there is a historical mistrust for law enforcement rooted in the LGBT community and conversely there has been a lack of understanding from law enforcement. As the Virginia Beach Police Department’s LGBT liaison, I have had the opportunity to bridge this divide and bring clarity and trust to both sides. Law Enforcement LGBT liaisons lend legitimacy to the conveyance of information through their positions, and can provide anecdotal experiences for real-life situations; this level of knowledge cannot be achieved through academic review but only through personal connections and community involvement, which is the hallmark of Community Oriented Policing. This country has a long history of using laws and police to further marginalize the LGBT community, however, the law enforcement profession has expended great effort to extinguish discriminatory practices, and the appointment of LGBT liaisons into police departments just solidifies this philosophy.”

Captain Kenneth W. Saucer, LGBT Liaison Officer, Portsmouth Police Department: “The Portsmouth Police Department is dedicated to the protection and security of all people and, in partnership with our community, to providing quality public safety services while affording dignity and respect to every individual. By endorsing the Portsmouth Police Department’s LGBT Liaison Officer, Hampton Roads Pride has paved the way for the Department to build trust and transparency with the LGBT community that we serve.”

For a complete directory of LGBT Liaison Officers, click here: http://www.hamptonroadspride.org/resources/lgbt-liaison-officers/

2016 Board Nominees Announced

The profiles for the 2016 Board Nominees are now available on HamptonRoadsPride.org. All members of Hampton Roads Pride are invited to read about each of the qualified individuals interested in joining the Board of Directors. All members are eligible to vote on November 7th, 2017 at the November Membership meeting held at WHRO at 5200 Hampton Boulevard in Norfolk.

Check out the Board Nominees now!

2016-18 Board Nomination Form Now Available

Interested in serving on the Hampton Roads Pride Board? Know someone that you would like to nominate? Well, now’s your chance! Download the 16-18 Nomination Form right here and get started today. Completed forms and resumes are due by September 9th, 2016. Submittal instructions are included in the PDF.

Click here to Download the Form

Downtown Norfolk Supports Hampton Roads Pride

The Downtown Norfolk Council (DNC), a proud sponsor of Hampton Roads PrideFest 2016, has reached out to businesses in Downtown Norfolk to get them engaged in PrideFest. These businesses have pledged their support for Hampton Roads Pride and will be running specials and showing their support for the LGBT community in Hampton Roads and around the world. Please support the businesses that support you!

  • Barrel Room
  • Brick Anchor
  • Field Guide
  • Freemason Abbey
  • Granby Social Club
  • Granby Street Pizza
  • Green House Kitchen
  • Grilled Cheese Bistro
  • Groove Record Shop
  • Hells Kitchen
  • Kellam Galleries
  • Lamias Crepes
  • Saint Germain
  • Salon Fringe [20% off any service to any persons that are wearing any rainbow or equality item]
  • Todd Jurich’s
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Voila!  [special cocktail & menu item]
  • Work Release [flying rainbow flag on the building; offering pride-friendly programming all weekend; discounts on food; pride cocktails]

Hampton Roads Pride President Statement on Security at PrideFest in Wake of Orlando Tragedy

Hampton Roads Pride’s President, Michael Berlucchi, today released a statement about the security for PrideFest this weekend in the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando:

The tragic events at Pulse nightclub in Orlando remind us that our community’s efforts to advance justice and equality are as important now as they ever have been. Hampton Roads Pride is committed to successfully executing PrideFest 2016, even in the face of hate and terror.

Our plans for the Fifth Annual Pride Block Party and PrideFest 2016 go forward. Our community will demonstrate its solidarity with the LGBT community and its commitment to the values we cherish by celebrating together on June 17th & 18th

There has always been a robust, comprehensive security strategy for our PrideFest events. As a result of the heartbreaking events in Orlando, Hampton Roads Pride is working closely with the Norfolk Police Department as well as state and federal agencies to support the safety of our events.

Fifth Annual Pride Block Party
Friday, June 17
Norfolk Scope Arena
7pm-Midnight

 

PrideFest 2016
Saturday, June 18
Town Point Park
Noon-7pm

PrideFest Returns June 18 to Town Point Park

Hampton Roads Pride welcomes the LGBT community, its supporters and all of Hampton Roads and beyond to the 2016 PrideFest June 18 in downtown Norfolk.

The popular festival, with its “Love Unites” theme, will host two international headliners, pop sensation Betty Who and country singer Billy Gilman. Military music, family fun and LGBTQ history activities, the nation’s only Pride Boat Parade and other events will fill the day in Norfolk’s Town Point Park.

“PrideFest 2016 is shaping up to be the largest and most impactful LGBT community event Hampton Roads has ever seen,” said Michael Berlucchi, president of Hampton Roads Pride. “The festival and surrounding events are meant to raise visibility around our region’s LGBT and allied communities. It also gives us a chance to celebrate what makes us special and unique.”

Pride Week begins June 11 with a week of related activities (see schedule below) that includes a glass-blowing demonstration, gallery talk, interfaith service, and two social networking events. The weekend kicks off with the huge Fifth Annual Pride Block Party June 17 in Norfolk Scope Arena.

Now in its 28th year, PrideFest joins other LGBT festivals taking place during June, which is Pride Month, and is Norfolk’s largest one-day festival. Popular club performer Mercedes Douglas is this year’s Grand Marshal, and the Pride Stage emcees will be headed up by WTKR News Anchor Blaine Stewart. Among the honorary guests attending will be state senators and representatives, Hampton Roads mayors and council members.

Joining the flotilla of flag-draped boats in the Pride Boat Parade that begins the day will be the American Rover and a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. The festival will feature appearances and performances by the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard, U.S. Army TRADOC Band’s “Shore Groove” rock band, Hampton Roads Pride Mass Choir, Teens with a Purpose, Miss Models Inc., Virginia Opera and Todd Rosenlieb Dance. Club Stage will showcase local DJs and club performers throughout the day.

A family fun area will offer acrobats, face-painting and the Silent Disco, where listeners can tap into three different music tracks on multiple headsets. Pieces of the AIDS quilt will be on display, and the Hampton Roads Pride area will offer a local history tour. American Sign Language interpreters will be on hand for Pride Stage events.

This year, PrideFest will award three student scholarships, one named in honor of slain Bangladeshi activist Xulhaz Mannan.

“Across the country, LGBT people are experiencing unprecedented social and political successes,” said Berlucchi. “Despite the tremendous progress we’ve made, we also know that we have a long way to go before we achieve full equality. PrideFest organizes our community in an effort to advance that goal.”

2016 PrideFest principal sponsors include Decorum Furniture, Newport News Shipbuilding and WHRO with additional main support from Distinctive Event Rentals, Visit Norfolk and others.

More information is available online at www.hamptonroadspride.org.

For press inquiries, contact David Nicholson at media@hamptonroadspride.org.

The performers

Betty Who ‘s high-energy dance style and poignant lyrics have made the Australian-born singer a favorite among the LGBT community. She’ll perform “Somebody Loves You” and other songs from her RCA Records release, “Take Me When You Go.”

Billy Gilman had a million-selling album at age 12, making him the youngest singer to have a Top 40 hit on the country music charts. Now in his late 20s, Gilman made headlines two years ago when he announced he was gay in an emotional YouTube video.

Pride Week schedule

Saturday, June 11

Fired Up! For PrideFest. Noon. Chrysler Museum Glass Studio, 745 Duke St., Norfolk. Pride-themed glass-blowing demonstration. Free.

Special Gallery Talk: LGBT. 2 p.m. Chrysler Museum of Art, One Memorial Place, Norfolk. Join Chief Curator Emeritus Jeff Harrison for a tour of LGBT-themed art in the museum collection. Free.

Tuesday, June 14

Interfaith Celebration. 7 p.m. Temple Ohef Sholom, 530 Raleigh Ave., Norfolk. Sponsored by the LGBTQSI Inter-Faith Group. Free.

Wednesday, June 15

Party on the Peninsula. 5 to 7 p.m. Crowne Plaza Hampton Marina Hotel, 700 Settlers Landing Road, Hampton. This rain or shine event features a live band. Free.

Thursday, June 16

The Dandy Shandy. 6 p.m. O’Connor Brewing Co., 211 W. 24th St., Norfolk. Sponsored with the Hampton Roads Business OUTReach networking group, the evening will feature a signature Pride brew, 8 p.m. drag show, food trucks and more. Free.

Friday, June 17

Pride Block Party. 7 p.m. to midnight. Norfolk Scope Arena. 201 E. Brambleton Ave., Norfolk. Featuring DJ Tezrah, craft cocktails and more. Open to all (age 21 and up to drink). $10 donation at the door.

Saturday, June 18

PrideFest. Noon to 7 p.m. Town Point Park, downtown Norfolk. Featuring musical performances by Betty Who, Billy Gilman and others. Plus Pride Boat Parade, Club Stage with local DJs and club performers, Family Fun area, and Hampton Roads’ LGBT History Exhibit. Free.

Sunday, June 19

“Drag Yourself to the Beach.” 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Croc’s 19th Street Bistro. 620 19th St., Virginia Beach. Sunday Drag Brunch. Reservations needed, 757-428-5444 or online at www.dragyourselftobrunch.com.

Hampton Roads Pride scholarship to honor slain LGBT leader

From The Daily Press, May 5, 2016

Hampton Roads Pride will award one of its scholarships this year to honor the life and legacy of Xulhaz Mannan.  This scholarship will be awarded at PrideFest 2016 at Town Point Park June 18.

On April 25, Xulhaz Mannan and his close friend were murdered in Dakar, Bangladesh.  A group of armed assailants linked to Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.

Mannan worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development and was the editor of Roopbaan, the country’s only LGBT magazine, and had helped organize a rally for LGBT youths called The Rainbow Rally on April 14, the Bengali New Year.  According to the Associated Press, the men were targeted because they were “pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality.”

“He was the kind of person willing to fight for what he believed in, someone ready to stand up for his own rights and the rights of others,” USAID Administrator Gayle Smith said in a statement.

This gruesome tragedy highlights the treacherous global landscape for LGBT people and the deadly threats faced by those who have the courage to come out in repressed societies and cultures.

Much of Mannan’s family lives in Virginia Beach, including his nephew, Raj Islam.  Raj Islam is a Captain with Virginia Beach Emergency Medical Services and an appointed member of the City of Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission.  Much like his uncle, Raj Islam is a passionate advocate for justice, equality, and human rights in his community, including LGBT equality.  Raj Islam and his wife Korinne are PrideFest 2016 supporters and donors.

Hampton Roads Pride president Michael Berlucchi said, “This tragic news hit us hard and we felt strongly we needed to respond with something positive in the face of this injustice, however small it might be in comparison.  Hampton Roads Pride is involved in much of the same advocacy work as Mr. Mannan.  It’s terrifying to know that simply being an authentic person and an advocate for equality could have deadly consequences.”

Dr. Charles Ford, co-chairman of Hampton Roads Pride’s Scholarship Committee said this action would demonstrate “solidarity with our brothers/sisters in Islamic and Asian countries where LGBT folks are being killed for being who they are. This is an appropriate recognition of a martyr in that struggle for equality before the law.”

The NPR program, HearSay with Cathy Lewis, featured this story which included a conversation with Islam and Berlucchi.  http://hearsay.org/2016/05/02/default.aspx

Follow the Daily Press on Twitter @Daily_Press.

PrideFest 2015 News Release

5200 Hampton Blvd, Norfolk, VA 23508

Facebook: hamptonroadspride | twitter @hrprideva | instagram hamptonroadspride

www.HamptonRoadsPride.org

Media Contact: Danny Epperson, 757-889-9101, danny@hamptonroadspride.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA AVAILABILITY & PHOTO/VIDEO OPPORTUNITY

HAMPTON ROADS PRIDE Presents PRIDEFEST 2015 – June 26-27, 2015

Grand Marshal, Thomas Roberts of MSNBC & Music Headliner, En Vogue

Hampton Roads Pride, Hampton Roads Proud

On the verge of a major decision on Marriage Equality in the United States, this celebration offers stunning visuals and colorful interviews for the media with the local LGBT community & its supporters.

June 16, 2015, Norfolk, Virginia — Hampton Roads Pride (HRP) is proud to announce PrideFest 2015 will take place on June 27, 2015 from Noon to 7pm in Norfolk. This will be the festival’s twenty-seventh year in the region and the city’s largest one-day festival at Hampton Roads’ premier outdoor festival venue, Town Point Park. The fest is funded by generous supporters and donors.

PrideFest 2015 is FREE for all ages and open to the public. The family-friendly festival features the nation’s only Pride boat parade, which runs along the Elizabeth River between Norfolk and Portsmouth. This year, along with the American Rover, it features a U.S. Coast Guard boat with our Grand Marshal, MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts.  Kicking off PrideFest 2015 is the 4th Annual Block Party, on Friday, June 26, 2015 from 7pm-midnight.

PrideFest 2015 Headliners

En Vogue – (Music Headliner) The Grammy-nominated female R&B vocal group has sold more than 20-million records. Currently comprised of Cindy Herron-Braggs, Terry Ellis, and Rhona Bennett, En Vogue formed in 1989 in Oakland and scored a number of hits in the 1990s including “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” “Free Your Mind” and “Whatta Man.” Contact HRP for interviews.

Thomas Roberts – (Grand Marshal) The award-winning news anchor hosts “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” Monday through Friday, from 1pm-3pm Eastern. The program brings viewers the latest breaking news stories as well as details on the biggest stories of the day, the latest political developments, and stories of equality and human rights.

Kristin Beck – (speaker) Born Christopher Beck, she is a former United States Navy SEAL who gained public attention in 2013 when she came out as a trans woman. Beck published her memoir, “Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming out Transgender,” having served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years. She is the first openly transgender former U.S. Navy SEAL.

DJP and MrT – (Opening Music for En Vogue) The electropop band from Norfolk is described as “a classy bunch of elegant pop alchemists.”  The band released their first full length album in 2013, “Otolith,” – “ambitious, tuneful and gloriously weird. The band updates Thomas Dolby and Soft Cell textures and twists them into something that’s addictive.” – Daily Press

Hampton Roads Pride is a 501(c)3 non-profit, community-based organization incorporated in 1997.

PrideStage special guests include Virginia’s Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, Congressman Bobby Scott, Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, and other city and community leaders.

Hampton Roads Pride is very proud to announce this year’s opening musical performance at PrideFest by U.S. Navy’s Fleet Forces Band “Four Star Edition” along with the U.S. Marine Color Guard!

Festival Fun

Pride Boat Parade

Club PrideFest

DJs & Drag Performances

Live Opera!

Family Fun & Games Park

Circus Acts & Aerial Acrobats

Local Food Trucks & Vendors

Educational Experiences

LGBT History Project Exhibit & City Tour

The AIDS Memorial Quilt – The NAMES Project Foundation

Equality Advocates & Allies Area

Virginia Aquarium LIVE! Touch Tank

Chrysler Museum Mobile Glass Studio

Virginia LOVEworks display

Accessible to All – American Sign Language Interpretation Provided

PrideStage Schedule

Noon National Anthem/ U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Band/U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard

Noon Pride Boat Parade (dockside)

12:30 U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Band

1:30 Honored Guests & Scholarship Awards

1:45 Diana Ross, Queen Emeritus Performance

2:00 Hampton Roads Men’s Chorus

2:15 Todd Rosenlieb Dance, Featuring Kiara

2:30 Virginia Opera

3:00 Mercedes Douglas

3:15 Thomas Roberts

3:30 Kristin Beck

3:45 HR Pride Special Presentations

4:00 DJP & MrT

4:45 Presenting Sponsors – Decorum Furniture & WHRO Public Media

5:00 En Vogue

PrideFest 2015 in Norfolk is the culmination of a full week of Hampton Roads Pride official events across Hampton Roads known as PrideWeek. 

PrideWeek Events

Sunday, June 21 – Pride Bar Kickoff – Various LGBT businesses around Hampton Roads

Monday, June 22 – Outdoor Movie Screening – “Pride” – Hermitage Museum & Gardens – 8pm

Tuesday, June 23 – Interfaith Celebration – Ohef Sholom Temple – 7pm

Wednesday, June 24 – Pride Party on the Peninsula – Crowne Plaza Hampton – 6:30pm

Thursday, June 25 – HRBOR – Taste the Rainbow – O’Connor Brewing Co. – 6pm

Friday, June 26 – Pride Block Party – Behind Decorum Furniture – Norfolk – 7pm–Mid

4th Annual Pride Block Party – BIGGER THAN EVER!

Now in its fourth year, this premiere party has grown to a crowd of thousands.  One night each summer, Hampton Roads gathers to groove to progress in style at the Pride Block Party.  HRP asks the community to be a part of the positivity as we celebrate unity, equality, and oneness.  The PBP is the nighttime component to PrideFest 2015.  From laser light displays, fire-eaters, music, dancing, DJs, delicious eats, and craft cocktails, the PBP is THE party of the summer in Hampton Roads. It’s located directly behind Decorum Furniture on 21st Street in Norfolk. Doors open at 7pm and the celebration wraps up at midnight.  $10 donation at the door.  All ages welcome.  21+ to drink.

PrideFest 2015 Theme:  Hampton Roads Pride, Hampton Roads Proud

“Hampton Roads Pride, Hampton Roads Proud” isn’t just an expression of accomplishment for progress made in Hampton Roads with regard to the LGBT community, but also, more than ever, the LGBT community is proud of and proud to be in Hampton Roads.  It reflects HRP’s success in its mission to instill pride through promoting education of LGBT issues to our community and providing scholarship awards for its LGBT members; showing compassion for others and being free to love who you want to love; and encouraging all individuals to stand up and be proud of who they are, no matter their sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or creed.

A Message From HRP’s President

“The show of support for the LGBT community by small and large, local and national businesses, elected officials from local, state, and national levels, the faith community, arts and cultural institutions, and the United States military at Hampton Roads Pride’s PrideFest 2015 is unprecedented,” said John Osterhout, President of Hampton Roads Pride.  “For those in attendance, it will be clear that this year’s theme ‘Hampton Roads Pride, Hampton Roads Proud’ signifies how great it is to be LGBT in the heart of Southeastern Virginia.”

The Pending Ruling by the SCOTUS on Marriage Equality

The United States Supreme Court is set to make a landmark decision that would legalize same-sex marriage across the country.  The case, Obergefell v. Hodges, will decide whether states must constitutionally issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and whether they must legally recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.  If the U.S. Supreme Court votes in favor, it will overturn same-sex marriage bans currently in 13 states.  Hampton Roads Pride stands ready to respond to this eagerly-awaited decision.

For more information on HRP and all the events, visit our website www.hamptonroadspride.org.

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 – http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/marwencol/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.