PFLAG panel educates students on LGBT issues

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) members educated students on the social acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people Thursday afternoon in the student lounge at Saddleback College.

PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. It has celebrated diversity and equality through education and advocacy, working to create a place where young people are not afraid or discriminated by their gender and sexual orientation.

Members Michelle Enfield, Julie Nemecek and Rick Walther spoke about their individual battles with discrimination and how to help a friend or family member in need.

“Walking into this panel I thought we were going to learn about gay and lesbian people in a different way,” Todd Brunell, a 23-year-old- architect major said. “Instead, I learned how to raise my voice to stop hate and how to be an ally to those in need.”

Julie Nemecek, PFLAG National Board Member, came out as a lesbian when she was about 19 years old and had always envisioned herself as Harriet the Spy. Today she is in a happy partnership that she hopes will be accepted and that government and politics will stay out of people’s personal business.

“No one’s asking you to approve our lifestyle at the core. I’m not here to prove a point,” Nemecek said. “I would like acceptance, but I don’t think my happiness and my life should be able to be voted on.”

Enfield feels similarly about voting rights and being able to marry, but her situation is different. Being a transgender woman has turned heads and posed obstacles for her and her wife. This, or any other panel, is the only circumstance she would identify herself as transgender, because outside of that she is a woman.

According to Enfield, a PFLAG board member, gender identity is about your identity. Being a lesbian or gay is about who you are attracted to.

“I was a man, but my brain was wired female,” Enfield said.

About 32 years ago, transgender was not something common to be said, heard or seen. Enfield said she felt alone until she met the love of her life who was the only one who did not run away. The $30,000 transition was a process that included 18 months of estrogen pills and hormone blockers.

“The only choice I had was whether or not to stay alive and to stay alive I chose to make that transition,” Enfield said.

PFLAG member Rick Walther explained that people who lose respect and control are the one’s afraid of change and acceptance. He also said that for those who practice a different way of life should not be judged or discriminated.

“For me personally, I will never find anyone intolerable,” Walther said. “What I found is I may not agree with you or like your lifestyle, but that’s just me and that’s just you.”

According to Walther, your core values say, “I will not do this,” you will be guided by your core values. If you are struggling to come out of the closet, ease your way out by commenting on a certain show, topic or something in the media to ease your way into it. We all do it exactly at the same time; when we’re ready. Whatever you are afraid of will finally be passed as soon as it’s your time.

For those who know a LGBT person, show that you are a trusted ally through support, love, care and try to find your own creative ways.