PFLAG panel opens LGBTQ discussion on campus

Panelists Rick Clemons, Angie Hendrix, Michelle Evans, and Lisa Richardson celebrate a successful panel. (Kseniya Taranyuk/ Lariat)

Panelists Rick Clemons, Angie Hendrix, Michelle Evans, and Lisa Richardson celebrate a successful panel. (Kseniya Taranyuk/ Lariat)

The sociology department held a PFLAG Speaker Panel which provided dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity on Thursday in SSC 212. Lisa Richardson, Michelle Evans, Rick Clemons and Angie Hendrix made up the panel telling their own stories and answering any questions students had.

“I thought this is great,” panelist Lisa Richardson said. “I can go and learn more about the LGBTQ community so that I can better support my son because I knew so little I could better educate myself.”

PLAG stands for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and has been providing support, education and advocacy for over 40 years to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“They were talking about gender fluidity and I had never heard of that before,” said panelist Michelle Evans. “And for me to find out that you know transgendered doesn’t just mean male female and that’s it but we can have fluidity.”

The speakers panel began with each panelist telling their own personal stories and experiences followed by opening the floor to all and any questions students had. Some speakers spoke about accepting people into their own lives and other spoke just about accepting themselves.

“In our classes we’re always talking about it,” said Sociology Department Chair Allison Camelot. “And for students to actually hear people’s stories it brings all that information to light.”

Lisa Richardson was a panelist representing a mother whose son came out as gay and Michelle Evans represented and talked about her life as a transgender woman. Angie Hendrix spoke about her family and being a part of the lesbian community and Rick Clemons spoke about when he first realized he was gay.

“I’m actually also an elementary school teacher,” Richardson said. “And by educating myself about the community and the difficulties that people in that community are experiencing in classrooms and elsewhere, it totally changed the way I run my classroom.”

Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. PFLAG has over 400 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities and rural areas in all 50 states.

Advocacy is an important part of the work done by the PFLAG members and supporters, working for LGBTQ equality through changing not only hearts and minds, but laws. PFLAG’s next events include Cocktails & Conversation: PFLAG National in Palm Springs and the Annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala.