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November 2014 PFLAG Buffalo Niagara

Buffalo / Niagara
PO Box 617
Buffalo, NY 14207


We meet because we
have learned that
someone very close to
us is Gay, Lesbian,
Bisexual, or

We try to help one
another deal with this
information in a
positive manner.

Although we do not
agree at all times, we
try to be

We offer help to those
who seek it, but do not
force ourselves on

We strive to maintain
anonymity while
sharing on a level that
is comfortable for all of

We encourage all to
attend meetings for
their own benefit as
well as that of the

It is our hope that when
each of us reaches a
point of understanding
and acceptance, we
realize that this is when
others need us the
Monthly Meeting

Linda Drajem, PFLAG parent,
will share her story and
how writing has impacted her life.

November 16, 2014
Kenilworth United Church of Christ
45 Dalton Drive
Tonawanda, New York 14223

Please read one of Lindas blog entries on page 2.

This month the monthly meeting will have a special focus and guest.
However, as always, newcomers and anyone interested will be offered the
alternative of meeting privately with a PFLAG parent.

Kenilworth United Church of Christ is located two blocks west of Niagara
Falls Boulevard at the corner of Decatur Rd and Dalton Dr. Decatur runs
off of Niagara Falls Boulevard about 0.8 miles south of Sheridan Drive and
about 0.8 miles north of Kenmore Ave.

Our monthly meetings are in the library, which is near the parking lot
entrance. The facility is handicap accessible.

New Parents Meetings are scheduled as needed at a location convenient to
those involved. These self-help one-on-one meetings deal with the concerns of
parents and family members who have recently learned that a loved one is gay.

November 2014 Page 2

By Linda Drajem

This is the July entry in Linda Drajems blog that she and her son have created to share their
thoughts across the miles. Linda will be our special guest at our November sharing meeting.
Dear Christopher,
Recently I was making a presentation at a local senior center. The director told me how
offensive she found some words. Of Italian heritage herself, she told of trying to explain to an
80-year-old client that calling someone a Wop was hurtful. I shared with her a story from my
youth when a friend said her mother called my shoemaker grandfather a similar term. (We
were the only Italian family in our neighborhood.) But in a strange aside my friend said to me
that her mother meant no harm. Really!!
It took years for my father to understand that calling one of his buddies at work colored
would be offensive. Recently we see how Donald Sterlings words caused such uproar with his
use of racially charged. Apparently he still does not see how his behavior was
inappropriate. Just recently a video went viral showing a local white mother scream invectives
at an African-American in a minor car incident. The woman was not deterred by the presence of
her young children or even the man saying he was filming the event.
At your house if someone, child or parent, slips and uses a pejorative of any kind that person
has to put a quarter into the piggy bank. Not that anyone uses racial or ethnic putdowns. But
occasionally a mild curse word escapes. What a good way to show the damage of words.
When I supervised student teachers I was appalled at the middle and high school students who
very casually labeled people or experiences as so gay. When I pointed this out to student
teachers they said the kids meant no harm.

Maybe people who may use words that demean others intend no harm. But these words do
cause harm. They first and foremost shut down communication. No one who is being

November 2014 Page 3

demeaned can freely talk. Plus being called names damages self esteem and even may cause

I saw this when I taught high school. Kids were free with calling others fat or retard despite
my best efforts to stop the practice.
Your kids would be hurt or confused it they heard so gay. So would their cousins, but I have
no doubt it has happened already. Your cousin Lillian recently told me of a college classmate
who said many things that were homophobic. She was furious and let him know that. That a
young man who is studying to become a counselor could have such beliefs is upsetting.
Words do matter. One way we see this since the implementation of marriage equality. Since
you and Patrick are now married in your states eyes that has caused a change. Calling him,
the person you love, your husband seems different. It seems as if society is more committed to
protecting your family. And that is no small matter.

By John Pavlovitz

Sometimes I wonder if I'll have gay children.
I'm not sure if other parents think about this, but I do -- quite often.
Maybe it's because I have many gay people in my family and circle of friends. It's in my genes
and in my tribe.
Maybe it's because, as a pastor of students, I've seen and heard the horror stories of gay
Christian kids -- from both inside and outside of the closet -- trying to be part of the Church.
Maybe it's because, as a Christian, I interact with so many people who find homosexuality to be

November 2014 Page 4

the most repulsive thing imaginable, and who make that abundantly clear at every conceivable
For whatever reason, it's something that I ponder frequently. As a pastor and a parent, I
wanted to make some promises to you, and to my two kids right now...
1. If I have gay children, you'll all know it.
My children won't be our family's best kept secret.
I won't talk around them in conversations with others. I won't speak in code or vague
language. I won't try to pull the wool over anyone's eyes, and I won't try to spare the feelings
of those who may be older, or easily offended, or uncomfortable. Childhood is difficult enough,
and most gay kids spend their entire existence being horribly, excruciatingly uncomfortable.
I'm not going to put mine through any more unnecessary discomfort, just to make
Thanksgiving dinner a little easier for a third cousin with misplaced anger issues.
If my children come out, we'll be out as a family.
2. If I have gay children, I'll pray for them.
I won't pray for them to be made "normal". I've lived long enough to know that if my children
are gay, that is their normal.
I won't pray that God will heal or change or fix them. I will pray for God to protect them; from
the ignorance and hatred and violence that the world will throw at them, simply because of
who they are. I'll pray the He shields them from those who will despise them and wish them
harm; who will curse them to Hell and put them through Hell, without ever knowing them at
all. I'll pray that they enjoy life; that they laugh, and dream, and feel, and forgive, and that
they love God and humanity.
Above all, I'll pray to God that my children won't allow the unGodly treatment they might
receive from some of His misguided children, to keep them from pursuing Him.
3. If I have gay children, I'll love them.
I don't mean some token, distant, tolerant love that stays at a safe arm's length. It will be an
extravagant, open-hearted, unapologetic, lavish, embarrassing-them-in-the-school cafeteria,
kind of love.
I won't love them despite their sexuality, and I won't love them because of it. I will love them;
simply because they're sweet, and funny, and caring, and smart, and kind, and stubborn, and
flawed, and original, and beautiful... and mine.
If my kids are gay, they may doubt a million things about themselves and about this world, but
they'll never doubt for a second whether or not their Daddy is over-the-moon crazy about

November 2014 Page 5

4. If I have gay children, most likely, I have gay children.
If my kids are going to be gay, well they pretty much already are.
God has already created them and wired them, and placed the seed of who they are within
them. Psalm 139 says that He, "stitched them together in their mother's womb". The incredibly
intricate stuff that makes them uniquely them; once-in-History souls, has already been
uploaded into their very cells.
Because of that, there isn't a coming deadline on their sexuality that their mother and I are
working feverishly toward. I don't believe there's some magical expiration date approaching, by
which time she and I need to somehow do, or say, or pray just the right things to get them to
"turn straight", or forever lose them to the other side.
They are today, simply a younger version of who they will be -- and today they're pretty darn
Many of you may be offended by all of this, I fully realize. I know this may be
especially true if you are a religious person -- one who finds the whole topic
disgusting or unpleasant.
As you've been reading, you may have been rolling your eyes, or clicking the roof of your
mouth, or drafting familiar Scriptures to send me, or praying for me to repent, or preparing to
Unfriend me, or writing me off as a sinful, evil, Hell-bound heretic... but with as much
gentleness and understanding as I can muster; I really couldn't care less.
This isn't about you. This is a whole lot bigger than you.
You're not the one I waited on breathlessly for nine months.
You're not the one I wept with joy for when you were born.
You're not the one I bathed, and fed, and rocked to sleep through a hundred intimate, midnight
snuggle sessions.
You're not the one I taught to ride a bike, and whose scraped knee I kissed, and whose tiny,
trembling hand I held, while getting stitches.
You're not the one whose head I love to smell, and whose face lights-up when I come home at
night, and whose laughter is like music to my weary soul.
You're not the one who gives my days meaning and purpose, and who I adore more than I ever
thought I could adore anything.
And you're not the one who I'll hopefully be with, when I take my last precious breaths on this
planet; gratefully looking back on a lifetime of shared treasures, and resting in the knowledge
that I loved you well.

November 2014 Page 6

If you're a parent, I don't know how you'll respond if you find out your children are
gay, but I pray you consider it.

One day, despite your perceptions of your kids or how you've parented, you may need to
respond in real-time, to a frightened, frantic, hurting child -- one whose sense of peace, and
identity and acceptance, whose very heart, may be placed in your hands in a way you never
imagined -- and you'll need to respond.
If that day should ever come for me -- if my children should ever come out to me --
this is the Dad I hope I'll be to them.


The award-winning movie, Out in the Silence, was presented by PFLAG Buffalo-Niagara on
October 19 at the Central Library in downtown Buffalo. This screening was in partnership with
the Erie County Librarys annual Time to Stop Bullying month. The documentary film deals
with a teenager being bullied in a small town, Oil City, in Pennsylvania. A former resident, Joe
Wilson who had published his same-sex wedding announcement in his former hometown paper,
returns to meet the young teen at the teens mom request. He documents what is going on in
Oil City and its reaction to these and other issues involving gay and lesbian residents.
PFLAG presented this film free to the public. PFLAG members and others attended the film and
the talkback afterward, facilitated by president Phil Salemi and vice-president Amy Fularz. This
is the second film PFLAG has shown, with last years Bully being the first.

November 2014 Page 7

PFLAG also was there at the opening of the anti-bullying month; on October 3
, board member
Lisbeth Ball shared PFLAG information, brochures, and bookmarks, tabling with other local anti-
bullying and anti-violence groups.
The library had over 20 anti-bullying events in October. PFLAG is glad to be a partner with the
Buffalo and Erie County Library Sytem in this important mission.

By Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press

Omar Akersim prays regularly and observes the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast. He is also openly
Akersim, 26, is part of a small but growing number of American Muslims challenging the long-
standing interpretations of Islam that defined their parents' world. They believe that one can be
gay and Muslim; that the sexes can pray shoulder-to-shoulder; that females can preach and
that Muslim women can marry outside the faith and they point to Quran passages to back
them up.
The shift comes as young American Muslims work to reshape the faith they grew up with so it
fits better with their complex, dual identity, with one foot in the world of their parents'
immigrant beliefs and one foot in the ever-shifting cultural landscape of America. The result
has been a growing internal dialogue about what it means to be Muslim, as well as a scholarly
effort to re-examine the Quran for new interpretations that challenge rules that had seemed set
in stone.
"Islam in America is being forced to kind of change and to reevaluate its positions on things like
homosexuality because of how we're moving forward culturally as a nation. It's striving to

November 2014 Page 8

make itself seen and known in the cultural fabric and to do that, it does have to evolve," said
Akersim, who leads a Los Angeles-based support group for gay Muslims. "Ten or 15 years ago,
this would have been impossible."
The shift doesn't end with breaking obvious taboos, either. Young American Muslims are
making forays into fashion, music (Islamic punk rock, anyone?) and stirring things up with
takes on staples of American pop culture. A recent controversial YouTube video, for example,
shows Muslim hipsters or "Mipsterz" skateboarding in head scarves and skinny jeans as
Jay-Z's "Somewhere in America" blasts in the background.

Nearly 40 percent of the estimated 2.75 million Muslims in the U.S. are American-born and the
number is growing, with the Muslim population skewing younger than the U.S. population at
large, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey.
Advocates for a more tolerant Islam say the constraints on interfaith marriage and
homosexuality aren't in the Quran, but are based on conservative interpretations of Islamic law
that have no place in the U.S. Historically, in many Muslim countries, there are instances of
unsegregated prayers and interfaith marriage.
"I think it's fair to say the traditional Islam that we experienced excluded a lot of Muslims that
were on the margins. I always felt not very welcomed by the type of Islam my parents
practiced," said Tanzila Ahmed, 35, who published an anthology of love stories by Muslim
American women in 2012 called "Love Inshallah."
Many second-generation American Muslims still practice their faith in traditional ways, but
others are starting to see the Islam of their parents as more of a cultural identity, said Dr.
Yvonne Haddad, a Georgetown University professor who has written extensively about Islam's
integration into U.S. society. As a result, there's a new emphasis on meeting for prayer and
socializing in neutral spaces, such as community centers, instead of mosques, and on universal

"Some of them still want a mosque, they still want to belong and to pray and others are
shifting and they are very comfortable being non-religious," Haddad said. "These people feel
that they can get rid of the hang-ups of what the culture has defined as Muslim and maintain
the beliefs and values, the spiritual values, and feel very comfortable by shedding all the other
restrictions that society has put on them."
In Los Angeles, a religious group called Muslims for Progressive Values has been pushing the
boundaries with a female imam who performs same-sex and interfaith marriages, support
groups for gay Muslims and a worship style that includes women giving sermons and men and
women praying together. The group has chapters in half a dozen major U.S. cities and at least
six foreign countries and last year was recognized by the United Nations as an official non-
governmental organization.

November 2014 Page 9

Founder Ani Zonneveld, a Muslim singer and songwriter of Malaysian descent, started the
group in 2007 after she recorded some Islamic pop music that generated a backlash because it
featured a Muslim woman singing.
"For us, the interpretation of Islam is egalitarian values and by egalitarian it's not just words
that we speak. It's practice," she said. "It's freedom of religion and from religion, too."
Akersim, the gay Muslim, knows first-hand how hard this shift will be.
Last year, he fled his parents' home in the middle of the night after they called him at work and
demanded to know when he was going to get married. He stays in touch with his mother, but
hasn't spoken to his father in a year and a half.
Now, he avoids mosques but prays privately. He has no regrets about coming out, he said.
"All these struggles that I've had to endure have only brought me closer to God," Akersim said.
"Within that storm, I feel like I've been able to persevere because of my faith, because of this
strength from God.
PFLAG Buffalo-Niagara Board of Directors

Phil Salemi, President
Amy Fularz, Vice President
Kristian Rickard, Vice President
Brian Carrier, Treasurer
Michele Perry, Secretary
Lisbeth Ball, Director
Ann Carrier, Director
Julie Christiano, Director
Julie Lazzaro Thompson, Director

Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbian and Gays, Buffalo-Niagara, is a non-profit, all volunteer,
community-based organization not affiliated with any ethnic, religious, economic or political group.
Membership is open to all. PFLAG membership lists are kept confidential and mailings are sent in plain

November 2014 Page 10

Please join or rejoin PFLAG Buffalo-Niagara!
Please join our PFLAG chapter to support our mission at whatever level membership you can.

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Donations of $50.00 or more can be included in the chapter newsletter.

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mailing, please note that with your payment.

Make checks payable to PFLAG Buffalo/Niagara and mail to: P.O. Box 617 Buffalo, NY 14207

PFLAG Buffalo/Niagara is a non-profit 501(c)3 and donations are tax-deductible.