A Time of Pride & Joy
By Linda Arnest
I was privileged to be president of the Cincinnati chapter of PFLAG from 2000 to 2003. My parents, Harold and June Delph, were co-presidents and handled many important details for the chapter. Without them, I could not have adequately handled the job. We have many fond memories of those years and the wonderful people we met.
Shortly after becoming president, I attended a PFLAG regional conference where I met Dan Tepford from the Dayton chapter. When I mentioned that Cincinnati didn’t have a web site, Dan, who managed the Dayton site, launched our site within a couple of weeks. Soon after, nearly every membership meeting brought new people to us; people who were struggling to accept a gay loved-one. Thanks to Dan, most of them learned about our chapter via the web site.
After much discussion internally and with GLBT community members, we opened our scholarship program to straight supporters. It took a couple of years before we received the type of applicant we were looking for – a true activist. The first straight supporter scholarship was awarded to a deserving young woman last year and this year we were proud and pleased to see my daughter, Caitlin, receive a PFLAG scholarship in recognition of her work as a straight supporter with GLSEN, the Youth Summit and her high school GSA.
Due to the volunteer efforts of Dan Parsley, our quarterly newsletter was transformed into something our chapter became quite proud of. Dan solicited writers and also wrote a large number of original articles. He included pictures, poems and a “Did You Know” section that kept us informed of little-known GLBT facts. The newsletter became a publication that truly reflected the special nature of our chapter. Dan’s vision is carried on to this day by other devoted PFLAG volunteers.
During our time as president, the chapter embarked on a project to produce an educational video about PFLAG and the Cincinnati chapter. This short film includes interviews with several long-time members of our chapter. Each family talked about their experience as their son, daughter or they themselves came out to their family.
This video was the vision of our current president and my dear friend, Marti Kwiatkowski. Marti wrote a grant proposal and received $5,000 from the Josephine Schnell Russell Charitable Trust for the project. Fortunately, our then treasurer, Joe O’Flynn, was a professional documentary producer. He had the talent and connections to create a very slick production with our very small budget. In fact, he convinced his professional friends [camera and sound by Jim Prues and Kurt Angermeier (Panoptic Media) and editing by Lance Moody] to donate their time to the project. The end result was amazing – beautifully edited to convey a powerful message of love, acceptance and even joy.
The video project was so extensive that, by the time it was finished, Marti had taken over as president. Although I served as co-producer, the real credit goes to Marti and Joe for their vision, creativity and heart.
And then there was our counter-protest. When P&G withdrew their advertising from the Dr. Laura show, the gay community learned that the Reverend Fred Phelps, the anti-gay Baptist minister from Kansas, was coming to protest in downtown Cincinnati in front of P&G headquarters. We had all seen Phelps’ ten-gallon hat and “God Hates Fags” signs, if not in person, on television. The consensus within the community was we had to make a statement.
The GLBT community organized a fundraising event. We all donated P&G products that were distributed between five local not-for-profit organizations. While donations were being collected and a service held in a downtown church, our PFLAG chapter stood on Sycamore Street across from the Fred Phelps group. They held their signs, “AIDS Cures Gays,” and we held our banners “We Love Our Gay Children – We’re Proud of Who You Are.” My daughter, Caitlin, who had neon-blue hair at the time, held a hand-painted sign she made herself that read: “God Loves Everyone, Even Fred Phelps.” We stood with pride in silent opposition to the hate that infiltrated our city that day.
My proudest moment by far, was the 2002 PFLAG banquet when Reverend Dr. Mel White was our keynote speaker. This was a time of great trouble and strife within the local GLBT community. The race riots and the resulting boycott of the city were hot topics. There were those within the community who supported the boycott and others who felt the community should instead stand behind those few city councilmen who were GLBT supportive. Stonewall Cincinnati fell under this divide and the community was depressed and disconnected at a time when we needed to rally and organize our campaign to remove Article XII from the city charter.
Mel White was the healing balm we needed. He and his partner, Gary Nixon, came and stayed with us for several days. Not only did Reverend White deliver a keynote banquet address that had the house on its feet, but he also spoke to the congregation at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, to a group of GLBT supportive ministers, GLBT community leaders and to the congregation at Metropolitan Community Church. His message was simple: “Stand strong and stay the course.” He told us that we were not the only U.S. city to have an Article XII in its charter (an embarrassment to us all); rather, we were the first and that other cities would follow. He said we were ground-breakers who would ultimately show other GLBT communities how to overcome such discrimination.
Not only did Mel calm our hearts and bring a few tears to our eyes, he also raised more money for the PFLAG scholarship fund than we had ever before procured with our scholarship banquet.
We lost my dear brother, Paul Delph, to AIDS in 1996. A testament to the remarkable person Paul was are the three generations of gay rights activists in our family today. Our years as PFLAG Cincinnati president and all of the work my family continues to do is done in Paul’s memory. It gives us some peace with his loss and hope for a better future for GLBT people everywhere.