STOP... LOOK... LISTEN... & FEEL... and you will change our world!
Remember the words of Anais Nin...
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.
In the March 30, 2006, PFLAG Newsletter
A Message from PFLAG's Executive Director, Jody M. Huckaby
Gay Into Straight America Visits PFLAG National
The PFLAG National staff was honored with a visit this week from Dotti Berry, Roby Sapp and Rylee Joy at our office here in DC. This incredible couple and their wonderful standard poodle have embarked on a remarkable journey called “Gay Into Straight America.”
What we thought would be a quick lunch meeting turned into a three-hour conversation with them about their extraordinary yet simple journey to “engage hearts and minds, create authentic connections, and dissolve differences that separate us.” They have taken their purple, sign-covered SUV across the country on a year-long mission, making stops in hundreds of towns to engage people in honest conversations. They want these conversations – whether at rest-stops, restaurants, meeting halls or shopping malls – to help create a better understanding about GLBT people from their unique perspectives as loving, faith-filled, family- focused people who have taken up a line from their marriage vows – “We vow to change the world through the expression of our love” – as their motto.
Dotti, Roby and Rylee have visited over 25 PFLAG chapters since their journey began and they have been creating quite a buzz. Of course, PFLAGers know the power of telling personal stories. Our members truly understand how hearts can be moved and minds can be enlightened when we share honestly about who we are, about our GLBT loved ones, and why our own journeys will be less complete until full equality for all people becomes a reality.
This trio, however, also offers a challenge: How can we ask others to take risks we are unwilling to take ourselves? How can we ask policy makers, for example, to champion our issues if we are afraid or unwilling to champion them among our families, neighbors and friends? Their point is that we are all responsible for bringing about the change we want to see in the world and it starts with our own circle of relationships – and working past our fears to have those authentic connections by sharing our personal truths. It is a simple but profound challenge.
-- Patti Artavia from Houston, Texas- a Mom who loves her kids...
I was inspired by your story. My daughter is lesbian and came out to me several years ago. She is in a wonderful relationship with a woman i love and have accepted into my family. They are both school teachers in Austin, Texas. Just this week, My 21 year old son also came out to me. He is a college student in California. Both of my children are wonderful, caring, loving and giving people and it saddens me that they are not accepted by much of the community and even, much of the family. When my daughter came out to her father, he practically disowned her. My son wont come out for the same fear. I just wanted to applaud you and your partner for paving the way to stop injustice against these precious members of our society. I would love to be involved in some way.
Thanks, Patti Artavia
--Beverly Yuodelis, youth ally (did her senior project on a "Safe Spaces" Training at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA)
"Hearing Dotti and Roby speak at the Bellingham PFLAG meeting about their journey was such an affirmation of the power of love to engage hearts and minds. When they spoke about the importance of gays and lesbians to "live authentically," I realized that I also need to live authentically as a straight ally. Right now I'm working on a training that will help the school community learn how to be allies for LGBT Youth. But I haven't been doing such a good job in engaging my family's hearts and minds about the work that I'm doing. Dotti and Roby have inspired me to work on changing that. I think every straight ally should be proud to stand with our LGBT friends and neighbors and work for change."
--Sarabrynn Hudgins, Secretary of Pride Alliance, a Georgia Tech gay/straight student organization and Chairperson Day of Silence, 2006
"Dotti and Roby spoke at our Day of Silence event, which emphasized the metaphorical silence imposed on GLBT people and the significance of breaking that silence. They told us incredible stories about the discrimination- and the phenomenal changes- they encountered along their journey. Our Day of Silence participants were awed by their wisdom and humor. Their optimism, perseverance and graciousness invigorate GLBT activists trying to make a difference. They break the silence every day, and help others to follow in their path."
--Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexho
"Sharing experiences from their year long journey, Gay Into Straight America, Dotti Berry and Robynne Sapp offer fresh insight that can help people inside corporate America move toward a more diverse culture inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. Their desire to inspire their own community to live more authentically within the corporate environment offers the best bridge for creating a greater understanding."
--Jamie Moore & Jeremy; Shakopee, MN (a gay couple)
Dotti and Roby inspired my partner, Jeremy, and me in so many wonderful ways! We met them during their journey, and within a period of only one weekend, we changed the way we live. We have learned that the best way to help break down barriers between the gay community and those who don't accept us, is to develop and build up strong positive relationships with those who might otherwise turn away because of fear. Showing through example, that our lives are completely normal, and really no different from anyone else, has worked wonders. The biggest change is when we are introducing each other to people, whether it is at church (St. Victoria Catholic in Victoria, MN, where I am Director of Music and Liturgy), or anywhere else. We now introduce each other as "partner" rather than friend, or simply by using our names. We have YET to encounter a negative situation with this approach, and we have felt more weight being lifted off our shoulders each time this happens, We have been blessed to have Dotti and Roby AND Rylee Joy come into our lives.
Your bumper sticker flashed on the freeway in Phoenix a few years back, and I had to Google you two! Today I came across the Focus on the Facts video on YouTube about the sit in the two of you did at Focus on the Family. I felt I must write you.
I spent the last two weeks with Soulforce Q’s Right to Marry Arizona Campaign, which brought awareness to ballot initiative Prop 102. These kids walked 96 miles in August in the Phoenix heat to bring attention to the inherent rights of LGBT people. Only joining in long enough to walk three of those miles myself, I spent most of my time cookingthem brownies and teaching them how to two step. :-) I absolutely love these young people and what Soulforce is doing here in my hometown and across the globe.
I was not aware that the two of you were connected with Soulforce. I want to thank you both from the bottom of my heart for spending the time, energy, and love to sit in at the Focus on the Family building to defend and protect the dignity of people like me.
I spent two years living in my first home with my partner, next door to a racist homophobic family who threatened us so many times that I lived daily in fear of him, his three sons, and two grandchildren. My house was spray painted more than 18 times. I use to get in my car for work every morning with my garage door still shut, until I had double locked my house door and then my car door once safely inside. I was terrified to be who I was and I had no sense of safety.
Thank you for opening up dialogue. It is through continual love and support towards those who oppose me that I am able to move forward. I find myself feeling safer and more inspired than ever before.
I find your act of civil disobedience groundbreaking. Thank you for having the courage to support the voice, rights and inherent worth of a gay woman like me. Thank you for telling Focus on the Family that hate speech and untruths are not acceptable, and impact the lives and families of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Thank you, Melissa
--Dave VanderPol, publisher of The Letter, publication that goes to 7 states. He chose Dotti & Roby for the cover and feature article of the January, 2007, magazine. (www.TheLetterOnline.com)
“I have been inspired ever since you spoke at the Louisville PFLAG meeting...I have kept your Stand UP Speak Out Wind Changer handout on my desk. Of all the PLFAG meetings I attended last year, your meeting was the most inspirational for me. We had several good speakers, but yours was the most inspiring."
Mayor Tom Potter in Portland, Oregon
sporting his GISA rainbow wristband
(click on above link to video from PFLAG NW Conference
and listen to what he says)
Ariane Kurita, PFLAG Mom & President of Bellevue PFLAG
Dear Dotti, Roby and Rylee Joy,
Thank you so very much for sharing your incredible journey of "Gay into Straight America". I know that all of us were moved by your stories...but I was truly impacted by your courage. You both have done something that many think about doing-sitting in their cozy chairs at home-but you actually did it! As a parent, I thank you for opening up the hearts and minds of America.
Blessings and love, Ariane Kurita and all of Bellevue PFLAG
We are encouraged by the words of our new friends across America, who wrote at the end of our journey. We know that together, we can be more courageous than we ever dreamed possible! We plan to continue encouaraging ourselves and others with our wedding vow, "I come to you with an open our heart and vow to change the world through the expression of our love."
(L-R) Roby, Dotti, Gary & Dean
Good Morning Dotti and Roby,
What a landmark day this is for you today. It is also a landmark day today for those of us you have so deeply touched and empowered with your year long journey of faith, courage and determination to engage hearts and minds everywhere you travel. Your demeanor, presence and ability to put yourselves "on the line" every moment of every day and allow everyone to see that GLBT folks are not freaks or people outside the mainstream of life, has served as a BEACON OF LIGHT for us to model.
Gary and I continue to adopt your method of "being present" with people and we try to be genuine and honest at every point as to who and what we are. One of the psychologists in town related to me that a woman on the MacNider Art Museum Film Comm. with me told him that, "Dean, refers to Gary as his HUSBAND." She told him that she was cool with that, but it was the first time she had ever heard a same-sex couple refer to their partner as husband. More and more, I do think it is so important for us to live as Mary Albing , lesbian pastor in Minneapolis stated, "show up and just act like you belong." The more we speak among our community unashamedly in terms that "they all" use, the more other people who meet us will understand that we can and do belong as equal members of this community and society.
So on this anniversary and conclusion of your travels with GISA, Gary and I want to thank you and congratulate you on being great role models for us all and truly making a difference all over this country for helping people to understand the importance of civil rights for the GLBT community.
Our Love, admiration, and appreciation,
Dean Genth and Gary Swenson
We replied to Dean and Gary, "We are so blessed to have touched so many lives....and WE are so blessed to have been touched and transformed by our interactions with so many, like yourselves. We will NEVER be the same!"
From Jeannine in California (While we were recently home for a night in Blaine, we received this note)
Hi you two!! Happy Birthday Dotti and welcome home!! Loved the ring Roby gave you, Dotti. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed going along with you on your journey and at the same time looking at the picture of the three of us on my office wall.
I truly think your journey has been blessed by God because it was a safe and successfl trip and so much good has been accomplished along the way. You have succeeded in opening closed minds and educating those who were borderline. I feel honored to have met you and will always consider you my good friend.
Love to you both, "J" Jeannine, Lake Forest at Cocoas
(L-R) Jeannine, Dotti & Roby
This is the picture Jeannine hangs on her wall.
"J" had pulled up beside us in a parking lot, asking about our Soctty Trailer.
Roby asked her if she would like to see it and she said, "YES!"
That began our friendship and connecting with one another.
Dotti wrote back to Jeannine, asking if she had seen the article we put in a previous newsletter about the divergent viewpoints (regarding GLBT persons) of Pastor Chuck Smith, the founder of the Jesus People and the Calvary Chapel movement, and his son, Chuck Smith, Jr. The significance to Jeannine is that this denomination is her church home. Dotti also asked Jeannine if we could use her words in our newsletter. She replied:
Great to hear from you!! I sure did read that article and "good" for Smith, Jr.!! The younger generation is much more open minded and it's much easier for them to accept and understand the things of this life. Every single thing of this life is of God. It's like the "old" adage that men should not cry. If God did not want men to cry, he would not have given them tears. I don't think God would have given His same sex children the ability or desire to love if it had been against His will. The Bible teaches love and that's what GLBT are all about. How can fault be found in that?
You are most welcome to use anything I write and the picture. It's exciting for me to be involved because I really believe in your work.
Safe and blessed travels to you, Roby and Rylee Joy.
From Dorothy Angell, mother of our dear friend, Cathy Angell. Dorothy started PFLAG in Columbia, Missouri at the age of 79. Cathy was instrumental in the beginning stages of our journey, taking the time to individually email a press release to each PFLAG chapter around the country, inviting them to have us speak to their local chapter.
Dear Dotti and Roby,
Congratulations on the completion of an historic journey! I've followed your adventures with amazement as you zigzagged your way back and forth across the United States. Lesser women would have faltered the first month what with car trouble and other discouraging signs. You said you wanted to make a difference, and it is obvious that you have. Both by educatimg and enlightening individuals and groups, as well as empowering them to be more open and honest about sexual orientation, you have made a difference.
Thank you for coming to Columbia and making a difference here. I certainly loved having you here in my home, and invite you back any time you can come. Thank you again for the book "What God Has Joined Together." It is brief, but gives a good deal of scientific evidence to support the arguments.
It is certainly fitting that you end your journey with Lars Clausen.
Let me know if I can be of any help to you in what I predict will be a bright future.
Love and best wishes,
(L-R) Dotti, Dorothy, & Roby
Dear Dotti and Roby:
I just want you to know that I love you both from the bottom of my heart and so believe in the work you are doing. I simply cannot do enough to help you.
Your work continues to make a difference. Your energy and goodwill and the way you present yourselves to the world illuminates in so many ways. Yours is a peace-loving/giving beacon that shines invisible ripples through the ethereal spheres which part only to excellent vibration, ecstatic music and truth. You are torch-bearers for the yet unborn, and for those who slowly wake and ponder new meaning. You are the gift that has brought so much to my life. The tears of salt sweet that run down my cheeks as I write these words are released from a place of gratitude, a place of appreciation and thanksgiving to a higher power that has divined your path and allowed it to cross mine.
You have made a difference in my life. I am forever grateful.
Dotti & Kathy
From Matty Smith - North Iowa PFLAG member:
I was first of all very impressed by the presentation that Dotti and Roby gave and thought that it spoke to many different people at our PFLAG meeting on many various levels. I specifically appreciated Dotti's use of the GLBT phrase by reversing it - referring to our community as Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian, & Gay. I find that the transgender community is one that is oftentimes overlooked, because of our lack of understanding of transgenders, much like the rest of society. I appreciated Dotti's emphasis on the need to embrace this community as a whole, with transgenders leading the way for us. I have a close friend who has a father who is transgender and I know that it took her a long time to really understand and accept her father as a part of her life and even as a human being. Because of my exposure to my friend and her father, I've gained a definitive understanding of my own and have learned a lot about the transgender community and love them so much. So thank you, Dotti, for recognizing this very important part of our community, and thank you to both Dotti and Roby for the absolutely inspirational talk that they had with our PFLAG chapter.
From Canadian Wayne Kelly, our coach for a course we are taking(www.OnAirPublicity.com). He wrote after our first homework assignment, saying,
I was an opinionated (S.O.B) who was very sheltered by the church when I grew up. I had no idea or understanding about gay and lesbian. To me it was wrong and I wasn’t moving from that stance. After college, I lost contact with my roommate for a couple years. Finally we reconnected on the phone and he said he was scared to call me. I was shocked that my good friend would be scared to contact me. We talked and he announced that he was gay. I never batted an eye, and said he will always be my very good friend…and nothing changed because of it. IT was freeing to loose my fear and old brain washings from the church and see people as people no matter what there favorite meal was…or is.
I love what you 2 are saying about you can’t hate someone once you know their story.
I thought I’d share my story with you."
From Beverly Yuodelis in Bellingham, WA
Hearing Dotti and Roby speak at the Bellingham PFLAG meeting about their journey was such an affirmation of the power of love to engage hearts and minds. When they spoke about the importance of gays and lesbians to "live authentically," I realized that I also need to live authentically as a straight ally. Right now I'm working on a training that will help the school community learn how to be allies for LGBT Youth. But I haven't been doing such a good job in engaging my family's hearts and minds about the work that I'm doing. Dotti and Roby have inspired me to work on changing that. I think every straight ally should be proud to stand with our LGBT friends and neighbors and work for change.
From Sue Lenander in Montana
On Saturday, November 4, 2006, we gathered with both Kathy Keifer and Nan Macy (our documentary filmmakers) for dinner at Nan's home.
Sue Lenander, a friend of Nan's from Montana, joined us. Click here to see the "poodle ornament" she gave us at dinner. Don't miss the tag and what it says! This poodle is now hanging on a lighted tree that stays us in our bedroom all year long. We have special ornaments on it. It is actually the Christmas tree I gave my grandmother in 1991 when she was almost 95 years old. She died less than a month later in January. This tree was the one thing I wanted. In link to the picture, you can barely see an "ornament" on the tree of me sitting behind her in the bed with the tree behind us. Click here to see an upclose picture of us. She had not had a tree in years when I gave it to her, and big tears rolled down her cheeks as I placed it in the corner of her bedroom where she laid in a hospital bed.
After arriving back in Montana, Sue wrote the following to us:
"Reflecting on all the peace and wisdom I received on my trip, I thought of what a gift having dinner and a soulful conversation with you both was. The work you have been doing is work of true peacemakers. I also want to say that I went away from our dinner feeling very hopeful about lesbian relationships. Two women who love each other and are willing to "do what it takes" to make that relationship strong is a beautiful thing to see. Progress not perfection. Thanks so much for being vulnerable and sharing who you both are and sharing your adventures with me. Thank you for also giving me a safe place to be vulnerable and share my fears and hopes.
I'd go on the road with you if I could - YOU GIRLS and YOUR POODLE ROCK!! Helen Keller would be proud to know you both too!!! Keep looking for the magic!!"
To each of you like Sue, we say "THANK YOU" for your support. Remember, however, that you are "on your own road" anytime you decide to be. How? By "standing up and speaking out" in your own community, right where you are! That is what we hope to inspire people to do. Helen Keller was once asked, “What would be worst than being blind? She replied, “Having good eyesight and no vision.” Create a vision in your own community. Be like Helen Keller and commit, "I will not refuse to do the 'something' I can do!" Each journey begins with a bold move, and each bold move is a journey!