Steve Ralls

Irreplaceable Allies

Filed By Steve Ralls | February 22, 2008 7:45 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: Darren Manzella, LGBT families, military, PFLAG, SLDN, straight allies

As first reported by PageOneQ earlier this week, I will be stepping down from my post as communications director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network at the end of next week, and joining one of our community's most important organizations - Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) - in March. After 8 1/2 years of fighting the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that prevents gay Americans from serving in our armed forces, I am looking forward to tackling an expanded portfolio of issues, and to working alongside some of our most important voices in the LGBT movement: those of our family members, friends and allies.

It has been an honor, and privilege, to fight alongside so many brave service members, veterans and activists during my time at SLDN. I will never forget the experience of working, for more than 6 months, with Army Sergeant Darren Manzella, as he prepared to tell his story of serving as an openly gay medic on 60 Minutes. Or my time with the three military officers who bravely stood up and came out - making history - in The New York Times. And I will always carry the fighting spirit, tremendous courage and enormous hearts of the military moms and dads I had the opportunity to meet during my journey.

Now, however, new adventures and new opportunities are on the horizon, and I am so grateful to be joining the PFLAG staff and so fortunate to be able to continue my work in the community . . . with a phenomenal team of irreplaceable allies.

PFLAG's work is, without a doubt, some of the most important, and heroic, in our community. In addition to helping family members and loved ones understand, accept and love their LGBT family members and friends, PFLAG also brings together the most powerful constituency in our community - one composed of allies who believe in full equality and a world that embraces everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. With more than 500 chapters in communities from coast to coast, PFLAG has been the resource for fostering loving families and important progress.

One of the primary reasons I wanted so much to work with PFLAG is because of my own mother. At age 16, I came out quite suddenly, and quite matter-of-factly when, one day, I brought someone home (a male classmate) and simply said, "He's my boyfriend."

My mom - a single mother in rural Virginia - didn't skip a beat. She smiled, said 'OK,' and treated me just as she always had . . . as her son, and as someone she loved.

My boyfriend, however, wasn't quite as lucky. When he came out, his mother threatened to disown him. She accused me of 'turning' her son gay (oh, to have such power!) and was adamently opposed to him spending any time with me. So, it was at my mother's house that we were able to be ourselves, be accepted and be loved.

I will never forget my mom's unconditional acceptance, or my boyfriend's mom's initial rejection. And PFLAG crosses the divide between the two, organizing supportive parents to speak up and work for change, and supporting parents having a difficult time with a child's coming out. In my opinion, there is perhaps no more important work anywhere in the world.

PFLAG's support, education and advocacy programs truly do produce a sea change that resonates in our homes, our communities, our schools & workplaces, and our government. There is, as I have said so many times before, no force on earth more powerful than the love of a parent for their child.

From their Straight for Equality program to their get out the vote initiative, and everything in-between, PFLAG is rallying those voices and moving the ball immeasurably forward on equality for us all.

And so I am honored to be joining Jody Huckaby and the rest of the PFLAG family - including their staff, board, regional directors and chapters - as they continue this amazing work. PFLAG's members truly are the irreplaceable allies in our movement, and I couldn't be more proud to be part of their efforts.

(And, of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't encourage Bilerico readers to cheer my new work by logging on and supporting PFLAG with a tax-deductible donation!)

This is an amazing new chapter for me, and I'm so happy to be starting it with such an incredible group of people.

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Michael Bedwell | February 22, 2008 7:58 PM

Thanks for all your work with SLDN, Steve, and good luck at PFLAG! I share your respect and enthusiasm for them as I do all groups that work directly to better the lives of LGBT youth—in my obviously minority opinion the primary goal most LGBT organizations should have that are not other-issue specific such as SLDN.

Good luck in your new adventure, Steve. Any chance to work with PFLAG folks has to be an amazing experience. Our local Indianapolis PFLAG chapter is overflowing with some of the greatest people I've had the pleasure to meet.

I'm sure you'll make an excellent addition to the PFLAG family.

I am happy for you, and agree, PFLAG is one of our most valued allies who brings an important message of love and support to our struggle for equality.

Your friend's mother is an unfortunate example of how some parents choose to deal with their GLBT children.PFLAG provides a shining example for others to follow.

Best of wishes in your new position.

thehavasuguy | February 23, 2008 3:19 AM

I'm happy to see your talents remain in Our Community, just relocated to yet another outstanding organization fighting to bring equality forward. Thanks for all your fine work at SLDN; I'm sure that you'll have the same positive impact here at PFLAG. ATTABOY!!
I'll be right here following your work. Thanks in advance.

Congratulations, Steve! While your loss will be a blow to SLDN, PFLAG is gaining a valuable resource.

And, thankfully, you'll still be here at Bilerico - no matter if your job is street cleaner. :)

Thank you all so much for your congrats and words of support! PFLAG is a terrific organization, and I feel so fortunate to be able to join their team.

And, of course, stay tuned here at Bilerico for updates on the great work PFLAG is doing!