Wednesday, June 20, 2012

LGBT White House Reception

White House Photo by Aiden Aizumi
 Ever since we received the invitation from the White House, Aiden and I have anticipated this event.  An LGBT Reception at the White House . . . what an honor!  The morning of the reception, I checked my email.  Hmmm, a Director at the White House asked me to call.  I wonder what that is all about. Curious, I called back and was informed that we had been selected for a private session with President Obama, complete with a photograph.  My heart thumped excitedly as I went to tell Aiden the good news.

Beth, Aiden, Marsha, Ron & Betsy from Savannah PFLAG, and Jody
Then it was off to the PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) National office to meet with Executive Director Jody Huckaby, his deputy Beth Kohm, and other national staff.  A beautiful lunch was provided for us and we met other PFLAGers who also received a White House invitation.

President George Washington's "States" China

At 3pm, six of us hailed taxis and we traveled the short distance to the Southeast entrance of the White House.  Once we passed three security checkpoints, I felt like I was walking through history.  Aiden and I were in the famous building I never dreamed I would step into.  There were grand portraits of past presidents, their first ladies, and the Dish Room where china from former presidents sparkled underneath display case lights.

Aiden in the White House Library

The Red Room
At 4:45pm, Aiden and I were checked into the Red Room, where we waited for that special moment with the President.  About 20 individuals were invited with their guests to shake hands with President Obama and get a photo op with him as well.  When our turn came, Aiden shook the President's hand and said, "Mr. President, it is an honor."  I, holding back emotion, shook the President's hand and said nothing.  We moved closer to pose for the photo.  And then the photo was over.  I turned to the President quietly and said, "I am a PFLAG mom and I want to thank you for making the world safer for my transgender son.  Will you accept this PFLAG pin?"  The President took the pin and and said, "I like to make moms happy."

The State Dining Room

Aiden with Actor Matt Bomer
In thirty seconds the moment was over, but the feeling of hope, gratitude, and warmth that I felt from the most powerful leader of the western world will stay with me for a long, long time.  Since that moment, I no longer see Obama as the President of the United States, but I see him as "my" President . . . . because he has done more for my son than any other president that has come before him.  I am proud of "my" President and I hope that he continues to make all of us in the LGBT community proud of the work he is doing.

Beautiful Garden View from Within the White House

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

OFL/LifeWorks Brings Hope to LGBT Youth

Regional Supervisor Abel Cabrera with Teacher Jeff White, Lead Teacher Molly Sircher,
and 2012 OFL Graduate Christopher Thomas receiving Oustanding Achievement Award

Sitting alone in the ER after being physically assaulted for his sexual orientation and disowned by his grandparents for being gay, Christopher needed a place to hope.  He found it at Opportunities for Learning (OFL) Charter School and the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s LifeWorks Program.  This month Christopher graduated and received an award for being an outstanding senior from his teacher, Jeff White.  Christopher is off to community college and dreams of transferring to UCLA.  I know he will make this dream come true.  Congratulations, Christopher!!

Christopher with Two of his Angels, Molly and Danitza Pantoja

Realizing he was born in the wrong body, this creative and determined student decided to live authentically and courageously as a female.  Not wanting to transition at her current school, she came to OFL and was fully accepted and supported by her teacher, John Sandate.  Aly, a beautiful and artistic girl, also graduated from OFL and is now on her way to FIDM, The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.  She will be bringing more beauty and style to the world not only through her presence, but also through her work.  Congratulations, Aly!!

Aly, Aiden, and Me at her OFL Graduation

There were many angels that led the way for these two graduates.  Thank you teachers, staff and leaders for your unwavering belief in Christopher and Aly . . . . it has changed their lives and allowed them to blossom into the amazing individuals you see today.  A special thanks to John and Joan Hall, founders of OFL, who work every day to create a space of empowerment and inspiration for all who enter their schools . . .

John and Joan Hall