When it comes to straight allies, it doesn’t get any better than Kathy Halbrooks, President of the PFLAG Nashville Chapter. She is an incredible lady with a mission, and a heart of gold. I met Kathy a couple of months ago, and I’m honored to call her a friend. I was recently able to interview her about her work at PFLAG, and find out her opinion on the current spiritual climate.
Coming Out Christian: Many of our readers are familiar with PFLAG. For those who are not, can you describe the purpose and mission of this organization in your own words?
Kathy: PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is an organization that has regular meetings to support LGBTQI people and their friends and families. We work by promoting dialogue. Every person is welcome no matter where he or she is on the journey to acceptance, and we learn from each other through sharing our personal stories. PFLAG’s tenets are support, education, and advocacy for the LGBTQI community. PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, and their families, and works to secure equal civil rights. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.
COC: What was it that first drew you to the LGBT community, and how long have you been an ally?
KH: I think of myself as having been an ally in my heart for many years, but I became active in PFLAG about two years ago. I am an employee of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and became more aware of the situations LGBTQI people face when the city council first tried to add sexual orientation to the protections for city employees several years ago. This first attempt failed. I went to stand on the courthouse steps in support of this ordinance when Fred Phelps, an opponent of equality, came to Nashville. After that I met many friends who are LGBTQI and was eventually led to PFLAG by a good friend. (Also, I’m happy that an ordinance adding sexual orientation AND gender identity was recently passed by our city council.)
COC: In your experience, how many people seek services and support from PFLAG due to religion and faith issues?
KH: Any time I join a group discussing LGBTQI issues, I find a number of people who have been adversely affected by a faith community that has not welcomed them. Since we are in “The Bible Belt,” these issues are at the forefront. I just returned from the PFLAG National Convention, and faith was one of the main topics. Plans are being made to reach out to all faith communities to promote better understanding.
COC: Do you think that the current spiritual climate is improving in relation to faith and sexuality? In other words, is the Church at large having a “great gay awakening”?
KH: I think it is. I especially think younger people are becoming more accepting and compassionate and that fact will change faith-based communities. At the PFLAG National convention, a panel of two Protestant ministers, a rabbi, a Catholic priest, and an Imam all were optimistic that the religious climate is changing for the better. In Christianity, I think the fact that Jesus in his time on earth loved and accepted everyone is becoming the lens through which most people are viewing LGBTQI issues.
COC: What advice would you give to a Christian who is opposed to the support of the LGBT community within our churches?
KH: I would encourage him or her to learn more about the Bible and how it can be viewed historically rather than literally. I would also urge him or her to avoid proof-texting or taking words out of the context in which they were meant at the time they were written or spoken. I think it’s important to look at what we have learned about sexual orientation and gender identity scientifically and to realize that the people of the Bible didn’t have that information and to view this knowledge as something liberating rather than something negative.
COC: In closing, what would you like to say to LGBT’s who are suffering silently under religious oppression?
KH: Again, I think learning to look at the Bible historically, avoiding proof-texting, and learning more about the science of sexual orientation and gender identity is good advice here if someone is having trouble accepting his or her own orientation or identity. Just knowing that there is logic that supports the fact that the negative things that have been said about LBGTQI people and religion are false can be incredibly freeing. Then find a faith-based community that is loving, accepting, and caring to all people.