Maria Hernandez-Peck – Activism

“It was a very, very strong PFLAG.” 

Ann and Charlie [Wood] are wonderful people! Charlie is [an] Episcopal priest. And their daughter, Pam, came out as a lesbian, and she’s an Episcopal priest too. And Pam’s partner . . . What’s her name? I forget. But she’s also an Episcopal priest. So Charlie and Ann have been real advocates for GLBT issues for a lot of years. Ann and Charlie were in charge of the crisis line [of PFLAG]. I remember Ann would come to [my social work] class. The students were really blown away that they were here. You know, they’re in their 80s and they’re real advocates for this—and his religious background and so forth. Ann would always say, “Well, when I get a call for parenting in the middle of the night, who’s very upset that the son or daughter just came out, I say, ‘Well, did you love them before you knew?’ That’s a starting point.”

You know, it was a very, very strong PFLAG back in those days [the 1980s] with Katie and Harry [Urbanek], Elaine, Marion Dumoulin, Charlie and Ann, Helen Bonser and her husband, Tom. There were [also] a whole bunch of people that came to PFLAG that were people who were members of the community, but whose family were really not accepting. So PFLAG was kind of like their family. It was just wonderful. I mean, we had meetings with 40 people!

I tried to identify all of the different services, or people, that were in the community. I felt [that] if we really were going to understand coming out, we have to understand it in terms of both males and females, and generational differences, okay? So, I would have a panel [on] coming out [speak to my class]. I would have the PFLAG panel come in another class. I would have gay fathers, lesbian mothers. The kids [from] Odyssey [Youth Center would come in the 1990s]. Back in those days, for you to be able to find out where Odyssey was, you had to call on the phone; you had to be screened before they’d tell you where they were. And Lynda [Eaton] used to own [the Tin Ear, a gay bar, in the 1980s]. So, you know, Lynda would come to class and then she would invite all of us to go to Tin Ear for a drink after class. Transgender folks were very receptive. [My class was] the first time they ever spoke in public. I remember one of the [transgender speakers] said to me, “I’m really nervous about being here tonight, because I’m here during the day in my male persona. Here tonight, I am in my female persona and I wonder if anybody’s going to recognize me.” Okay. I would have the [social] services people come in. The doctors that were dealing with the HIV/AIDS would come in. I even had the police department come in because there was a liaison between the gay community and the police department. It was a very popular class.

I always gave cases, like in my foundations class. One of the cases that I give is a young man who comes from a very religious background, comes to this agency that is very gay friendly, and he’s asking to help them change his sexual orientation, because otherwise he is going to go to hell. I give them that scenario and ask them to discuss. “What would they do as social workers?” You know, a social worker, in terms of the code of ethics, are not supposed to discriminate—one of the areas is sexual orientation. And then where do we refer him to? Do we refer him to an agency that believes that, with reparative therapy, you can change? Are we comfortable with referring to a setting where we feel people are going to be damaged? I begin to get them to be aware of some of the issues.

I teach about models of identity development. I think that people go through different models of identity development. You know, there’s a model in terms of ethnic identity development that has been adapted to gay identity development. I think that there comes a time, where people become very, very active in the community, because all they want to do is relate to gay people, to the cause, and so forth. But then, what happens is that people, in many instances, will settle in relationships. Then they become very homebound and they are focusing on other things: you know, getting together with other couples and so forth, rather than being activists. I have seen the leadership in this community really shift, because I went to some kind of function—oh, about six months ago—and the leadership is entirely different. I think that [is] part of what people go through in terms of identity development. There’s a part that people need to feel very active. I was also very active in the community as I was trying to deal with identity issues. But then I got hooked on the mental health board. I have to put all of my time into mental health board. That’s why I couldn’t continue being that involved with PFLAG.


Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 3 June 2013.