DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Brownsville became the 17th city in Texas with a Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays chapter on Monday, Jan. 3 when about 35 people attended the new group’s first meeting.
Brownsville City Commissioner Melissa Zamora was among those attending. She said she was there as an ally, invited by the group’s president, Yolanda Speece.
“The communication was amazing. There was lots of talk about our culture and the stigma gays and lesbians face,” Zamora said. “There was a high school girl who was there to support her two lesbian mothers. A mom was there to support her transgender child.”
She said the meeting was well organized, providing good reciprocal support, and was attended by people from around the county — and even from South Padre Island.
Zamora said she recently became more aware of LGBT issues when she read a story by a high school student describing his struggle.
“This is a very Hispanic community,” Zamora said, “and it’s something you don’t talk about in the Hispanic community.”
Zamora said she hopes to find a co-sponsor to put an item on the city agenda introducing the group to the community.
Speece said she decided to found the group because she always had gay friends. She found that along the border and the coast, the closest groups were in El Paso and Corpus Christi and she knew there was a need locally.
“I would hear people say things,” Speece said. “I’d take it in and I didn’t know how to respond. But there’s something wrong with using God to justify their hate.”
Speece said that over the past two years there have been four murders of gay men in Cameron County. One, Barry Horn, was executive director of the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art.
The trial of the 19-year-old accused of Horn’s murder is set to begin in February. And Speece said she is sure defense attorneys are planning a “blame the victim” strategy.
“This needs to stop, Speece said. “We need to start educating the community, so I decided it’s time.”
Bobby Wightman-Cervantes, who helped the Dallas and Fort Worth chapters incorporate in the early 1990s, is involved in the new group’s formation. He said he was concerned that clashing personalities could kill the effort to organize and remembered similar concerns when P-FLAG formed in Dallas.
Wightman-Cervantes credited Dan and Pat Stone, two of the organizers of the Dallas group, with focusing on communication between parents with gay and lesbian children and a variety of allies when the group started.
Speece was also concerned about that, she said, and was very nervous as she began the meeting. But as people began talking to each other, she knew the new group was already working well. They were all there for one reason.
“Parents are supposed to protect their children,” she said.
P-FLAG Brownsville meets the first Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. All Souls UU Church, 124 Paredes Line Road, Brownsville. 956-433-3524.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.