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PFLAG arrives in Beaverton

Group supports people of various sexual and gender orientations and their families and friends

COURTESY BETHEL CONGREGATIONAL UCC - Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ members take pride in being an 'open and affirming church.' The Beaverton congregation volunteered to host PFLAG's only monthly meetings held in Washington County, beginning April 21.Dawn Holt acknowledges a “breathtaking” increase in acceptance for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer in just the past decade that she has been involved with PFLAG Portland.

So why, as the stigma subsides, is PFLAG — founded in 1973 as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and still the largest family-based organization serving that community — now coming to Washington County?

“You would think there would no longer be much of a need, but that’s not what we’re finding,” said Holt, 53, who got involved with PFLAG after her then-14-year-old son came out as gay more than a dozen years ago.

TIMES PHOTO: ERIC APALATEGUI - Dawn Holt is a Beaverton resident and longtime volunteer president of PFLAG Portland. The organization will begin holding monthly meetings in Beaverton to serve the LGBTQ community and family and friends.Holt, a resident of Beaverton’s Murrayhill neighborhood, is the longtime volunteer president of PFLAG Portland, which already has groups that meet in Portland and East Multnomah County, including its 33-year-old Portland chapter and the nation’s only chapter set up specifically to serve black members. The Washington County chapter, which opens next week, will be the fourth group under the Portland umbrella.

Holt also serves as director for PFLAG chapters in a five-state region and her husband provides technical support for the Portland group’s website.

PFLAG provides support, education and advocacy for LGBTQ people and their friends and families in their own communities.

Holt has noticed a need for a Washington County chapter for years as residents from the area have traveled to Portland for meetings.

“That’s been the closest place to get any support,” she said. “I know this is going to be successful."

Patt Bekken, a key member of a previous PFLAG group that disbanded, will serve as Washington County’s coordinator.

Holt and the Rev. David Randall-Bodman, senior pastor at Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ, which will host PFLAG’s Washington County monthly meetings, said PFLAG will be valuable as long as some Americans remain intolerant of people who have sexual orientations or gender identities different from their own.

As to the need, they said, just witness recent passage of discriminatory laws in places including North Carolina and Mississippi.

“It’s not an issue that’s gone away and isn’t going to go away anytime soon,” said Randall-Bodman, comparing it to issues of race.

The need for support today is particularly acute among those in the transgender or “gender-fluid” community, both added. Holt also said that more people who grew up in more conservative religious traditions are coming to PFLAG for support they can’t always find in their faith communities.

“We do act as a surrogate family for a lot of people,” she said.

Bethel Congregational UCC, located at 5150 S.W. Watson Ave., will host the meetings from 7 to 9 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. The first session on April 21 will be a celebration and potluck dinner, with a presentation on PFLAG’s national and local history, Holt said.

Randall-Bodman said his church sought to host a PFLAG chapter because it “has had a long history of being at the forefront of social issues,” he said. “We just really believe it’s important for folks who have felt excluded (to have) a place as well” for worship and community.

For more information, visit pflagpdx.org.

By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
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