by Pat Stone
A few years after my daughter, T.J., came out at the age of twenty-five, I checked with the Dallas gay and lesbian community to see if there were a local PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter so that I could help other parents with this issue. At that time there was not a chapter available. Shortly thereafter, in 1992, A few other parents and I created PFLAG/DALLAS.
I began as the Vice President and helpline coordinator. The second year I became President and continued working the helpline. I kept those posts for five years. The organization continued to grow, and we were even able to get the Dallas mayor, Ron Kirk, to speak to our group. Many of us became advocates for social and legal change for our kids: we spoke at various forums- schools, TV shows, town meetings, radio broadcasts, etc.; we picketed, and we marched in parades; and we tried to change attitudes. Others chose to create change in a less public way — by writing our politicians and coming out to our families and friends about our kids. Many of us worked hand in hand with the Dallas GLBT Community. One of the most important tasks was to help parents and families come to terms with, and to accept, having a gay or lesbian loved one
[Pflag] In 1996, when I was about to be reelected to serve my fifth term as President of PFLAG/Dallas, a very interesting and confusing thing happened to me. I suddenly realized that I was lesbian, even though I had never acted on it. This realization came to me after having a dynamic speaker address our chapter – Lory Masters. We never became involved in any way except friendship. However, she helped me through this very confusing time. She was my catalyst for seeing my true orientation, an orientation hidden even from myself for my first 53 years!
At that time, I had been married for 35 years, with two grown kids. I was about to be reelected as president of a primarily straight parent organization. I had formed important contacts in both the GLBT community as well as in the straight community. What would they say about this new information? What would PFLAG say? What would my family say?
My husband was devastated, my family and friends had mixed reactions, and National PFLAG was supportive. I sent a letter with our newsletter to my PFLAG members informing them of this new realization. I had to be open and honest with them, especially since they were about to vote on my reelection. Their support was overwhelming, but there was some concern for new parents coming in our door. Therefore, we worked out a compromise. I would serve out my last term with a straight parent, Dave Gleason. That pleased everyone, and I was reelected. I had only planned on serving five years in order to get “new blood” in the organization.
There was a lot of press involving this situation; it was treated fairly by the Dallas Voice as well asThe Dallas Observer. Ann Zimmerman wrote a lengthy article on the situation, called Late Bloomer; it was printed in The Dallas Observer in January of 1997. That article led to the second organization I formed, entitled Late Bloomers, a group for women who felt they came out later in life.
We began our meetings in 1997, and I led that group for 14 years; in fact, they still meet to this day. It was obvious that I was not the only woman who realized her true orientation after many years of marriage, later in life. The women had read the Dallas Observer and contacted me with numerous stories. These women had to contend with a variety of issues – child custody, religious issues, spouse issues, how to fit into the lesbian community, etc. This group was different from the PFLAG group in that the women usually were not into advocacy issues; many were fragile and closeted. They needed support; they needed to know that they were not alone, that there were other women in similar situations. Many had hidden their true feelings for so many years — doing what was expected of them. Some, like myself, did not have a clue that they were lesbian until a sudden awakening.
We talked about serious issues, but we also had fun with our adventure and our new journey: we had potlucks; we had parties; we shared information; and some of us became involved in the greater GLBT Dallas Community. Many of us went to the local Blue Moon Dance for Womenthat was held monthly. That dance is still rocking on and doing well.
I am so proud of both of these groups – PFLAG and Late Bloomers. I had never seen myself as a spokesperson or advocate in my earlier years. However, when a person’s child is misunderstood due to her orientation, that makes some of us speak out. Firstly, to protect our children and later the larger issue — human rights. Only then it hit home for me, and I wanted to help other women in my situation.
For those who might want to know more about my personal journey, I did have a rewarding eleven-year relationship with my partner, Evie, from 1997 to 2009. I am now in a three-year relationship with Linda. We are happy living out at the Cedar Creek Lake area, about an hour from Dallas. I have returned to my oil painting. We continue to go to that Blue Moon Dance, we love our three dogs, and we attend a primarily gay and lesbian church, The Celebration on the Lake Church, out here at the lake.
I am proud of my work with the Dallas GLBT Community and I hope I have made a difference. It is also my hope that I have been able to reach out to others, nationwide, due to my book, Awakening: How a 53 year old wife and mother “became” a Lesbian. It addresses the issues that I have mentioned here as well as dealing with my more personal challenges, such as my mom’s Alzheimer’s and more.
We have come a long way in Dallas regarding gay and lesbian rights, but we have some challenges still ahead. I praise the early fighters of this cause. They made it safer for people like me to follow. I hope it becomes even easier for those in the future.