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04/29/2010

Straight For Equality Awards: Ceremony in NYC, but acceptance speeches span worldwide

by Jeremy Hooper

This weekend, I, Jeremy, was supposed to attend the PFLAG's 2nd annual Straight For Equality Awards. Instead, my husband and I have get to go out to New Jersey to visit with his parents. So basically: Rather than celebrating PFLAG's successes, I'll spend the weekend reaping the benefits from the same. Let me explain.

Andrew's parents have lived in the NY/NJ area all of their lives, and have always trended towards the left side of the political spectrum. During that journey through the Empire State/Garden State decades, they had plenty of exposure to and experience with LGBT people, some even within their own families. So when Andrew came out to them at the turn of the 21st century, they didn't greet him with a negative reaction. It was more of the "thank God, I thought you were going to tell me you had cancer!" kind of situation. In fact, the biggest story from Andrew's coming out weekend involves a miscommunication in which Andrew thoroughly confused dear old mom and dad when he told them that he was going out to a "tapas bar," which they, in the most "Three's Company" of fashions, misheard as a "topless bar." Thoroughly confused, they were.

But the confusion wasn't limited only to small Spanish dishes vs. big American tatas. No, no -- like many parents of LGBT children, Andrew's had questions. Questions about how their son's life might play out. Questions about rights and protections. Questions about what they needed to do in order to show their support, even while they were having to readjust all of the visions they had had for their son's future. Both educators by trade, they now found themselves on the other side of the blackboard. Both overachievers by nature, they were proactive in finding the answers.

And that's where Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays comes in. The Shulmans wasted almost no time after Andrew's coming out before seeking out their local PFLAG chapter. In fact, it's almost too cliché to be believable. But believe it, baby. These two showed up, got their needed answers, ate the refreshments (and knowing my father-in-law, probably snuck seconds), then began to give Betty Degeneres or Debbie Novotny runs for their "straight ally" money. In very large part because of PFLAG, Andrew didn't have to live with fear or trepidation at a time when he most needed a familial support system. In very large part of PFLAG, his parents granted me a suitor who was almost too well-adjusted and baggage-less for me to even believe when I first met him. And in very large part of PFLAG, I did not have to walk alone down the most important aisle of my life:

Screen Shot 2010-04-29 At 8.40.19 Pm

After walking Andrew halfway down, they came back and got me. Straight for my body. Straight for my heart. Straight for Equality.

So no, unfortunately I won't be able to make this Saturday night's awards ceremony, when Liza Minnelli will surely regale the masses gathered at the Marriott Marquis. But somewhere in East Brunswick, NJ, four happy souls will be toasting the group in absentia. For we will be experiencing the best prize of all.

*Press release and ticket info:

Legendary Liza Minnelli to Receive Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award from PFLAG National

Washington, D.C. – Citing her outstanding contributions as an artist to advancing equality for all, PFLAG National announced that Academy Award®-winning actress and iconic straight ally Liza Minnelli will be honored with the 2010 Straight for Equality in Entertainment award for her lifelong support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and Lizaheadhsot-1transgender (LGBT) people. The award will be presented at PFLAG’s second annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala on May 1 at the New York Marriott Marquis.

“Liza Minnelli is the quintessential straight ally – she has been an outspoken supporter of equality for LGBT for her whole life, and her tremendous and ongoing philanthropy in the fight against AIDS has made her a very public advocate of the many individuals and their families who have been affected by the disease,” said Jody M. Huckaby, PFLAG National’s executive director. “Her enormous talent makes her iconic, and her steadfast support for the LGBT community makes her an ally. We are so honored to be able to present her with the 2010 Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award.”

Minnelli, whose first professional performance was at age 17, is one of only12 individuals in the world to achieve the much sought-after designation of being an EGOT – someone who has won an Emmy (Liza with a 'Z'. A Concert for Television), Grammy (the 1990 Grammy Legend Award), Oscar (Cabaret), and Tony Award (Flora the Red Menace, Live at the Winter Garden, The Act and Liza's at the Palace....). In addition to these honors, she has also won Drama Desk Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and a BAFTA. Minnelli was also presented with an Honorary Doctorate by Mercy College in New York for “for her charitable activities and a career that has spanned five decades and multiple genres.”

“As someone who has been supported and touched by the LGBT community for my entire life, I can’t imagine being anything but an out and proud straight ally who doesn’t fear speaking up to anyone,” said Minnelli. “The Straight for Equality award means so much to me – it helps me know that what I’ve done and said has changed things for people.”

Straight for Equality is a project of PFLAG National that was launched in 2007 to invite, educate, and empower straight allies to demonstrate their support for their LGBT friends and family. Since its inception, the program has trained more than 3,500 people nationwide through its educational workshops in corporations, healthcare environments, and communities. The Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award was designed to honor a performer and/or artist who has a history of advocating for equality for LGBT people. The first award was presented in 2009 to actress Sigourney Weaver.

Learn more about the 2010 Straight for Equality Awards Gala by visiting www.straightforequality.org

###

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is the nation’s foremost family-based organization committed to the civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people. Founded in 1973 by mothers and fathers, PFLAG has 200,000 members and supporters in more than 300 chapters throughout the United States. To learn more, please visit www.pflag.org.

Straight for Equality is a project of PFLAG National. It was launched in 2007 to invite, educate, and engage straight individuals to have the discussions necessary to move equality forward for their gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender friends in simple, nonpolitical ways. Learn more at www.straightforequality.org today.

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