Keep informed about our journey, Gay Into Straight America!  Each week, we send out a newsletter.  Below are links to the ones we have sent since the beginning of our year long journey, which began September 11, 2005.  The most current one is at the top.  Note:  The last newsletter for this journey will be the December, 2006 newsletter, since our year long journey will be over; however, Stand UP Speak OUT, Inc. will continue with other projects.  Gay Into Straight America was its initial one.  Click here and sign up to receive our newsletter that will come from Stand UP Speak OUT in 2007.  Those who have already been receiving this newsletter will automatically receive our Stand UP Speak OUT...Live Authentic newsletter.

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GISA Journey stays with Kerry Pacer, Advocate's "Person of the Year"
Dec 22, 2005

GISA Journey took us to Cleveland, Georgia, staying with the Pacer family, Kerry, Lindsay, and mother, Savannah. 


As you know, we arrived in Little Rock last Thursday.  First things first!  I needed a haircut.  Since we are on "no budget" vs. "low budget," Roby proceded to give me a haircut. We found an old plastic rain poncho that Gary Nixon, co-founder of Soulforce gave us one time at a rainy Soulforce event. 

Preparing for my haircut!

I discovered that Roby is great at cutting hair!  I wonder if she can do color?


On Friday night, we spoke at New Beginnings Church.  With a welcoming and affirming church such as this, we often say, “I guess you are wondering why we are here, talking to you, when we have said that our intention is to talk with people who are wrestling with their understanding of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons.”  We then explain that people in our own community are often wrestling as well; the wrestling people are not necessary “those” outside out own GLBT community.  Wrestling is not a negative sign.  It is actually a positive one, because in “wrestling,” there is movement.  Wrestling people are in the “movable middle.” They either don’t understand why they have the attitude they do about those who are different (such as Joe, the man we mentioned in our last newsletter who moved beyond himself in the matter of twenty minutes) or they are people who want to take a different action, but are stuck in fear, and feel incapable of moving forward.    A wrestling GLBT person might be someone who knows that their relationship with their family, for example, would be more authentic if they share, rather than hide, their authentic self and life.  A wrestling heterosexual person might be someone who is not quite comfortable with their church’s stance on GLBT persons because they know that this is inconsistent with teachings of love and acceptance of all people.   The questioning, however, the “wrestling” is an important part of forward movement.  It is only when people are “un-informable” that there is no movement.


Mary Lou, Bob, Wincie and Becky were responsible for coordinating our talk.  We appreciate the hospitality and the generosity of New Beginnings!  Reading our story will help you understand the importance of Mary Lou and Bob Wallner in our lives. 

Folks mingling after our talk at New Beginnings


Thanks to Louise Hogan and all the great PFLAGers at PFLAG Little Rock.  Not only was it a great group with us sharing the time with our friends, Mary Lou and Bob Wallner, but also two wonderful women, Kathy and Nancy, who are partners and own the restaurant, Lily's Dim Sum


PFLAG Little Rock


Kathy Webb is running for State Legislature in Arkansas, and has raised the most money of any candidates!  Running as who she is, with lesbian being part of that whole person, her sexual orientation has become a non-issue because she has not been afraid to be who she is.  Check out The Victory Fund… Kathy is one of 12 GLBT persons to be backed by this group.  You can also visit her website.



Roby and Dotti with Kathy Webb


Louise Hogan baked us pumpkin/chocolate chip bread loaves for the road, and gave us a picture album to use for our GISA journey pictures.  She also gave us a small Christmas wreath…just perfect for our Scotty trailer! 


After speaking, we immediately hit the road so that we could drive as long as possible before stopping for the night.  Knowing that it was a long trip to Atlanta, we were willing to do whatever it took to have the opportunity to speak at PFLAG Atlanta on Sunday afternoon. 


Well…”whatever it took” took on new meaning.  Around 11:00 p.m., we found ourselves “in-between” cities, with no Walmart campground in sight.  We decided to keep driving and stop just before Birmingham. 


About 12:30 a.m., we noticed that the Suburban was beginning to vibrate.  At first, we weren’t sure if it was the road or the rig.  Roby said, “No, it’s the car…the wheel is vibrating in my hands.” With nowhere to stop and less than 20 miles from Birmingham, we decided to continue forward. 


Suddenly, we heard a loud pop and hiss, and we began to swerve.  Roby did a great job of keeping the entire rig under control until we pulled off on the shoulder of US 78.  We were actually able to pull off into some grass that was further off the shoulder of the road.  Roby conveyed the bad news.  She said, “We had a blow out on our left trailer tire.”  I got out and looked.  Roby began to get tools out of the trailer, and I began searching our Streets & Trips Map on our computer to see what auto places were close by. Roby jacked up the trailer and took the tire off, and we put it in the back of the Suburban.  We unhooked the trailer, locked it, and took off up the road at 1 a.m.  About a mile and a half down the road on the left was a Walmart.  Well, close only counts in horseshoes.  We slept in our Suburban in the Walmart parking lot at waited for the tire center to open at 9 a.m. 


We got the tire fixed, and took it back where Roby put it back on the trailer.  She noticed the tire looked low.  We decided we had better stop at the first service station (before the Walmart), and put some air in.  Having done that, it still looked low.  We headed back to the Walmart.  Once there, Bruce, who turned out to be the service manager checked it out.  At first he couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  He wasn’t there earlier, but had been called in to work when there were so many customers.  Finally, he looked at the numbers on the tire and realized they had given us a passenger car tire, rather than a trailer tire.  The problem, he told us, was that they didn’t have the right kind of tire that we needed.   


Bruce said he would call the store manager to come out and make a decision as to how to make things right.  Dotti waited patiently for about 10 minutes before approaching Bruce again about whether or not the store manager was coming to talk with us.  He said, “Let me call for him again.”  About 5 minutes later, Charles, the assistant store manager came out.  Bruce explained what had happened.   


Charles said that he was more than willing to give us $20 back on the tire because of the problem, but that his big concern was that if we left that tire on, we could have another blowout, and potentially cause ourselves harm, which made him feel very uneasy.  Bruce and Charles then began trying to think of other tire places that might be open on Sunday.  They found another shop and Bruce drove in his own car to go pick it up for us.  


Dotti thanked Charles for his concern and said it was important to have a good tire since we were on a yearlong journey, which was the reason we were speaking in Atlanta.  Charles then inquired as to “what” we were speaking about and Dotti told him.  He was sooooo excited.  He said that he had formerly been a Baptist minister, and that people had not been happy with his views on acceptance of GLBT persons.  They continued to talk about various theologies that are creating a divide in our culture, agreeing that the separatism is the worst thing that happens when people become entrenched in their beliefs.  Charles enthusiastically took two rainbow wristbands, one for himself and one for his wife, and took our card so that he could visit our website.   


Charles accepting his rainbow wristband from Dotti


As Dotti walked back out after having gone to the front of the store for the refund, she saw the guy who had originally helped us as he stood as the cash register helping another customer.  She called out to him “Have a nice day.  Thank you for your help.”  He apologetically looked up and said, “I am sorry about the tire.”  He might not have known that he was giving us a passenger tire rather than a trailer tire.  Dotti said, “Don’t worry.  Everything is fixed and we are ready to go.”  Once again, our day with the tire situation had produced a synchronistic situation that had led to our encounter with Charles, the former Baptist minister.  


As soon as we left the Walmart, Dotti called Lance, state coordinator for PFLAG in Georgia, giving him an update of our journey into Atlanta.  Though PFLAG began at 3 p.m., it was 4:30 before we arrived., wearing our same clothes from the day before.  PFLAG Atlanta was waiting patiently. Even though they were videotaping, we were not be able to set up our normal displays.  We knew however, that what we would all share together was more important.  


Our arrival at the PFLAG meeting left little time to mingle with folks, though they eagerly crowded around, asking more questions after our talk.  Karen, co-president, with all of her Southern hospitality, politely continued to ask us to move out of the sanctuary.  (:  It was needed to prepare for an evening service.  A group decided to continue our conversations over dinner. Thanks Earnest and Karen for the treat!   


Earnest, Diana, Karen, Roby & Dotti (back row)
Lib, Savannah, and Trent (front row)


We arrived at the home of Marilu Johnson (Dotti’s Mom) at 9 p.m. We talked until about 11 p.m, sharing stories about our journey and listening to what Marilu had been doing during the holiday season.  It felt good to put our head on the pillow since our sleep the last before had been intermittent.  


The following morning, we heard a knock on the bedroom door.  Mom had gone outside to get the newspaper (it was dark the night before when we arrived after the PFLAG Atlanta meeting and parked you know, Mom did not attend, citing that she was in charge of the “Joy Lunch” at church).  She was visibly shaken, saying “I can’t have this in my driveway.”  I was still half asleep and said, “Have 'what' in your driveway?”  I was clueless as to what she was talking about.  She replied, “You will have to remove the signs.” “Why?” I asked.  She simply continued, shaking her head, saying “You are pushing this on me.”  I replied that I was not a “this,” and that the sign on the driver’s side wouldn’t come off because it is stuck to the paint, but that I would not remove the signs anyway.  I told her that I understood, and that we would leave.  I assured her that it was ok.  She, however, was not OK about us leaving.  She said “You know how much I love you.  I want you to stay.  We can put paper over the signs.”  I said,  “Mom, it’s OK.  We will leave.  I am not removing or covering up the signs.”  She then said, “Why?”  I replied, “There might be a young person who walks by and sees that sign, visits our website, and then feels it is OK to be who they are.  Seeing that sign might keep them from committing suicide.”  I then added, “…or there might be a parent who sees that sign and it gives them hope that their child is OK.”  She then said, “Well, let me get your Christmas gifts.  I want you to take them.”  I said, “Mom, I don’t want Christmas gifts.  I want your acceptance.”  She then said, “You will never know the depth of my love for you.”  Roby had come out of the bedroom during all of this conversation and asked Mom, “Marilu, what would be the worst thing that could happen if someone saw the signs.  What would be the worst that could happen if they asked ‘Is your daughter lesbian?’ ”  Mom was speechless.  She couldn’t really talk about what she felt.  Roby continued, “Couldn’t you just say, ‘Yes, my daughter is lesbian and I love her.’ “ 


I told Mom that I would take the Christmas gifts for the opportunity of leaving the names and phone numbers of 3 PFLAG Moms that I had met the night before.  I explained that it would be her choice whether or not she called them.  My Mom currently resides in the  “un-informable,” group, meaning that she is not seeking new information.  Mom is content with her beliefs about GLBT persons, including me. The “un-informable” are immovable in their position.  As we have repeatedly said, we will be inclusive and engage with people who have these beliefs.  Mary Lou and Bob Wallner, who we just visited in Little Rock, AR, were once in the group of the “un-informable.”  The suicide of their daughter sent them on a journey that moved them into the “uninformed” group, where they began “wrestling with their understanding.”  They “wrestled” until they shifted and moved in their thinking and beliefs into the “informed” group.  Today, they have a non-profit, the TEACH Project (Teaching and Educating about the Consequences of Homophobia).  Mary Lou just published the 3rd edition of her book, The Slow Miracle of Transformation. 


After some tears, Mom left to do some volunteer work at church, and we packed up and left. Our exchange was not an angry one, but it was one where I continued to draw boundaries that allow me to honor and respect myself.   I have not asked my Mom to be homosexual. On the other hand, Roby and I are encouraged to be heterosexual (that which we are not) everyday, by somebody in some situation.   


I feel very sad that we won’t spend this holiday season together, but Roby and I will not dim our light and squelch our message of love because of someone else's fear and shame.  Besides, how can we ask more of others than we ask of ourselves?  Who said that "famous line?"  (:    We cannot live "don't ask, don't tell" in order for my mom, or anyone else, to feel comfortable.  It is her journey...always has been.    


We are often manipulated in our society into believing that speaking our truth (in many situations) is being disrespectful to others and/or our parents.  I firmly disagree. I feel that being someone “I am not” in order to gain advantage or privilege in a situation is disrespectful.  I honor another human, particularly my mother, by offering the gift of my authentic self.  Being on a budget with our journey, I offered my Mom my “presence” this Christmas, the only true present I have to offer.  


Roby and I know that we are "home" no matter where we are, because "home" is where our authentic self resides.   I will be presenting a workshop called “The Gift of Being GLBTA” at the Northwest Regional PFLAG conference April 21-23, 2006.  Roby and I are excited about that opportunity.  If there are other PFLAG conferences interested in us offering that workshop (or another one) at your regional conference, please contact us. 


Roby said, “It amazes me that the lies and myths about GLBT persons, taught from the pulpit, have divided and destroyed so many families, keeping people imprisoned through fear and misinformation.”   I agree.  When we look at the situation more closely, we also realize that although their shame of us manifests itself in their behavior, the deeper shame is within them.  


Roby continued, “It's so sad that families are ripped apart because of fear and because of the myths and untruths that are continuing to be spoken about us from the pulpits of many of our churches.  Our journey is about speaking with and touching the lives of people who are "wrestling" with their understanding of GLBT people.  Marliu isn't "wrestling."  She has firm beliefs and her mind and heart are closed.  She's not interested in learning, considering other ideas, or growing as it pertains to GLBT people.  As we mentioned, she is what we call the "un-informable" and we're trying to reach the "uninformed."  We do hope and pray, however, that our lives, and our love will somehow touch Marilu, and that even in her later years (80) she would grow and come to a new understanding that would set her free and release her from this prison of fear and shame, ending her suffering. 


Dotti:  As I wrote the above paragraphs, I was sitting at a kitchen table, looking out sliding glass doors into a beautiful woodsy setting.  Roby and I arrived last night at the home of Kerry, Lindsay, and Savannah Pacer. Kerry Pacer was recently named The Advocate “Person of the Year.”  Lindsay is her sister and Savannah is their PFLAG Mom.  We met had emailed Savannah before we arrived in Atlanta, but met her PFLAG Sunday evening.   This is definitely a family who supports Kerry and encourages her to be who she is… they are a family who stands up and speaks out together.  Click here to read the Advocate's Cover Story on Kerry if you missed it.


Kerry, her friend, Kimber, and Lindsay had cooked spaghetti for us for dinner when we arrived on Tuesday evening!  What a welcome!  We appreciate your Southern hospitality!  Savannah has invited a group from the community to their home (Dec. 22).  We will let you know how that goes in our next newsletter.


(L-R) Roby & Savannah in back row
(L-R) Kimber, Kerry, Lindsay, and Dotti in front row



We spent Monday night going to see the movie, Brokeback Mountain, and visiting with a teacher at a private high school in Atlanta.  DON’T MISS THAT MOVIE!  This teacher saw the calendar link on the Southern Voice that took her to the article about us in the Houston Voice, and attended her first PFLAG meeting.  


Following is a part of the email we received from this teacher on Monday after we left my home.   


Hi Dotti and Roby 


I just wanted to send you an email to thank you for all that you are doing.  I spoke to you, Roby, for a few minutes after your talk today at the PFLAG meeting here in Atlanta.  I am a teacher here in Atlanta at a private school.  I am myself gay and have been working very hard at my school to bring about more tolerance and acceptance, and to change a culture where it appears it is not safe for our students to come out.  As a young person I suffered the heartache of that kind of isolation and I have vowed as an educator to do everything that I can to give voice to those who have to remain invisible for their own reasons right now.  This year, two incidents occurred  that were very hard for me to handle.  I recently sat down with my headmaster and told him that I am no longer at a point where I can stand by and watch.  I have been out to my faculty but not to the student body.  I am now prepared to come out because I think that it is time for the students to see that not all of their gay teachers have to remain invisible to them.  There are other gay faculty members but they choose not to fight the fight for many reasons.   I pretty much told my headmaster that the next time I heard a student say " that's so gay" that I would "out" myself in repsonse to it.  We have anon-discrimination policy in place so I can't lose  my job, but certainly at a conservative school, there could be some parent backlash.  In response to that conversation, my headmaster has decided to give a talk in front of the whole student body on the topic of name calling and the power language.  He asked me for help in coming up with some resources.  That brings me to the reason for having come to see you today and for sending you this email. 



First of all, I can't tell you how much I admire what you are doing.  It does make a difference for all of us, but most importantly, you are changing the lives of future generations and of young people and that is the group I am the most concerned with .  I have already fought many of my battles in life, but I want to pave the way for a future where they don't have to fight the same battles.  You are changing people one person at a time and making the road they will have to travel that much easier.  Thank you for that from the bottom of my heart.  In that spirit, you can imagine the pressure I feel trying to come up with materials that will be just right, in this, my one chance to give my headmaster the right words to say in front of the student body on this topic.  We all know how important our straight allies are.  I am grateful that he is choosing to meet this challenge head on and I would love to offer him some powerful words to convey.  I know you both have a vast knowledge to draw from and I would be most grateful to take any suggestions you might have.



Since we met with her, this teacher is talking to her administration about the possibility of having us speak about our journey, Gay Into Straight America, as well as having me do some diversity training with the staff.   Her note, received just after Mom said we would be unable to stay for Christmas, confirmed for Roby and me that we made the best decision NOT to remove or cover up those signs on our vehicle. We hope that you will use our situation to examine ways in which you can “choose a course” that empowers you when confronted with a similar situation. 


Tuesday afternoon, before we traveled to the Pacer home, we visited the Names Project, home of the Aids Memorial Quilt, weighing 54 tons and comprised of 45,000 3’ x 6’ panels and dedicated to more than 88,000 individuals.  Jada Harris, manager, special projects, better known as the curator, hosted us on a tour.  Ritchie Crownfield, the associate display coordinator, also welcomed us.  



(L-R) Roby, Dotti, Jada, Ritchie



Why not use the normal “New Year’s Resolutions” routine in a different way this year?  Use it as a time to write down “Ten Ways I can Stand UP and Speak OUT” in order to create greater justice and equality for ALL people, and make a positive impact in our society.   Rather than being defiant, this action is the exact opposite.  This is a call to action and is about claiming one’s personal power.



Gay Into Straight America
Engaging Hearts & Minds, Creating Authentic Connections,
& Dissolving Differences that Separate US



May this holiday season be one of outrageous love and light,

Dotti, Roby & Rylee Joy




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