Up & Coming Weekly

June 22, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

Issue link: https://www.epageflip.net/i/1386020

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 24

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM JUNE 23-29, 2021 UCW 15 The month of June is obser- ved as LGBTQ+ Pride Month and holds significance for members, supporters and allies. Several local organizations continue to strive for toleran- ce and inclusion. Leading the local effort is Fayetteville Pride, which focuses on instilling pride, celebrating unity and embracing diversity and inclu- sion while providing education and support within the LGBTQ+ community. When the organization star- ted in 2017, Fayetteville Pride Board President Sam DuBois said he expected pushback, but most efforts have been met with a positive response. Fayetteville's chapters of Free Mom Hugs and PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) offer various resources to the community. "We're a group of moms and allies that get together either at events or we host things and we just celebrate the members of our LGBTQ community," said Audra Ferguson, Free Mom Hugs Fayetteville/Sandhills chapter leader. Free Mom Hugs organization was established 2014 by Sara Cunningham, a southern Christian mother fighting for LGBTQ+ rights for her gay son. The organization became a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2018. For more information visit, https://freemomhugs.org Ferguson said she joined when she met the local chapter at a Pride event with her two sons who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. She joined after she fell in love with their mission. "We go and give a hug to people who may just need a hug, we can be a stand-in parent if someone's getting married and their family doesn't accept that, we go and be their stand-in parent," she said. "We just go out and support, be that for someone who doesn't have it." The organization also blocks protesters at Pride events, drag shows and more by standing guard without engaging. "In my group I always post different articles and resources to help people learn things they might not know," Ferguson said. PFLAG Fayetteville works with parents and families and friends of LGBTQ+ individuals in providing support, education and advocacy. "Sometimes people come in with questions, sometimes they just want to observe what other parents are going through," PFLAG Fayetteville Board President Devra Thomas said. "We are seeing less of let's not talk about it but more how do I talk about it, I need more information rather than this is not something I want to deal with." The organization hosts monthly support mee- tings on the first Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m. The meetings are currently over Zoom but are in the process of resuming into in-person meetings. For more details follow @pf lagfayette- ville on Facebook. "Back in spring I had a mom contact me through email whose teenager was starting to have questions about their gender identity," Thomas said. "She just wanted to talk to some- body and asked what the right thing was that she was supposed to say, so we jumped on a phone call, had a great conversation." "I identity as bi-sexual and have several family members who identity various ways," Thomas said. "Pride month is a great month to see who else is in this space and fight for those rights. Any time we can get together and have a party and celebrate is great." Thomas mentioned there is a slow and steady upward trajectory for continued interest in pride in Fayetteville. With more information shared and more public recognition, some have seen increased support for the LGBTQ+ community. Nadine Alonzo, a Major assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and recalls how things have changed over the years for members of the community even in the service. "I couldn't let people get close to me, people who I loved and served with, because I didn't want them to have evidence, not because I thought they would tell on me, but because if they ever put me in a military court martial or asked to testify, I didn't want to put them in that position," Alonzo said. "This was between 2002- 2011, so that was what it was like beforehand, and people now may not know that and that's why his- tory is important." Alonzo said she has been lucky to be in the 82nd Airborne Division at Bragg and for their acceptance. "I look diverse, not like most ladies that serve, seeing me kno- wing you can probably guess what my sexual orientation is," Alonzo said. "They are willing to look past that and look at me as an officer and give me a lot of opportunity which I am grate- ful for because that's not always been the case." Before gay marriage was lega- lized and it was legal by law to be gay in the military, she didn't always feel accepted or comfort- able during the days when "don't ask, don't tell" was the official policy for being gay in the military. "It was tough, it gets dark and lonely because you can't let people get to know you because, back in the day if someone had evidence, I could get kicked out, so I had to be very care- ful," Alonzo said. Originally from Long Island, New York, Alonzo joined the service after 9/11 to support her country and to give back to the country that helped her immigrant parents establish themselves. "To be an out person that other young peo- ple can see, and it probably helps them seeing me walk around in a leadership position, I am trusted by others and it legitimizes who I am and what I represent other than my rank and uni- form," Alonzo said. Representation is one way to help end the stigma still associated with the LGBTQ+ com- munity. Alonzo said people often act tense when same sex couples show affection and she encourages people to relax, and to treat them the same as everyone else. Members of the LGBTQ+ community living their truth is perhaps one of the best examples for those who have questions or concerns, some advocates say. "The more we educate, the more people come around," Ferguson said. "It used to be so many years ago that it's a choice, and well it's not." "There isn't equality still and a lot of discrimi- nation against the LGBTQ community — it's our hope to help that dissipate and make it better in the future for our children or our children's chil- dren," Ferguson said. For more information visit, http://w w w. FayettevillePRIDE.org/ Advocacy is key to ending stigma associated with LGBTQ+ community by KEYURI PARAB FEATURE KEYURI PARAB, Editorial Assistant COMMENTS? Editor@upandcomin- gweekly.com 910-484-6200. (Left) Audra Ferguson is chapter leader of Fayetteville's Free Mom Hugs. (Above) Devra omas serves as Board President of PFLAG. (Below) Nadine Alonzo, left, and her partner, just want to be treated like everyone else.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Up & Coming Weekly - June 22, 2021