Today’s guest blog comes from Rex Saldana, President of the Danville/ San Ramon Valley, California PFLAG chapter. Here at Born This Way Foundation, we are honored to shine light on amazing organizations who are making the world a kinder, braver place like the Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). PFLAG is a national family and ally organization, connecting hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people to families, friends, and allies around the U.S.
When I speak about bullying, I am speaking from first-hand experience. Growing up gay in the South was not easy. The things that came more naturally to me – being sensitive, having a neat, stylish appearance, an interest in the arts, not terribly athletic – were what made me a target for bullies. It’s hard for others to imagine what it’s like to deal with an experience like this, unless they have been through it themselves. To be picked on and humiliated for no reason, and without warning, is very jarring and upsetting from an emotional standpoint. For me, the most painful and least understood thing about all of this was – why am I a target? What did I do to deserve this? Why I am being singled out when I have done nothing to anyone? Imagine all of these emotions tumbling around inside a young teenager who is also trying to cope with his or her sexuality in what has generally been a non-accepting society. The results of this type of bullying have stayed with me throughout my adult life.
However, as horrible as they were, It was these experiences, which led me to join my local chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) about three years ago. Since that time I have served as the President of the chapter and been involved with numerous outreaches to the local community, such as with the GSAs (Gay/Straight Alliance) in the local high schools, and outreach to the local transgender and transgender-ally communities through special events such as an awareness forum which we held last year. This event served to bring transgender youth and the local community together to foster a more inclusive environment for these children and also to educate people about what it means to be transgender.
It is a fact that at PFLAG, we are now seeing transgender issues take more and more of a center stage, especially as acceptance of gays and lesbians and same-sex marriage becomes more widespread. We are seeing children as young as 5 years old declaring that they feel like the opposite sex inside. We are seeing more and more middle school and high school children participating in hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. Recently, our monthly PFLAG support meetings have become more and more transgender issue-oriented. This community is definitely coming out of the shadows, and thanks to high-profile celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, more and more people are becoming aware of what transgender is and what these individuals are experiencing on a daily basis. There is no doubt that we have come a long, long way in the struggle for LGBT equality and with the help of organizations like the Born This Way Foundation, PFLAG, and others, are working towards a more accepting and kind society.
Rex Saldana is President of the Danville/San Ramon, California PFLAG chapter, and is an advocate for LGBT and anti-bullying issues. He is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Born This Way Foundation. He lives in Danville, California with his partner of 20 years, David, and their two cats, Augustus and Veruca.