March Newsletter

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PFLAG Buffalo/Niagara

PFLAG Buffalo/ Niagara
Parents, Families, Friends and Allies United with LGBTQ
PO Box 617
Buffalo, NY 14207

[email protected]

March Sharing Meeting
Sunday, March 15; 2:30-5:00

The sharing meetings are held at Kenilworth United Church of Christ from 2:30-5:00. Newcomers and anyone
interested will be offered the option of meeting privately with a PFLAG parent. Our monthly meetings are in the
library, which is near the parking lot entrance. The facility is handicapped accessible. New Parents Meetings
are scheduled as needed at a location convenient to those involved. These self-help one-on-one meetings deal with the
concerns of parents and family members who have recently learned that a loved one is gay.
We meet because we have learned that someone very close to us is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgendered. We try
to help one another deal with this information in a positive manner. Although we do not agree at all times, we try to be
understanding. We offer help to those who seek it, but do not force ourselves on others. We strive to maintain
anonymity while sharing on a level that is comfortable for all of us. We encourage all to attend meetings for their own
benefit as well as that of the group. It is our hope that when each of us reaches a point of understanding and
acceptance, we realize that this is when others need us the most.

March 2015

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Trans Actress Michelle Hendley Tugs Our Heartstrings in Boy Meets Girl
FEBRUARY 16 2015 12:10 PM ET

Michelle Hendley
Love seeing talented trans actors play complex trans roles? Meet your new obsession: Boy
Meets Girl, a quirky romantic comedy starring out trans actress Michelle Hendley that hit
theaters for a limited release February 6, and will begin streaming online in April.
Hendley has received well-deserved critical acclaim for her debut in this tender, sexy comingof-age story about two twenty-something's living in Kentucky: Robby, (Michael Welch, Twilight)
and his best friend since childhood, Ricky, a gorgeous, witty trans girl. Lamenting the lack of
eligible bachelors in their small town, Ricky finds sparks flying with new friend Francesca
(Alexandra Turchen) -- and hilarity, touched with a solid balance of down-to-earth drama,
"I’m passionate about breaking the mold of sexual and emotional convention in the pursuit of
creating more unity in our increasingly fractured world," director Eric Schaeffer explained of his
approach to The Advocate. "I feel a duty to portray characters in my films who, like myself,
admit to and accept without condition the parts of themselves and others that can be best
described and must start being labeled as one thing and one thing only: human."
Read the interview with director Eric Schaeffer below.
What motivated you to create a traditional love story through the lens of a
transgender girl?
Eric Schaeffer: I thought that it would offer people a new lens into important and timeless
issues that we all care about profoundly and by doing so, allow them a fresh perspective. All of
the characters seem to be addressing or struggling with identity, sexuality, perception, and
self-worth. Was the story created to address these points or did the story naturally flow to this

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level based on the main character being trans? Both. The story was about all of those things
and I felt by making the story about a trans woman, it would be an obvious mirror for
feelings/struggles everyone identifies with and has.
The experiences in the movie felt very true-to-life. How were you able to write a
fairly authentic character from a trans point-of-view as a cisgender writer?
Thank you. I feel very deeply -- and it's what the film is about -- that we are all the same at
the core. We all want to give and receive love, be happy, help each other, have good
relationships with our friends and family, do work we love and are proud of. That's a human
point of view and on that topic, I am qualified. That's why it rings true regardless. Obviously
there are specifics within each person's experience that are different, and to make sure I was
on the mark Michelle and some other transgender friends of mine gave their opinions and
confirmed I was good to go and had written an authentic film and in the few places I had
misconceptions, I made changes based on their feedback.
Traditionally, transgender roles have been going to cisgender actors, what made you
decide to cast an unknown transgender girl in such a pivotal role?
Since I was making a low budget film and had complete creative control, I had the luxury of
casting whoever I wanted. Had it been a bigger budget film and I had less control, I might
have been forced to cast a famous cisgender actor but luckily that wasn't the case. I thought it
was very important to cast a transgender actress because A: While actors can "act," a
transgender woman would obviously bring an authenticity and intimacy of personal experience
to the material a cisgender actor would not and B: I felt it very important to give that part to a
transgender actress since it's so hard and there are so few roles, but she would have to be
excellent and totally perfect for the part or it wouldn't make sense.
I wouldn't have cast a transgender woman simply because it's a transgender character, she's
the lead of the film, the film would win or lose because of her so she had to be extremely
talented. Luckily I found Michelle.
At the end of the day, this is a classic "boy meets girl" love story. How do you push
this films message across gender lines so that it resonates outside ot the LGBTQ
I hope all audiences get to see the film. That has to do with the complex luck and conspiracy of
the universe in terms of the marketplace. It certainly is a film that all audiences will identify
with or not, but if they don't, it won't have anything to do with the film being about a
transgender girl.

March 2015

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By Olga Kazan, The Atlantic Magazine, February 20, 2015

Call it a little ditty about Jackie and Diana: Jacqueline Cote and Diana Smithson met on Cape
Cod in 1992, fell in love, and moved to Maine together in 1998. They both got jobs at Walmart,
working side by side in the bakery department. In 2003, they decided to make it official. They
moved to Massachusetts and, five days after the state made it legal, they got married. They
both continued to work in various positions at Walmart stores.
In 2006, Cote was promoted to a management job, where she made significantly more money
and generally enjoyed the work. The following year, Smithson quit her own job in order to care
for Cote’s elderly mother, who had dementia.
The following year, Cote tried to add Smithson in her health insurance plan as a spouse. When
she logged into Walmart’s employee benefits site, she said it required her to select her
spouse’s gender.
“I would click 'female,' and it would tell me I could not proceed and I needed to call the home
office [in Arkansas],” Cote told me.
When she called, the company said “that wasn't something that they were prepared to offer at
this time,” Cote said.
Every year, Cote churned through the same process at open-enrollment time, and every year,
she was denied. In 2012, Smithson was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she lost the
private insurance she had been paying for separately.
When the federal Defense of Marriage Act was overturned in 2013, Cote called the home office
“I would like to add my spouse to my insurance,” she said.
“What is your husband's name?” she recalls the representative asking.
“My spouse is Diana Smithson.”
“You're married to a woman?"
Cote was put on hold. Her request was denied.

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In 2014, Walmart changed its policy to allow same-sex spouses to join its employees’ health
insurance plans. But it was too late for Smithson: She had already racked up more than
$100,000 in medical expenses, Cote and her lawyers say.
Fifteen states have no law requiring insurance coverage for same-sex partners, and in those
states, businesses can choose not to offer same-sex spousal health coverage. Massachusetts is
not one of those states, however: According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in the 37 states
with legal gay marriage, “employees’ same-sex spouses should have the same eligibility as
opposite sex spouses for dependent health coverage.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in
June that states that recognize same-sex marriage must also treat gay spouses the same as
straight spouses when it comes to federal benefits and taxes.
Relationship Recognition and Health Insurance Coverage

© Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
“We have so many states that now that have marriage equality, but so many employers have
not updated their policies to reflect the change in the law,” Cote’s lawyer, Allison Wright, told
me. “They are denying benefits to employees who are in legal marriages.”
Wright says this type of discrimination contributes to poverty among LGBT couples. Gay
people are more likely to have an income below $24,000 than straight people are. They are
also less likely to have employer-sponsored insurance and more likely to be enrolled in
This week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said there was reasonable
cause to believe Walmart discriminated against Cote and Smithson because of their sexes.
Walmart will now enter conciliation with the couple, which might meant that the company will
pay off some of their medical debt, Wright said.
If Walmart refuses to pay, Wright said her organization, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates &
Defenders, may pursue the matter in federal court. The EEOC ruling says Walmart denies the
policy was discriminatory because it is self-insured, meaning its employees' premiums go
Walmart, rather than a separate insurance company.

March 2015

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“While we disagree with the finding of reasonable cause, we have notified the EEOC of our
willingness to meet with them and Ms. Cote to discuss resolving the matter,” Walmart
spokesman Randy Hargrove told me. Hargrove said he is not aware of any other employees in
a situation like Cote’s.
To Cote and her lawyers, the dispute is about more than finances. Cote said she felt like a
second-class citizen. Over the years, she would sometimes test Walmart’s system by clicking
“male,” rather than “female,” in her spousal benefits application. The form would sail through
flawlessly, she said.
She says she now wants an apology on top of restitution for the medical bills.
“These radiologists are responsible for [Diana] still being here,” she said. “It's difficult for her to
not be able to pay them.”
As gay marriage becomes even more widespread, cases like Cote’s are bound to become rarer.
In 2013, the Human Rights Campaign found that 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer
health benefits for domestic partners. Still, the other 34 percent represents a long way to go
for some same-sex couples. Currently, GLAD is pursuing a case in the U.S. District Court
involving a woman named Kerry Considine, a licensed physical therapist at Brookdale Senior
Living in Connecticut who was prevented from adding her legal wife to her employee health
insurance plan, according to the lawsuit.
"I thought we, as a society, were moving forward,” Considine told the AP. “To be with a
company that I feel isn't is hurtful and just not what I expected."


About the It Gets Better Project
The It Gets Better Project's mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes
needed to make it better for them.
Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, leading them to
feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens, who often
hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. Without other openly gay adults and mentors in their

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lives, they can't imagine what their future may hold. In many instances, gay and lesbian
adolescents are taunted — even tortured — simply for being themselves.
While many of these teens couldn’t see a positive future for themselves, we can. The It Gets
Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and
positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better
Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it
WILL get better.
What is the It Gets Better Project?
In September 2010, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video
with his partner Terry Miller to inspire hope for young people facing harassment. In response to
a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, they wanted to create
a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get
The It Gets Better Project™ has become a worldwide movement, inspiring more than 50,000
user-created videos viewed more than 50 million times. To date, the project has received
submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities,
including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Adam
Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of "Glee", Joe Jonas, Joel Madden,
Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the staffs of The Gap,
Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more. For us, every video
changes a life. It doesn’t matter who makes it. is a place where young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender
can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future. It’s a place where our straight
allies can visit and support their friends and family members. It’s a place where people can
share their stories, take the It Gets Better Project pledge and watch videos of love and support.
On March 22, 2011, six months following the launch of the project, the It Gets Better Project
book was released. The book , It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating
a Life Worth Living is on-sale wherever books are sold. It includes essays and new material
from more than 100 contributors, including celebrities, religious leaders, politicians, parents,
educators, youth just out of high school, and many more.

PFLAG Buffalo-Niagara Board of Directors
Phil Salemi, President
Amy Fularz, Vice President
Kristian Rickard, Vice President
Brian Carrier, Treasurer
Michele Perry, Secretary
Lisbeth Ball, Director
Ann Carrier, Director
Julie Christiano, Director
Julie Lazzaro Thompson, Director

March 2015

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Please join our PFLAG chapter to support our mission at whatever level membership
you wish.

Lifetime Membership ................................ $500

BenefactorMembership …....................... $250

Sponsoring Membership ……….……….. $100  (Business Card Advertisement ($100 for 10 issues)

Supporting Membership .......................... $50

Household Membership …………………. $30

Newsletter Subscription Only…………... $15
Donations of $50.00 or more can be included in the chapter newsletter. 
Make checks payable to PFLAG Buffalo/Niagara and mail to: P.O. Box 617 Buffalo, NY 14207
PFLAG Buffalo/Niagara is a non-profit 501(c)3 and donations are tax-deductible.

PFLAG Buffalo-Niagara, is a non-profit, all volunteer, community-based organization
not affiliated with any ethnic, religious, economic or political group. Membership is open
to all. PFLAG membership lists are kept confidential and mailings are sent in plain
We hope you like reading these newsletter articles. We also share current articles on
our Facebook page. Please consider “liking” us on Facebook and reading articles all
month long at

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