Pulling Out the PFLAG Stops

Local PFLAG chapter celebrates support with honors, thrills with gala auction and celebrities

by Will O'Bryan
Published on March 19, 2009, 12:00am | Comments

Washington is home to many national GLBT organizations working for equality on nearly every front. When you look at the lineup for one organization's upcoming gala -- with Broadway and TV's Cheyenne Jackson, Alan Cumming of Hollywood and stages on either side of the Atlantic, and West Hollywood City Council member and Mayor John Duran who will serve as emcee -- it seems as though it must be one of those national organizations.

But no.

This March 21 fete is a local affair. Granted, it is for the world's largest chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), but it's exclusively the baby of Metro-D.C. PFLAG, working locally for GLBT equality, from schoolyards to Senate halls.

''We certainly have more star power this year,'' says executive director Lindy Garnette, adding there will be greater opportunity to mix and mingle with the celebrities, what with the VIP reception happening after the gala rather than prior.

''Alan is going to perform at that after-reception,'' Garnette promises. ''If you want to 'press the flesh' with Cheyenne and the crew, you'll be able to get up close and personal. We're really excited about that.''

John Duran's ties to PFLAG go back to his own coming out, about 20 years ago, when the only supportive organization he could find was a Los Angeles-area PFLAG chapter. When he serves as emcee of the Los Angeles-area PRIDE Parade, he notes that his local PFLAG contingent elicits warm, loving cheers from the crowd.

''It's because our relationships with our parents are so critical,'' says Duran. ''What are Mom and Dad going to think and say? When Mom and Dad are there, being supportive, that really sets the road ahead to fight against the insults. Lobbying, AIDS and legal issue are important, but PFLAG hits you right in the heart. It's family. It's Mom and Dad.''

Gerda and Allen Keiswetter are just the sort of parents Duran has in mind. With a transgender child of their own, and Allen Keiswetter's role as president of Metro-D.C. PFLAG's board of directors, the Keiswetters get very involved in the gala. In fact the couple are offering themselves, in a manner, for the gala's auction. They're auctioning off a night in New York to attend the taping of an unnamed comic and commentator's show, as well as an Arab dinner for 12 people at their Falls Church home.

''Not only do we dress in full costume, but we have costumes for all our guests,'' assures Mr. Keiswetter of this annual popular offering, explaining that his years of foreign-service work took the Keiswetters to Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tunisia. ''It will be Lebanese with a Saudi Arabian slant,'' he says.

Other Metro-D.C. PFLAG parents are involved at the other end of things, as they are honored by the organization for their support. The Spotlight Award will go to former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife, Chandler. Joyce Koons, owner of the Koons of Manassas car dealership, will be honored with the group's Corporate Award. The third award to be presented, the Faith in Action Award, goes not to parents, but to Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church.

Metro-D.C. PFLAG's 12th Annual Honors Gala and Silent Auction is this Saturday, March 21, at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave. NW. The silent auction begins at 6 p.m., followed by the gala at 7 p.m. The VIP reception begins at approximately 10 p.m. Tickets range from $75 to $250. Visit www.pflagdc.org or call 202-638-3852.


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