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    PFLAG’s Sam and Julia Thoron Have Provided Years of Unconditional Love and Support for Our Community

    By Jody Huckaby

    pflag3After 25 years, Sam and Julia Thoron are stepping down from their leadership of PFLAG San Francisco. Their years of service started with a simple conversation with their daughter, Liz. She came out to them as a lesbian and, in the process, left behind some literature for them to help process the information; one such piece came from PFLAG.

    Their daughter’s forethought was PFLAG’s gain, as the Thorons soon leaped strongly into PFLAG service and leadership, at the national level, where Sam served on the PFLAG National board for several years before becoming national president. Locally, Sam and Julia became the leaders of the San Francisco chapter, often holding board meetings in their home. All of us who have been welcome in their home know that a lot of PFLAG history, indeed LGBTQ history, is not only archived in their basement but also has been witnessed, live, as it unfolded there.

    Nowhere was this more evident than in the Prop 8 campaign. The Thorons were the first faces and voices of the campaign, featured in commercials that ran across the state, telling their story.

    After the Prop 8 vote, analysis was done on which commercials were most effective in moving people to support marriage equality and, to no one’s surprise, Sam and Julia’s testimony was cited as the most powerful. In fact, their voices were so motivational, when it was time to identify who would write a letter to be printed in the California Voter Guide making the case for opposing Prop 8, Sam and Julia were the obvious choice.

    pflag4Advocates for marriage equality in California knew that Sam was absolutely right in what he had been saying at PFLAG events for many years: that when the families of LGBTQ people share their stories, the world changes. The idea that this is about “someone else” is gone, and it becomes about one simple thing: equality. And this message is the true gift that Sam and Julia have given to all of us at PFLAG. Their lives these last 25 years have been a daily affirmation of the power of speaking one’s truth, telling one’s personal story.

    Sam and Julia are stepping down from local leadership, but will always be a part of PFLAG because of their contribution. And there will always be a home for them with PFLAG and the LGBTQ community, just as they opened up their home to all of us.

    We will miss their day-to-day wisdom and passion but, at PFLAG National, we are already talking to them about how their historical knowledge can be archived so we do not lose that first–hand narrative and contribution to our history.

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    Sam and Julia have created a legacy of incredible change in the world; we are grateful to them for many years of service to PFLAG, and know that they have truly made the world a better place for all of us, LGBTQ and allies alike.

    On a personal note, Sam was national president when I met him the first time in 2004 in a group interview by the search committee charged with finding PFLAG National’s next executive director. Six weeks later, I met him again with Julia for another interview with the search committee. He introduced me to Julia as his “lovely bride,” with the affection and love that I experience every time I am with them. I remember that it nearly took my breath away.

    pflag2I regrouped, and asked him what he thought of the recent election results, where in every state that had a ballot measure to amend their state constitutions to ban marriage for same-sex couples, every one of the amendments passed. Sam paused, in a way that only Sam can, then he turned to Julia—who was wearing a PFLAG pendant on her sweater—looked at me again and said, “Well, we’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves; let’s get to it.” From that moment, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a part of PFLAG. Both Sam and Julia have been a tremendous inspiration for me ever since.

    Jody Huckaby is Executive Director of PFLAG National. For more information, please see PFLAG National, http://community.pflag.org/, and PFLAG San Francisco, http://www.pflagsf.org/