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Oxford PFLAG chapter fosters inclusion on campus

By Karen Augenstein, For The Miami Student

Oxford is home to a new chapter of Parent and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). The support group was implemented earlier this year due to popular demand and is working to support the LGBTQ community at Miami University and in the Oxford community.

"I was approached to help get it started," said Sabrina Jewell, 52, who is on the board of directors as treasurer for the Oxford PFLAG chapter. "To me, it felt like it was somewhere I could put my time and energy in and something I believe in."

PFLAG is a national organization originally founded in New York City back in 1972. Since then, it has spread to many cities, including several Ohio cities like Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati, prior to the Oxford chapter. The Oxford PFLAG chapter was officially implemented in February 2015, after the demand for an organized chapter available in the Oxford area was recognized. It has continued to expand around the Oxford community.

"We wanted to bring it to Oxford because there was a need for it, there were some conversations about marriage equality and being prepared [for the changes in the community] that were coming," said Brian Revalee, president of the Oxford PFLAG Chapter. "We felt it would be beneficial to all who were interested."

The PFLAG meeting is open to anyone who is interested, including those identifying with any origin, friends, family or anyone who just wants to be more informed or talk about certain issues. All are welcome.

Senior Eric Moenich is a member of the LGBTQ community at Miami and said he thinks a group like this is an important step for Oxford.

"I am incredibly glad that Oxford will be getting a support system for the local gay community," Moenich said. "It is important to foster dialogue among community members and provide a safe space for those looking to better understand their sexuality by talking with others who are just like them."

Jewell hopes to help raise awareness through initiating businesses to work with PFLAG.

"One of our initiatives is to create awareness and partnerships with local businesses," Jewell said. "We sent out letters offering the opportunity for businesses to become a member of the Oxford PFLAG, and they get a sticker if they become involved, to show that Ohio is a welcoming state to everybody."

One of these initiatives is to implement "Reading Rainbow" in Oxford public schools, which offers students a more diverse selection of literature to choose from, such as books containing LGBTQ characters or any character that might be a little out of the ordinary.

"We hope to work with public schools to create diversity in their reading lists," Jewell said.

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Shevonne Nelson, the assistant director of the Office of Diversity Affairs, said she feels Miami should be more involved and aware of the importance of diversity.

"We have some really good things in the works and pockets of support, but we need more people to understand that L, G, B and T students, faculty and staff deserve to live and work in a place that affirms who they are," Nelson said. "Much work is being done but we are by no means where we need to be."

PFLAG not only offers an outlet for Oxford community members who want to discuss certain

topics, but offers a chance to increase awareness for anyone and to broaden one's horizons. Nelson feels that PFLAG offers a place for people to gather and discuss important issues.

"PFLAG can provide a space for the person who 'came out' to share their experience and get support from parental figures and hear their struggles, celebrations and care," Nelson said.

The Oxford PFLAG chapter meets at 7:00 p.m. at the Oxford Senior Center, located on 922 Tollgate Dr. Revalee hopes that more people will see the importance PFLAG brings to the Oxford Community.

"We wanted to be ready to have those conversations with our community and to act as an advocate for our community," Revalee said. "We want to educate people and inform them that there are LGBTQ people in the Oxford community and that we were here to provide information."