The Santa Clarita chapter of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, celebrated its 30th anniversary with Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Saturday afternoon.
The documentary “Back on Board: Greg Louganis” was presented to an audience of PFLAG supporters and members, followed by a Q&A with Louganis himself.
“I would encourage them to have fun, enjoy themselves, and be open to exploring other ways of expressing yourself,” Louganis said about younger athletes and divers today.
He addressed a similar message for coaches about being open with each other and sharing useful information in accomplishing goals.
“I didn’t find a whole lot of cooperation and sharing of facilities because those facilities are diminishing due to costs,” he said, “…we really have to kind of lean on each other and have that open door policy for other coaches to help our youth.”
Louganis reflected on his fame, his career and moments along the way, from his head injury in 1988, being inspired by HIV/AIDS victim Ryan White, his life spent with dogs and even working with service dogs.
“Dogs kept me alive,” he said.
PFLAG co-founder Peggy Stabile said she wanted the 30th anniversary to be as special as possible.
“We’re thrilled that we had such a positive response from the community,” she said.
Stabile and her husband founded the PFLAG Santa Clarita chapter after their son came out as gay in 1986.
“When I heard a mom from Canyon High speak at a rally and heard her say that there are ‘no gays in Santa Clarita,’ I talked to my husband and we decided we needed a PFLAG in Santa Clarita,” Stabile said, “to educate our community and also to give support to kids like my son who felt like he was the only person in the valley who was gay.”
Supporter Susie Kaufman expressed her admiration and gratitude for PFLAG existing in Santa Clarita.
“This is my community and I didnt realize PFLAG was here for 30 years,” she said, adding that Louganis “broke through some major barriers.”
When asked about being gay and visiting less inclusive parts of the country, Louganis spoke about a book tour stop in Lawrence, Kan., aware of the Westboro Baptist Church and its late leader Fred Phelps nearby.
“During the Q&A, after my speech, this woman stood up and said, ‘Well, what do you think of the ignorance thats standing outside this building?’” he said. “And I said, ‘Oh, you mean Fred (Phelps)?’ Everyone just kind of chuckled and I said, ‘well, I feel like I should hand him a teddy bear and tell him he needs lots of hugs, because anybody who spews that much hate can’t like themselves very much.’ So the LGBTQ student union sent him a bunch of teddy bears. The only response that you can really give to combat any hate or ignorance or anything like that is love.”