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Debra Sullivan

Debra Sullivan is the Membership coordinator for the Spokane PFLAG chapter. Formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, PFLAG is the United States' largest organization for parents, families, friends, and allies united with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer.  She joined PFLAG after her sister was beat up for being gay. PFLAG works to educate the parents and the community to help make the world more peaceful for LGBTQ and others.

Interview by Emily Wilson, May 2015

For me, I have always had a utopian view of peace. Where we have a whole world where people are equal and get along. I think a lot of my view of peace has to do with equality. Everyone should be represented in government. This peace starts individually with each one of us being peaceful ourselves and not being hot headed. I’ve done a lot to deal with anger, I hardly feel anger anymore and when I do I put it on myself because it has to do with me. The only thing I can really change and know that it will stay changed is my attitude. About peace on a relationship level, I learned that there are really good people wherever I go. I always met nice people when I traveled as a child to Germany and neighboring countries. To me peace is a state of mind or a state of being. Like I said it starts with yourself, then you can share it with your friends and family, your community, your country, your world. I’ve read things by Dalai Lama and Gandhi and what most of them have in common is that they say that only peace will bring peace.         

What we can do to better promote peace is to educate people. In the LGBTQ community it is almost always a lack of education that brings violence, bias and prejudice. People just don’t understand that LGBTQ people are people too. It seems like such a simple thing to see LGBTQ as humans when they’re sitting right in front of you, but it’s not. We have to help them see the humanity in the people right in front of them. For peace to be more prominent in the world there needs to be equal rights for everyone. There is a lot of self-violence in that community that we are hoping our acceptance and our love will stop that. A lot of LGBTQ people don’t love themselves, so that is where we have to start. A lot of it has to do with acceptance; being loved for who they are, not in spite of who they are. First we have to get the LGBTQ community to accept themselves and second the outside community; it is a two-fold process. As the secretary of an HIV/AIDS organization we took a panel of speakers to schools to talk about AIDS; they would also tell their story and then they let the students ask questions, so they understood that it could happen to anybody even them.

            Some things that PFLAG does to promote peace, which I think is applicable to anyone is to focus on community. We went door to door to bring the community together to help pass the marriage equality law in Washington. On a worldwide basis for PFLAG, we have regional meetings where we talk about the best ways to incorporate everyone in the community and we talk about how to better promote our goals of equality and acceptance in the community. We like to go to all of the community days like “pig out in the park”, where we set up a booth with our educational materials and we also have games for children that came by to play. We just want to put a face on our organization so people in the community know that we are just like them and they can come talk to us. We just want them to feel comfortable.

            Peace studies students can study forms of non-violent protest and the writings of the Dalai Lama and Gandhi to learn more about peace. I belong to a metaphysical church with different kinds of running energy called your chi and I think that got me to inner peace faster than anything else. I find it helps me stay centered and grounded and when things come around I’m not so quick to react I take it all in and think about it first. Peace starts with yourself, then you can work on others.