By Brian Goins | Photo By Jenn George
The LGBT+ community always needs more straight allies, and Kathy Halbrooks, a former president of PFLAG Nashville, is one of the best.
Halbrooks, who has been employed by Metro Water Services for more than 30 years, fell into the issues of equality in the early 2000s, when a bill came before the city council to add sexual orientation to protections for employees.
“I didn’t know anyone in the LGBT community,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone who was active in any kind of social justice. I just felt that it was the right thing to do.”
When members of Westboro Baptist Church came to protest the bill, Halbrooks stood in support of the bill and against the hate. And, although the bill failed at that time, Halbrooks said she had found a passion championing for equality.
“I had always wanted to do something that was good — good for the country and for the world,” she said. Soon, she was invited to attend PFLAG meetings, and soon found herself elected as president.
“Things just kept happening,” she laughed. “This issue came into my life over and over again. I thought, ‘This is what I should be doing.’”
Currently, she serves as Co-Chair of PFLAG Nashville with Michael Reding. She also serves as Middle Tennessee Coordinator for Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC), an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal right legislation.
Throughout the years, her work has grown into many close friendships within the LGBT+ community.
“I don’t know how I went so long in my life without finding people who I fit in with,” she said. “When I started doing this, I met people who I connected with on all sorts of levels. It was wonderful for me, and my life has been so much better since.”
PFLAG, she said, is a place for everyone … not just parents or family members of the LGBT+ community.
“I used to think that my situation was odd, because most of the people who I see get involved really are parents,” she said. “We’re encouraged to share personal stories and to have a call to action. Mine is to try to get people who are allies to get more involved.”
We need more allies, she continued, to move things forward and vote for legislation that’s good and to support people.
She feels like her gift is connecting people, and she’s using that gift to guide people from the different organizations she’s worked within to make the connections that are needed to benefit the community.
And, when it comes to someone taking a first step to becoming an ally, Halbrooks said there are many ways to start.
“People are always welcome to come to a meeting and learn more about what’s going on,” she said, adding that there are several organizations that are looking for volunteers.
“But what I really try to do, is encourage people to vote and to stay up with what’s happening politically,” she said. “I hate to admit it, but I used to be really politically apathetic.”
A beautiful first step is simply to stay informed and vote in favor of equality. Halbrooks’ friendships led her to a clearer picture as to why these issues are important.
“Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of transgender healthcare in our state and the second largest in the country,” she said, adding that the bill that aimed to defund it was a direct hit at those who need that care. Seeing how things like that tie into the LGBT+ community is a real eye-opener.
“Voting in people who are supportive to the community is really important,” she said.
“Any time a marginalized group moves forward, it’s a move forward for everybody.”
To learn more about what you can do to become an ally, visit pflagnashville.org. Meetings are 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday and third Tuesday, monthly at The Oasis Center, 1704 Charlotte Ave., Nashville.