An Olympia woman has started a twice-monthly LGBT discussion group specifically for military families, active-duty personnel and veterans in the South Sound.
After her son came out as gay four years ago, Dana McCormick needed advice from other parents to help navigate a seemingly new world.
Part of her fear and confusion stemmed from attitudes she witnessed in the workplace. At the time, McCormick was nearing the end of a 20-year career in the Army. She knew that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — both in the military and civilian life — faced harassment and violence.
“It wasn’t that he was gay. I was just afraid for him,” she said of her son, Robert Kowalski.
McCormick found support through PFLAG Olympia, which meets monthly. The acronym stands for “parents and friends of lesbians and gays,” but the group extends to the transgender community and beyond.
PFLAG Olympia soon became a family affair. McCormick is the current president, and her son and her husband, Jason, an active-duty sergeant at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, have served on the group’s board.
Last August, McCormick began holding informal discussions for the military’s LGBT community twice a month at a Starbucks in Lakewood. Her ultimate goal is to start an official LGBT support group at JBLM.
“Everybody’s experience is so different,” she said, noting the therapeutic value for like-minded families to connect and share resources. “We just want to be able to provide some support.”
In December, PFLAG Olympia received a much-needed financial boost: a $5,000 grant from the Olympia Credit Union. McCormick said the money will help the chapter spread its reach through educational materials, publicity and social events. The Olympia chapter also plans to host deeper discussions on transgender issues.
The donation is the largest ever given by the credit union, loan supervisor Carrie Hartman said. The process began last summer, shortly after the credit union’s employees completed sensitivity training for serving the LGBT community.
“We think it’s a really important organization that’s doing really important work,” Hartman said of PFLAG Olympia. “It made us very proud to do something like that.”
To get involved
PFLAG Olympia meets 2-4 p.m. the second Sunday of the month at First United Methodist Church, 1224 Legion Way SE, Olympia. All ages are welcome.
Dana McCormick hosts a similar support group for military families from 7-9 p.m. on the second and fourth Fridays of the month at the Starbucks Community Store, 10314 South Tacoma Way at state Route 512 in Lakewood.