PFLAG, which stands for “Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays,” is a nonprofit organization that unites families and peers with people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer. During this past winter week, student council and administration invited PFLAG to host a panel during Winter Week. The panel was open to sophomores and juniors, in which speaker Ryley Copans presented to the audience PFLAG’s mission and the importance of acceptance.
For well over ten years, Copans has participated in activism and advocacy, working in a variety of different capacities including educational, non-profit and governmental. Copans decided to join PFLAG because it is really important to them that they engage in educational work and foundational practice with a variety of audiences.
“I personally identify as queer and non-binary, and my pronouns are they, them and theirs,” Copans said. “It is really cool that we don’t necessarily have one primary focus of who we are talking to: [we work with] corporations, government agencies and my personal and professional connections to the community.”
Copans loves to partake in school presentations because it offers them an opportunity to talk to kids one on one and answer more personal questions.
“One thing I really love about school presentations is that I always hang back for folks who want to ask me questions that either didn’t get a chance to or didn’t feel comfortable asking questions in front of everybody,” Copans said. “It means a lot to me when kids come up and come out to me because I know from personal experience that it is not easy, and it can be quite the process.”
Although PFLAG covered a lot of information during today’s panel, Copans wants their audience to know that the most important theme is respect.
“The most important thing to remember is that the overarching theme is respect,” Copans said. “When a classmate, peer, teacher, or whoever tells you that they use a certain name or pronoun, you always have to respect that. By accepting it you don’t necessarily have to be okay with it, but [don’t be] outwardly aggressive about it.”
Copans believes that in order to create a safer school environment, students have to treat each other with respect, especially with one another’s pronouns.
“It is important [to be in PFLAG] because you can’t make assumptions about people, and you never know who you are going to encounter, so you need to make an inclusive and representing space,” Copans said. “Know that it is not a dangerous space, but somewhere where people can be who they are.”
Copans enjoys being able to meet and link up with students across the nation because they can help teach kids how to be more respectful in the future.
“I really love being able to make connections with this generation’s community,” Copans said.