Cabarrus

PFLAG creates support for Cabarrus LGBTQ community

Loni Cutter is a friendly and charming transgendered woman from Kannapolis. Born male, Cutter began dressing almost full-time as female recently after a lifetime of letting the feminine side out only in the privacy of her own home, with clothes and products borrowed from girlfriends or ex-wife.

As Cutter become more comfortable embodying her inner female, she developed a career selling makeup. Her customers are mostly straight women. Cutter attributes some of her success to dressing professionally. She is also involved with her church, enjoys golf and has spoken at Hickory Ridge High School to help familiarize students with a gender identity.

Cutter attends PFLAG Concord/Kannapolis meetings, a chapter of PFLAG National. PFLAG was created in 1972 to provide support, education and advocacy for family and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals.

After attending her first meeting, Cutter continued attending because, “I was very comfortable. I was very accepted.”

The chapter had its first meeting in October 2013 with 10 attending; the chapter has grown at each of its monthly meetings to 26 people. The meetings, held on from 7 to 9 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at Central United Methodist Church in Concord, offer a safe space for people who want support or to gain understanding of the sexual identity of people they are close to. Meetings have a confidentiality policy to protect participants’ privacy.

Many parents of LGBTQ individuals attend. Often the group hosts speakers on topics such as faith and sexual identity.

“We have every letter in LGBTQ, including ‘S’ for ‘straight,’ represented at meetings,” said Cutter.

The meetings often have a fairly equal male-to-female ratio, according to the chapter’s treasurer, Tracy Burnette of Concord, who considers it “refreshing and positive.”

PFLAG Concord/Kannapolis president Joan Gale wanted to start the chapter to provide a safe place for people to express gender identities and receive support. One thing people may not realize is that after an individual shares a LGBTQ identity with the world, his or her family also have a coming-out process.

“My husband and I have a gay son and I knew how confusing and difficult the journey can be for a family. There wasn’t really anything in the community for parents of LGBTQ teens. I wanted to provide for parents what we didn’t have,” she said.

Gale also wanted to offer a place of acceptance for people across the LGBTQ spectrum.

“When someone comes to a meeting who is transgendered, for example, they are looking for acceptance.… This will become like a second home to them. I want it to be a lifelong thing, coming to meetings.”

Gale has counseled students in Cabarrus County schools for more than 20 years and taught for more than a decade before that. Her experience working with youth has given her perspective on the coming out process in young people. Several students have come out to her in her role as school counselor.

Whereas about a decade ago a program to support LGBTQ youth in Cabarrus County had difficulty finding support, now Gale said all but two high schools in the district have GSAs – Gay-Straight Alliance groups – for students. Some middle schools offer similar groups.

To further address the need for support for LGBTQ youth, the PFLAG chapter has partnered with Concord’s Time Out Youth Center to provide meetings for ages 13-20. The group held its first meeting March 24.

What advice would Gale give to parents of LGBTQ children?

“I think its important that parents accept their children no matter what. As parents you only have one chance to love your child. Love is the key,” she said.

Cutter’s advice to anyone struggling with gender identity or considering the transgendered lifestyle is, “Just be who you want to be and don’t let your inhibitions or fears control you. When you do what you want, you take control of your fear.”

Marjorie Dana is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marjorie? Email her at marjorie.dana@yahoo.com.

Want to go?

PFLAG Concord/Kannapolis meets the second Tuesday of each month, 7-9 p.m. at Central United Methodist Church, 30 N. Union St., Concord. The next meeting will be May 12. Attendance is free, though people can become official PFLAG members.

Time Out Youth Center’s discussion groups for ages 13-20 meet the fourth Tuesday of each month, 6:30-8 p.m., at McGill Baptist Church, 5300 Poplar Tent Road, Concord. No registration or fees are required.

To contact PFLAG Concord/Kannapolis, email ckpflag@gmail.com.

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