Hamilton, Montana is a town of fewer than 5,000 people located in Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. On the forty mile drive from Missoula to Hamilton one passes several anti-choice signs adorning fields of cows and billboards displaying the Ten Commandments. The Bitterroot Valley is home to anti-LGBTQ activists like Rev. Harris Himes, the notorious preacher who said in a legislative committee in 2011 that the punishment for homosexuality is death, and anti-porn crusader Dallas Erickson of Montanans for Decency through Law. During debate over Missoula’s non-discrimination ordinance in 2010, Erickson said that Bitterroot residents wouldn’t take their children to Missoula businesses for fear they would be “confronted in the restroom with a different gender” if the City Council passed the ordinance.
I mention all of this not to give Hamilton a bad rep (I visit often for the great hiking and tasty breweries), but rather to expose to the larger Pride Foundation community just how big of a deal it is that the Pacific Northwest Regional PFLAG Conference has decided to embrace this small Montana town with rainbows, glitter and parental love for three days: September 21-23. Pride Foundation is a proud sponsor of this event, and I’ll be presenting during the Saturday sessions.
The conference kicks off Friday, September 21 at the Bitterroot River Inn with Dr. Robert Minor, Professor Emeritus of Religion at University of Kansas, speaking on how to diffuse religious arguments misused to justify discrimination of LGBTQ people.
Saturday’s offerings begin at 10:00 AM and include workshops on how to avoid volunteer burnout, how to better engage straight allies in the movement, as well as a panel on transgender experiences and how to have a more fulfilling relationship geared toward LGBTQ couples. Lesbian icon, singer-songwriter Cris Williamson will perform a benefit concert for the Bitterroot PFLAG chapter at the Victor Performing Arts Center at 7:30 PM.
Conference sessions continue Sunday morning exploring how to build more successful boards of directors and how to carry forth the hope and inspiration of the conference back to the various communities represented from across the region.
For a full schedule and registration information, visit www.pflaghamiltonbitterroot.org.
It’s just $60 to register and scholarships are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Visit http://pflaghamiltonbitterroot.org/ for more info and to register.
Caitlin Copple is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Montana. Email Caitlin.