In looking back over the time that I served on the board, as vice president and as president of BFLAG, I have pride in the accomplishments we made together. BFLAG grew not only in membership but programming and diversity as well. Our membership rose from 70 members to over 200 members today. We have substantially expanded convention programs to include social events, an annual banquet with a formal program, interactive streamed educational seminars and a welcoming place for prospective members to meet and pay their dues. We have also set up an endowment fund, which now has over $5,000 to perpetuate the mission and purpose of BFLAG. We truly have come a long way.
Public relations has hit an all-time high. BFLAG has been mentioned in over 500 publications, including online and print formats. We have spread the word via radio around the world and BFLAG was recognized as one of the top 10 resources for the disabled GLBTQ community in the country. BFLAG has a blind lesbian comic book character as a life member and the public relations we received from that alone is worldwide. Over 10 BFLAG members exhibited at the 2007 PFLAG national conference in Washington, D.C., and we have had representation in more than 10 pride events around the country. Public education is a key result of such public relations acts.
The need for affiliates was shown in 2002 and was put on the back burner until recently. Now it is reality. BFLAG has four chartered affiliates with more being considered and worked on at this point. With each affiliate, membership growth and public relations, as well as education, will occur. I can see the time in the near future when BFLAG reaches 400-500 members and will have 10 affiliates that are active and meeting the mission/purpose of BFLAG's constitution.
BFLAG has continued to be a diverse organization meeting the needs of a diverse population. It is also believed that our bisexual and queer self- identified membership is on the increase, which is simply a reflection of society as a whole. We are still reaching out to transgendered and intersexed individuals. This has been a slow process and requires more education. I believe that BFLAG's diversity will continue to increase. We, like many other organizations, will not only be more tolerant, but we will be far more inclusive in all of our activities.
Communications has been one of the most rewarding aspects for me. I have had the opportunity to talk with all sorts of GLBTQ blind/visually impaired people and our supporters all around the world. I have been able to talk firsthand with many individuals struggling with their sexuality and trying to understand the loneliness and depression associated with it. I have seen many individuals struggle even to open the proverbial closet door and look or listen to what is on the other side of it. I have seen and heard of many of our members joining up with PFLAG to not only to help themselves but to educate others in the process. I have seen the conflict caused by clashing cultures on some of our members and felt their pain and anguish. The fact that individuals know they are not alone and have a place to turn to is a major benefit to them. Our work with such communications must increase and we must continue to be there in support as part of our mission/purpose.
BFLAG has supported ACB in many ways. The simple fact that BFLAG members are ACB members shows an increase in ACB's membership. In every press release or interview, ACB has been mentioned in a very positive way. Many BFLAG members have gotten involved in their local state affiliate or other ACB affiliate. We even have members that are assisting with organization and reorganization of local ACB chapters. Although some ACB members strongly oppose BFLAG for whatever reason they do, like society, ACB members as a whole have overwhelmingly supported BFLAG and our mission/purpose. Both BFLAG and ACB must work on the pockets of conflict and somehow put them behind us. Much progress is being made. Into the future we move! When I joined BFLAG in 2002, I was asked to write an article about what I saw in BFLAG's future. It was printed in one of our early newsletters. Very little has changed since. BFLAG is moving in the same direction and, like a freight train, BFLAG's momentum is gaining. There are more and more opportunities to fulfill our mission/purpose. We must continue to meet the needs and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there. Some of the potential actions I see in our future are:
1. Increase BFLAG's presence at ACB state affiliate conventions and other activities;
2. Provide a listserv or conference call format for ACB members who have a GLBTQ family member or friend and need support modeled after PFLAG;
3. Have telephone support group meetings for our members that will address specific needs on a regular basis with a competent facilitator/moderator keeping order and providing leadership;
4. An increase in interactive seminars throughout the year that will permit a free exchange of accurate information and education;
5. Provide a BFLAG gathering in a city that is accessible and affordable for far more people to attend and include both educational and social activities. Such an event would be welcoming to all and would benefit untold numbers of individuals.
6. Funding an executive director that would be accountable to BFLAG and provide much of the needed day-to-day support and information distribution. This individual would oversee grant writing and funding processes that are so desperately needed. This would also promote consistency and documentation.
7. Increase the BFLAG endowment fund so that its contribution to BFLAG's operating fund can support a substantial increase in steps to fulfill our mission/purpose;
8. An affiliate increase to 15 and a membership growth to 1,000 members;
9. Increase the number of yearly issues of InsideOUT to 6 and then to 12; and
10. Secure permanent funding sources to do all of the above.
Although I have been criticized by some for "dreaming" and having unrealistic goals, I can only look back and see what BFLAG has accomplished and reply that all of the above "dreams" are needed and achievable. Together, I believe we will move forward like a snowball rolling downhill. We will increase in size and momentum and, in doing so, create a path for others that will be easier and offer less resistance than what we experienced in the past.
Please consider getting more involved in a way that you will feel
comfortable. Join or help form an affiliate in your area, become a life
member, or simply spread the word that BFLAG is here and we have a mission
and a strong will to meet it head-on. Thank you all for making the
opportunity to serve possible. I plan to continue to do what I can to move
BFLAG forward. Please feel free to contact me for any information or if I
can be of any assistance to you or a friend.
Hugh "Butch" Arnold
BFLAG Past President
612 Holland St.
Cumberland, MD 21502
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