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When I lived in Arkansas I became involved with PFLAG, first only with the email list tgs-pflag (I eventually became a facilitator) until I met a woman from the Little Rock chapter (Hi, Esther!).  I started going to meetings.  There I met people who thought I might also be interested in the Arkansas Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  So I started going to their meetings, too, and was in short order elected to the board.  As often has been the case since I came out, I was spreading myself too thin.

One day Willie Wagner got beaten up during school lunchtime in Fayetteville.  Again.  Broken nose, bruised kidney, hematomas, lacerations.  The three guys who did it said, "You're getting what you deserve, faggot."  

On another day I met Willie's mom, Carolyn...  

[Note:  My words, but the facts...and quotes...are as reported by Debra Bailey, in the March, 1997 issue of Triangle Rising.  My memory needed refreshing.]

Carolyn drew people together, me included, to help with this issue.  She told us Willi's story.  [Willi has since changed the spelling of his name.]  Willi had been harassed since junior high for being gay.  It continued into high school.  His teachers said that if he chose to be gay, he would have to expect such treatment.  Everyone told Willie's parents to ignore such incidents and that there would be no punishment for those who had done the harassment.

After the bashing the school administration said that it wasn't a hate crime, that it wasn't a gay bashing, but maybe it was sexual harassment.  So maybe they should write a policy about that.  That's when the Task Force and PFLAG got involved.  Change started.  Diversity training was begun in the school system.  Work towards hate crimes legislation began at the state level.  Ted Kennedy made his and his staff's services available.  But more was needed.

Carolyn (that's an audio interview with Carolyn) on GenderTalk) and her husband Bill, a Wal-Mart employee, filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education charging that sexual harassment of gay and lesbian students violated Title IX.  Since discrimination based on sexual orientation was not a violation of state law, the OCR issued guidelines stating that Title IX applied.  Lamda Legal provided invaluable assistance formulating the agreement with Fayetteville Public Schools that they

...overhaul its policies and procedures and train faculty, staff, and students with written reports of progress to the OCR until June 1999.

Carolyn didn't stop.  She became National Vice-President of PFLAG for the year 2000.  Here is some of her writing, entitled Understanding your Gay Teen.  Here is a little about the family and others at The PFLAG National Conference and the Millennium March on Washington.  Carolyn spread her wings and became a founder of Families United against Hate.  Playwright/songwriter/diarist Steve Schalchlin (Living in the Bonus Round, The Last Session, The Big Voice: God or Merman?) wrote William's Song about Willi.

Yesterday, I read Crisis Corps Volunteer' s 2 Dead: Who will homophobia kill next? and thought I would post something about Willi.  I googled "Carolyn Wagner"  PFLAG, since we have been out of touch.  I found this.  

Sat May 13 05:47:15 CDT 2006

Carolyn Wagner, long time progressive activist, one time PFLAG National Vice President, and co-founder with me of Families United Against Hate, has become victim of a vicious hate crime. She has been stalked and harassed since January by a right wing extremist group who know of her work in gay rights. One of them attacked her at her home last month, and she has had major spinal and nerve damage as a result. She suffered some paralysis in her legs and is having emergency surgery tomorrow at St. Anthony's Medical Center, in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

The family submitted to the victim's compensation board in Arkansas to cover medical and security expenses and were denied. They needs help with medical bills not covered by her husband Bill's Wal-Mart insurance and other expenses.

Please help if you can. ~ Send donations to help with expenses to her husband:

Bill Wagner
PO Box 993
Waldron AR 72958

I am in shock.  I would like someone to tell me how Carolyn is.  Check that.  I would like somebody else to tell me how Carolyn is.  I am already her friend.  She needs more.  She deserves more.

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Thu Jul 20, 2006 at 09:24 AM PDT.

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