Local Couple Moves From Apprehension To Activism In Decades-long Bid To Expand LGBTQ Acceptance
When Dan and Nancy Tepfer's daughter came out to them in 1993, they were shocked. While they had always considered themselves enlightened individuals when it came to gay people, they say it took some time for them to accept their daughter's news.
"Connecting what our heads knew and what our hearts felt took some time," says Nancy.
Worried that their daughter would think they were embarrassed or ashamed of her, they pushed themselves to move from their initial fear to acceptance and eventually to activism. Dan and Nancy soon became involved in the local chapter of PFLAG, an advocacy and support organization for LGBTQ people.
Nancy has been the local chapter president, and Dan, a retired military colonel, has not only been the local chapter president, he's served on the regional and national PFLAG boards as well. In this conversation, the Tephers talk about their decades of activism.
Nancy Tepfer: So, Dan, of all your involvement, local, state and national with PFLAG, what was the most meaningful for you?
Dan Tepfer: Well, I'd say at the local level early on, right after I joined PFLAG, being a at large member, I was assigned the task of creating a scholarship program for PFLAG people. There were very few scholarships at PFLAG chapters. Cincinnati had one and there was one in Houston. So I contacted them and learned what they did, got copies of their programs and we created a scholarship here in Dayton. In fact, we were the first PFLAG chapter to designate one scholarship for a straight ally. We wanted to bring in people who would support us, and so we did. The very first scholarship went to a high school senior who was a straight ally.
But, I think it was at the national level I did my most meaningful work. It was all the work I did for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Again, because I was the only retired military member on the national board, I was asked if I would speak at the Capitol steps in Washington on repealing of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in 2008.
And then in 2009, I spoke at the federal court building down in Cincinnati, as well as here in Dayton, and because of all that work and being the only retired military member on the board, I was asked to represent PFLAG at President Obama's signing on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in December of 2010. That was certainly the highlight of my work at the National. But, what was meaningful for you? I mean, you were involved. You were a president. You did a lot of work with PFLAG.
NT: Well, I think most meaningful for me was the one on one contact. For a lot of years, people who called in the Dayton chapter hotline, their calls were forwarded to our home. And, I spoke with some LGBT individuals, but most of the calls were from parents. I'd say mostly moms who had just learned that they had a gay child and they were afraid, they were upset. Sometimes they were angry, but mostly just unsure of what life was going to be like for their child, for them and even for their whole family.
So, I tried to share our story and the journey that we had been on, where we were in the beginning - much the same place that they were in - and where we ended up now, and just tried to reassure them that if they talk to their child and listen to their child and we're open to understanding that they would have a very happy future together. And throughout the years, several people told me that I had been helpful to them. And that was just really rewarding. So, Dan, where do you think we are now?
DT: Oh, there's still a lot of work to be done. As I said on occasion at the PFLAG National Board, allowing same gender marriage was not the end of the equality fight. There was still no Ohio or federal nondiscrimination laws for sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination still exists. But, most disappointing to me is the fact that transgender military members have had the right to serve rescinded. That was really disturbing because after Don't Ask, Don't Tell and not allowing transgender individuals to serve, it seemed like that was the end of that fight but that's been taken away. And, as you know, more and more parents are coming to PFLAG to help with their transgender children or nonconforming children. A lot of questions being asked there.
NT: Well, obviously, you and I are no longer afraid to speak out. We're here and we're going to continue speaking out as long as it takes.
Dan and Nancy Tepfer say they applaud the recent Supreme Court decision on LGBT employment rights, but say the fight continues in areas of housing, public accommodations and the military.