‘Making the world a safer and more accepting place’: Bitney Prep senior volunteers with PFLAG, gives back to community
Special to The Union
As a transgender middle school student in Nevada County, Castiel Frost felt alone and unsupported. In 2015, though, when Castiel enrolled as a freshman at a local charter high school, he found a community that empowered him. His high school then connected him to the local chapter of PFLAG, and he knew he found exactly what he needed.
PFLAG, an acronym for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, founded in 1972, is one of the nation’s largest advocacy groups focused on uniting the LGBTQ community with families, friends, and allies and advancing the idea of equality. Their national vision statement envisions a world “where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.” PFLAG is an advocacy group, first and foremost, but it also provides a social network for the LGBTQ community. When Castiel discovered PFLAG Nevada County, everything changed for him.
He found a community of acceptance and support, and, after a few years of enjoying that, Castiel felt the need to give back. Nowadays, Castiel volunteers at PFLAG in a number of ways. He’s worked the PFLAG booth at the Nevada County Fair, and he also works with the Rainbow Social, a youth-oriented support group hosted by NEO and Bitney Prep High School.
When asked what is the most rewarding thing for him at PFLAG, Castiel quickly answers, “Working with the kids at the Rainbow Social and the folk who come to PFLAG’s monthly support groups at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Grass Valley. Being able to see people who are very timid about their sexuality and/or gender get support in a safe and caring environment means a lot to me. Especially when a person has had a negative coming out experience as I had and like many LGBTQ people have, having that experience of being in a room full of people who are like them and support them. I think that’s what PFLAG is all about, making the world a safer and more accepting place for LGBTQ people.”
Castiel has gained a lot from his experiences at PFLAG. He also cites that the environment at his high school, Bitney Prep, has been instrumental in his ability to understand himself. As he says, “Being able to start my high school career in a place that was accepting of me, especially considering how timid I was then, was immensely valuable. It allowed me to focus on my grades and mental health instead of how others perceived me and whether I was safe expressing myself. Bitney’s small class sizes and advisors who stay with their class all four years let me really feel like I was part of a larger community that appreciated me and my peers. Looking back as a senior, now in a leadership position in the school, I really appreciate how dedicated Bitney staff is to ensuring that every student has the chance to succeed no matter what.”
Bitney Prep now hosts one of the twice-monthly PFLAG Rainbow Socials on its campus, and, through Castiel’s leadership and support, works hard to keep the school as safe and accepting as possible for all of its LGBTQ students. As he says, “Bitney Prep upholds a standard, in that regard, that many schools fail to meet. Part of that is working with PFLAG to make sure that staff and students know what problematic behavior is and how to deal with it, giving students resources to voice their emotions, and offering guest speakers and lecturers to educate students.”
Thanks to the community he has found at both PFLAG and Bitney Prep, Castiel is now not only positive about life, but he is also looking forward to a future in social work so as to give back to others and help them succeed and create a safer, better world for everyone.
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