While most of the headlines surrounding Angelica Gullon since she moved to Washington to become a resident chaplain at Grace Lutheran Church focused on her gender and sexuality, what the wife of LGBT Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III left behind in Boston for the nation’s capital was much more significant: the work of the Family-Integrated Homosexuality and Human Sexuality Project.
Gullon is co-founder and director of the project, which says it is nonpartisan, non-profit and non-sectarian.
“When I came here, I was doing research for my dissertation, so I had a lot of materials I knew of [associated with the project],” Gullon, 38, said from her desk at Grace Lutheran Church, home to about 400 parishioners and one of many churches in the Washington area that supports non-heterosexual Catholics and the LGBT community. “As I took these materials and I started looking around, I realized we had a very tiny little organisation working with families that I didn’t know existed.”
The Family Integrated Homosexuality and Human Sexuality Project (FIHSSP) aims to educate and “counsel and empower families of LGBT youth who have had same-sex encounters.” And the law school graduate can’t do it alone.
Since Gullon arrived in Washington, she has been in constant contact with Myrna Hay, director of Faith Outreach for the American Unity Fund, a group that funds groups whose “mission is to ‘tell the truth about marriage and the family.’” Hay provided a lot of funding for the organization and has gone so far as to work her phone banks in support of her Cause.
Hay has overseen fundraisers at Logan Circle bar Herringbone, PrideFest, Georgetown Cupcake’s now famous “Same Sex Wedding Cake Controversy” campaign and walks to City Hall.
When the FIHSSP was soliciting donations, Hay did all the work on the phone, scheduling the events and keeping the cards ready to be scratched off the fundraising box. “So Angelica knew a lot of the people who were donating, and she kind of played the role of bookkeeper,” Hay said. “And I sort of knew she’d do a great job. She’s no stranger to our work; we sent her to Community Development Institute in Boston to help teach them their process and structure for these fundraisers.”
Hay estimates the organization needs to raise around $5,000 a month, and currently it hasn’t yet hit the mark. “It doesn’t take a lot of money to take on what we’re doing,” she said. “We just need to raise the money.”
For Gullon, there are many reasons why she, an African-American woman who came out as lesbian when she was 25 and married to a man at 25, and raised three children, believes that her life and her work are worthwhile. “I got to experience so many struggles growing up that my family told me that I should just be a wife and a mother,” she said. “To find that people were suffering like that, had parents they didn’t know about, they felt unsafe, and they were literally being tormented by their God, it’s a very sobering experience to have.”
The importance of the FIHSSP project can be seen when Gullon visits Catholic Family House, a residential community for families dealing with abuse and homelessness. The group’s mission, Gullon said, is to “provide shelter for families experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse and abuse in the child-rearing context.”
Grace Lutheran Church plans to have a fundraiser for FIHSSP this fall. “What we do,” Gullon said, “is help one another. And I love the fact that we are really blessed to be able to have a lot of people that care about other people.”