On June 20th, 2014, Diane Werner was asked to share her personal journey with the 175 attendants at UJA-Federation NY’s first “Community Conversation on LGBTQ Engagement”. The specific question asked was “What led you to found Mosaic and why are you here today?” Below are her remarks:

Founding Chair, Diane Werner shares her personal story at UJA's first Community Conversation on LGBTQ Engagement, June 2014

Founding Chair, Diane Werner shares her personal story at UJA’s first Community Conversation on LGBTQ Engagement, June 2014

Good morning. I’m Diane Werner and I am the proud mother of four really terrific boys. The oldest is 25—the youngest just turned 20.   My 2nd son Adam knew he was gay from the time he was in fifth grade, but he remained completely closeted until he got to college in 2009. For 7 years  Adam  worked really hard to hide who he was—at our synagogue, at his Jewish day school and at his Jewish camp. Watching it was heart wrenching for my husband and me, but we didn’t encourage him to be more open. Given the realities of our Jewish community 8-10 years ago, we thought he was making the right decision. We didn’t tell anyone either! But all that secrecy took a toll, because with every passing year we felt less connected to our community and more cynical about what community means.

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The four Werner brothers.

Then about 2 years ago, everything changed. Inspiration came from, believe it or not, a college frat house. Adam’s brother Evan is the quintessential jock. At Vanderbilt, he doesn’t just belong to a frat… he belongs to the most hyper-macho frat on campus. But,from his very first day, Evan flashed a big rainbow flag sticker on his laptop. And he hung a really big rainbow flag over his bed. And whenever someone casually threw out a slur like “that’s so gay”, Evan would find a private moment to talk to him about his brother and why those kinds of comments make him uncomfortable. Evan is very passionate  about this issue, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that his frat brothers cleaned up their language and I wasn’t even surprised when they offered to help him in his fight to get Chick-Fillet off campus. But I have to tell you, I was totally shocked when Evan called to say that one of his frat brothers came out to him… A nice Jewish boy from Florida. Always knew he was gay, experimented a little but kept it very secret. Evan was the first straight person he ever told and this boy was freaking out…

Evan's room at Vanderbilt

Evan’s room at Vanderbilt

So, Evan called in his brother Adam and, together, my two sons helped this boy navigate the process of becoming himself. Adam was the role model, which was a perfect fit because he is proof positive that while coming out can be really hard, being out can be really great.   Meanwhile, Evan worked on his frat brothers. To the one, they were all shocked by the news. Most of the guys were immediately on board. They just needed a little guidance and some practice before you could say they were really comfortable with it.

Evan's NY-based frat brothers marched with Mosaic at NYC Pride

Evan’s NY-based frat brothers marched with Mosaic at NYC Pride

A few of the guys needed a little help getting on board. And two of them, Evan says, needed more than just a little help getting on board. So the whole process took a while, but now the frat brothers are all in and it’s AMAZING! They jokingly refer to themselves as GAY-E PIE….and they are actively looking to recruit guys who identify as LGBTQ. Crazy, right? Even now when I tell it, the story sounds too good to be true; like it was right out of a Hallmark movie and I should probably dismiss it as a fluke.Except for one thing. A few months later, another one of Evan’s frat brothers felt safe enough to come out.

I could tell you similar stories about my other sons Zack and Matt. All of them have been passionately and effectively working for gay rights since long before I started.

So, the reason I founded Mosaic and the reason I’m here today is simple—I’m here because if a couple of boys in their twenties can turn a college frat house into a safe space, well then it seems to me that there’s no limit to what all of us in this room can accomplish!

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Evan (left) and Adam at NY Pride March

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Evan (left) and Adam at NY Pride March