Parents of Gays briefly became POLAGM – (Parents of Lesbians & Gay Men) & ultimately PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays). My suggestion to the PFLAG board one year to follow our course of reflecting inclusion in our organization’s name was to call ourselves PFLABAGASTR – Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Bisexuals & Gays & Sometimes Transgendered. They didn’t go for it.
My mother, Willy Jump, first marched with me at the National Gay & Lesbian March on Washington in 1979, of which I was part of the planning in 1978 in Philadelphia as representative of Gay People at Queens College. We went backstage to meet some of the National POG parents and NYC parents, Amy Ashworth being the woman my mom was drawn to immediately since they look like sisters (and later became as close as sisters). I also met the British gay rock & roller Tom Robinson, with whom I became pen-pals for a year and later visited in London in 1980.
1980 was my Mom’s first NYC Gay & Lesbian March. I had been marching with my girlfriend from John Adams High School, Elaine Calenda since 1976 (the Bi-Centennial Summer of Love). I told my mom to meet me on the corner of Bedford & Christopher Streets an hour before the march actually begun it’s illegal lurch uptown towards Central Park- thinking it wouldn’t be that crowded yet. I’m not sure when the first legally obtained permit for the march was but it was a march until it became a parade.
So here I am looking for my Mom amongst the throngs of leather queens, drag queens, dykes on bikes and twinks screaming, “MOM! MOM?” on a nearby lightpost that I had climbed up. Almost immediately this handsome older guy with an impish smile and a little space between his teeth came up to me and tugged my pantleg shouting over the din in an incredibly coarse voice that seemed incongruous to his appearance – putting his fingernail up to his mouth to hide his incredulity- “You really aren’t looking for your MOM but some big queen you call MOM – right?” No- I said, slowly realizing to whom I was responding. “I really am looking for my Mom.”
Then in rapid fire breathy dragon voice that sputtered like a typewriter on steroids – “OH MY GOD! If my mother would just even acknowledge my being gay let alone come march with me! COME MARCH WITH ME? I could just die right now and go to heaven. Do you know how lucky you are? I have to meet this WOMAN! MOM! MOM! MOM!”
And almost as soon as he had appeared , so did my mother “Hi Frankie. Who is your friend?” “This is the infamous Harvey Fierstein” I proudly exclaimed (“Points! Points! You are scoring here Harvey raspily whispered”)- “and this is my mother, Willy Jump,” I continued. Harvey grabbed my mother around the neck and planted a wet one on her cheeks.
Coincidentally, the two of them would run into each other for the next decade at LGBT events and panel discussions. I ran into Harvey repeatedly over the years from book signings to rides on the subway while he was going to the theatre to perform Torch Song- to spotting him on Parade floats – always with a warm greeting “HOW’S YOUR MOTHER?”
Harvey! Mother is fine! She says hello!
UPDATED: April 18, 2017
I learned today of the passing of Amy Ashworth. She will be forever in my heart.
Amy Ashworth (born Am?lie Wilhelmine Marie Everard) passed away in Ojai on April 6, 2017, at the age of 92. She was born in Haarlem, the Netherlands, on August 31, 1924.
Amy grew up in the Netherlands, the youngest of nine children in a blended family. As a young woman she worked as a nurse during World War II in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam an experience that proved to be formative in her life-long passion for justice and immigrated alone to the United States after the war. While working at the Dutch Consulate in New York City she met and married her partner in love and in life, Richard Goodspeed Ashworth. The pair became the proud parents of three boys, Pieter Thomas (Tucker), Everard and Eric. As Dick’s practice of admiralty law flourished, the Ashworths moved to Bronxville in Westchester County, from which home base Amy was the leader in many family hiking, camping and canoeing expeditions. Most famous among these were month-long camping trips at Lake Saranac in the Adirondack Mountains. Dick’s business brought many opportunities for travel abroad and visits home to the Netherlands. The couple continued their global travels after Dick’s retirement.
Amy and Dick’s life took an unanticipated turn when their eldest son Tucker came out to them in 1972. This event transformed the couple into gay rights activists, advocates not only for their own sons, but for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, particularly youth. Dick and Amy were founding members of Parents of Gays, which later became the New York chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). The couple were formative in establishment of PFLAG as a national organization, today comprising 400 chapters across the US. They worked tirelessly for gay civil liberties, in helping parents accept their gay children, and supporting people whose parents found that acceptance difficult. It was an incredibly moving experience marching in the 1987 New York Gay Pride Parade with Dick and Amy and the PFLAG contingent. It wasn’t just the heightened cheers from the crowd for the parents group, or the shouts of recognition for Amy as the parade marched down 5th Avenue, but most tellingly the man who stepped out into the parade to quietly shake Amy’s hand and thank her for saving his life with her compassion.
Amy was a dynamic and compelling public speaker. In the 1970s and 1980s Dick and Amy lobbied Congress for gay rights and appeared on national television shows such as Phil Donahue and Merv Griffin to talk about their personal experiences and encourage other families to embrace their gay children. For a time Amy hosted a gay community-themed talk show on New York cable television and, among many honors, was a 1992 recipient of the Stonewall Award, which recognizes individuals whose efforts have enhanced the quality of life for gay men and women.
After the boys were grown and embarked on their careers Tucker in public relations, Everard in environmental science and Eric as a literary agent Dick and Amy moved back to Manhattan, happily residing in the West Village and enjoying the cultural and culinary delights of New York City.
Dick and Amy lost their two gay sons to AIDS. Amy was not one to let these heartbreaking events stop her work on behalf of the gay community, and she and Dick became advocates for AIDS research funds and the rights of those infected with HIV.
Dick passed away in 1998 and Amy established the Richard G. Ashworth Scholarship to assist gay youth in attending college. She continued her volunteer work, first as president of the New York chapter of PFLAG and then working in hospice and at God’s Love We Deliver, preparing meals for those with HIV/AIDS.
In 2007 Amy relocated to Ojai, California, to be closer to her son Everard and his family. In Ojai she continued her volunteer work at HELP of Ojai while enjoying the social life at The Gables and visits from her family and friends from all over the world.
Amy is survived by her son Everard, daughter-in-love Brooke, and beloved grandchildren Henry and Emma Ashworth as well as her son-in-spirit Gordon Stewart, God-daughter Susan Stewart, son-in-law Rick Kot, brother-in-law Karel Dahmen, sister-in-law Joan Nichols and numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews both in the US and the Netherlands. The family gives grateful recognition to Amy’s longtime care-giver and friend, Chris Hansen.
A private celebration of life will be held at a later date. Should you desire to honor Amy through a memorial contribution, the family suggests a donation to PFLAG. https://www.pflag.org/supportpflag
Published in Ventura County Star on Apr. 9, 2017– See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/venturacountystar/obituary.aspx?n=amy-ashworth&pid=185028135&#sthash.GY3fFEJm.dpuf