Is PFLAG for my parents?

by Emily Rizzo
May 1996

Q. When I came out to my parents I told them about PFLAG but they said they're fine and don't need it, that PFLAG is only for parents who are having problems. Is that true?

A. PFLAG has a three fold mission: support, education and advocacy; think of a three legged stool, without one leg the whole thing falls apart.

While most chapters do devote the bulk of their meetings to support, there is a good amount of education and advocacy going on, although sometimes behind the scenes. For a sample of what a typical PFLAG meeting is like click here.

The more active PFLAG chapters, and there are almost 400 of them, offer guest speakers for their own members and also participate in panels, workshops and appear on talk shows to help educate others. They run outreach programs to local gay groups and often act as a bridge between gay and straight communities.

PFLAGers can be found testifying at public hearings on gay and lesbian issues and also at work to defeat anti-gay measures. On March 19th, about 300 PFLAG moms and dads went to Washington, D.C. to lobby their representatives for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). PFLAGers also participate in local lobbying at the state and city level as well as national. We regularly write letters to our elected officials letting them know that gay and lesbian people have families who care about their rights and vote accordingly.

Your parents may also find also that they aren't quite as fine as they may think. Parents, even the most liberal and accepting, do have to go through a period similar to the journey toward self-acceptance traveled by every gay or lesbian person. In addition, there are always unforeseen problems which may arise and, at a PFLAG meeting, parents will meet others who've already faced the same issues and can speak from their own experience.

Finally, there is simply the thrill of being in a room full of other people who love and accept their gay children. It's a place to celebrate the joys of a child's same sex union or an artificially inseminated grandchild or to preen with pride as you tell of yet another coming out to co-workers or family members.

So do try to get your parents to the nearest PFLAG chapter. For a complete list click here. If your parents are on-line themselves, there's a special web site called Resources for Parents of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Youth. In addition to some basic questions and answers for parents, there's information on joining PFLAG's virtual on-line chapter PFLAG-TALK and a companion list for parents of transgenders TGS-PFLAG.

And one last point: PFLAG isn't only for parents. Gay, lesbian and bisexual folk are welcome too and some chapters even run special support groups for them to deal with coming out to parents.

Emily Rizzo will answer your questions in The Parent's Corner each month. Due to the volume of mail, we cannot guarantee that every question will get a personal response. Responses will appear in the next monthly issue of Oasis. The confidentiality of respondents is guaranteed, and questions can be anonymous or identified by a first name, age and location. Emily can be reached at oasis-emily@oasismag.com.
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