Is PFLAG for my parents?

by Emily Rizzo
June 1996

Q. What resources are there for parents, families and friends of transgendered people?

A. Until recently, the answer was "nothing" but that's beginning to change.

PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) doesn't yet have "transgendered" in their mission statement although there's a good possibility that will change within the next year. Meanwhile, a Transgender Support Network has been formed within that organization to provide information and act as a resource center for the 380 or so PFLAG chapters.

Ellie Altman runs a special PFLAG chapter in the Chicago area just for parents of transgendered people. To contact her, send e-mail to elliealt@aol.com. Another group for family and friends is starting up in the Pittsburgh area; contact janet@ccia.com or call Janet at 412-758-3578 for more information.

Meanwhile, if your parents have net access be sure to have them subscribe to TGS-PFLAG a mailing list devoted exclusively to transgender support. To subscribe send the one word message "subscribe tgs-pflag" in the body of your text to majordomo@mtcc.com. This list is also available in digest form; send the message "subscribe tgs-pflag" to majordomo@mtcc.com.

This list is not just for parents but for anyone interested in transgender family issues. It's not officially sponsored by PFLAG but it's co- facilitators all have PFLAG chapter experience and it functions as an on-line virtual chapter. Like all PFLAG chapters, it's not just for parents but for anyone who loves someone who is transgendered or is transgendered themselves.

There's an excellent web page with information on TGS-PFLAG and also a FAQ (frequently asked questions) for parents. This page, which is maintained by the Philadelphia chapter of PFLAG, is still under construction. We're planning to add a recommended reading list for parents in the near future.

Being transgendered doesn't have to mean losing your family. This is still a new frontier for many parents who may be caught totally by surprise and simply not know how to deal with it. Parents of gays and lesbians can reassure themselves that "my child is the same person" but when your child is transgendered, this isn't the case.

In addition, parents may have special problems dealing with the past: what happens to the family photo album? Pronouns can become another problem when a lifetime's habit must be broken. In addition, there's very real concern about your child's health and medical issues, especially if surgery is being considered. Parents need to understand the special problems of transgendered people, whether it's the public bathroom dilemma or the difficulty obtaining proper ID.

Since I happen to be the list owner of TGS-PFLAG, you can send me private e-mail for more information.

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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