Say YES to PFLAG!
From the PFLAG website, we find this note about the genesis of the organization: The idea for PFLAG began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her son, Morty, in New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March, the precursor to today’s Pride parade. After many gay and lesbian people ran up to Jeanne during the parade and begged her to talk to their parents, she decided to begin a support group. The first formal meeting took place on March 26, 1973 in Greenwich Village. Approximately 20 people attended. This organization began to spread across the country as informal support groups for Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians. It finally incorporated in 1982 and began to focus its energies in combatting the anti-gay efforts of Anita Bryant.
PFLAG grew exponentially over the coming decades, getting more involved in national issues around homosexuality, and developing greater support resources for parents and friends of gays and lesbians. In 2014, it changed its corporate name to simply PFLAG. This reflects the broader efforts today to reach the trans-community as well as those who are questioning, gender-queer, or gender-fluid. In Rehoboth Beach, the PFLAG chapter is led by Linda Gregory, the mother of a gay daughter. What follows is an interview with Linda about the Rehoboth Beach PFLAG Chapter. She is quick to note that this is not about her, but about the many others who participate and give their time and expertise in a variety of ways.
How long have you been involved with PFLAG–RB, and what brought you to this group in the first place?
I have been involved with PFLAG RB for the past 5 years. Sometime after my daughter came out to us, she made us aware of PFLAG. God kept tugging at me to “do something.” I kept saying, no way, not me! After many tugs and many years —I finally mentioned what God was telling me to do at a meeting of our Bible study group. Once the words were spoken out loud, PFLAG RB was on its’ way! Doors were opened, space was provided (Epworth UMC), people came forward to be part of the Board, and people came out for our very first meeting! Support, support, support!
How has your leadership in PFLAG–RB developed over that time?
I have learned over time that PFLAG is a fluid group. God sends people as they need us, or we them. Everyone is welcome and so many folks have helped us provide the needed support and education for our community. This is totally a group effort!
What are you most pleased with accomplishing over the last year or two?
We have developed a strong bond with the students at Cape High School’s Gay Straight Alliance. We have a fantastic relationship with the Lewes Public Library. The staff goes above and beyond to provide a wonderful, safe, meeting space. Last year we had a display of books, a timeline, and memorabilia depicting important events for Gay History Month in October. We were immediately booked again for this year and have now added the Rehoboth Library!
What do you hope PFLAG–RB will focus on in the coming several years?
Education and support are always at the front of our minds. Many people in our community still need to learn what it means to be LGBTQ. We also focus on support for the students and their parents in our schools by helping with bullying situations, meeting with teachers, and supporting any middle or high school who would like to have a GSA.
PFLAG initially did not include the Trans community. How has PFLAG helped this group become part of the RB Chapter?
PFLAG RB has always included the Trans community. We have representation from the gender spectrum! We have established a wonderful relationship with CAMP Rehoboth and support the Trans Youth and Parent group that meets there once a month.
Why is PFLAG important to this community?
While Rehoboth Beach has a reputation for acceptance, we find that that is not necessarily the case everywhere, and the further west you travel, the more education and support are needed. Just ask the students, or their parents, who are desperately trying to help their child maneuver life in a positive light. For some that means school (and all that encompasses) and appropriate medical assistance can be challenges. These challenges include trying to take the “high road” when the bully gets away with their antics and finding trained mental and physical health professionals, especially for our Gender Fluid youth.
Many thanks to Linda Gregory for this interview, and kudos to the others who form the PFLAG-RB Leadership Team. This group meets the second Tuesday evening of each month at the Lewes Public Library. At its most recent meeting, guest speakers from the YES Institute in Miami, Florida, made a presentation.
The mission of the YES Institute is “To prevent suicide and ensure the healthy development of all youth through powerful communication and education on gender and orientation.” The gentleman who took the lead in discussion about the YES Institute is Mr. Umut Dursun, who is a tranisitioned male. He spoke with passion and conviction about their work, and along with Jennifer Lopez, had just conducted educator training with the Cape Henlopen School District.
The statistics they shared about LGBT bullying and suicide rates were alarming. One stat that came as a surprise is that 80% of kids bullied in high school as being gay identify as heterosexual. Gay youth who are rejected by their parents are eight times more likely to commit suicide. But beyond statistics, the stories of lives saved and lives changed are riveting. The YES Institute is based in Miami, but its reach goes far beyond, even as far as Lower, Slower Delaware. Say YES to this Institute, and say YES to PFLAG. We are all in this together.