In 1972, a mom in New York City named Jeanne Manford did something revolutionary. She marched next to her son Morty in the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, the precursor to today’s Pride parade. So many gay and lesbian people came up to her after that event and asked her to talk to their parents that she decided to start a support group.
More than 40 years later, PFLAG National, formerly known as Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, is still going strong. Since the month of June is now officially (thanks to a proclamation from President Obama just this year) LGBT Pride month we thought it only appropriate that June’s Support Group Spotlight shone on the Huntsville chapter of PFLAG National. Recently we had the chance to chat with PFLAG Huntsville’s President Nick Wilbourn to find out a little more about who this group is for and what type of resources and information they provide for their members.
What is your group’s mission?
PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights.
What goes on in a typical group meeting?
In our peer support group, we create a safe meeting space for LGBTQ individuals, family members, friends, and allies who can provide support, or use support themselves. We provide opportunities for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Our peer support groups meetings are open to teens and adults, and everyone is welcome at our monthly socials.
Who should consider attending your meetings?
This is a great question, and I’m glad you asked it! Before I answer, I’m going to provide a bit more context: Our organization largely serves parents and family members of LGBTQ individuals, as well as LGBTQ individuals. In our support group (our signature recurring event), we generally have a relatively equal balance of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ individuals, though our membership and attendance fluctuates, as with any support group. During our meetings, we discuss issues relevant to the lives of LGBTQ individuals (coming out as lesbian, gay or bisexual; transitioning, if you are a transgender person, etc.) and issues relevant to family members and friends of LGBTQ individuals (how to deal with the news of a family member coming out, how to be an ally for your LGBTQ family member or friend, how to reconcile religious beliefs with acceptance of an LGBTQ family member, etc.), as well as national issues relevant to LGBTQ attendees and their family and friends (marriage legislation, hate crimes, etc.).
With that being said, these are the types of people who the organization is meant to support and who (I think) are best served by it: (1) family members of LGBTQ individuals who could use or offer support, (2) friends of LGBTQ individuals who could use or offer support, (3) LGBTQ individuals who could use or offer support, and (4) people who fall into several of those categories. As a primarily peer support organization (that does advocacy work on the side), we all share and draw from each other’s experiences, as they help us to understand lived experiences and perspectives that are different from our own.
The support group is appropriate for adults and teenagers (but not children, as discussion topics are often inappropriate or too heavy for young audiences). However, at our monthly socials, all ages are welcome!
Do you participate in other group outings or events?
Of course! In the last few years, we have regularly participated in several community events that provide opportunities for education, outreach, and advocacy, including Rocket City Pride; CAFY (Community Awareness for Youth); the Community Kite Festival hosted by AshaKiran and the City of Huntsville; and the annual Cookie Swap, a nonprofit resource fair generally hosted at a local elementary school.
Is there anything that sets your group apart from other area programs?
As far as I know, PFLAG is the only local organization that provides the opportunity for LGBTQ individuals, family members, friends, and allies to come together to discuss issues relevant to their lives and those of their loved ones in a supportive atmosphere. As a support group that is also committed to social justice, we offer a unique mix of peer support and community outreach and education.
List any fundraisers or upcoming/annual events:
We do not have any fundraising events, though we always accept donations at PFLAG meetings and community events. We also accept donations online through Razoo. Check our Facebook Page for more events.
You can stay up-to-date with PFLAG-Huntsville’s events and announcements by connecting through Facebook or MeetUp. If you would like to receive our monthly email newsletter, please contact email@example.com, and ask to be added to our mailing list. You can also find more information about PFLAG at www.pflag.org.
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