They are the parents, family and friends of people who identify themselves as gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender. They are considered as the strongest support group of the members of the LGBTs.
Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays or PFLAG is a non-profit, all volunteer organization that functions through the support of parents, family and friends of LGBTs. Members include parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, members of the LGBT community and their friends who have the same standpoint that everyone regardless of their gender should be able to enjoy justice and equal rights.
The Philadelphia chapter of PFLAG is one the largest and oldest chapters, its main headquarters in Washington, D.C.
PFLAG’s foundation as an organization for the LGBTs is to offer support, education and advocacy. Members believe that every parent, friends and family members and LGBTs who wishes to, or just recently came out to their parents, is on a journey to acceptance and beyond as far as the LGBT community and related issues are concerned. For them, it’s a continuing learning and growing process about the realities and the norms of living in a community where LGBTs are stereotyped.
The story of Frances
Frances, a mother, and the president of PFLAG in 2002, recalls a life changing incident when her daughter came out to her. It happened on a February during the 1990s, when Frances received a letter from her daughter, Kerry.
She was very reluctant to open the letter, even if it was already two weeks since she got it. Frances already had a clue what’s written on the letter, but she was afraid to read and face it.
Kerry, who was in college at that time, was in the middle of her degree. The easiest way she knew, then to let her mother know about her sexuality was through a letter. And the emotional drawback of her actions had not been that easy.
Frances’ husband insisted that they open the letter together, and discuss what’s written. True to Frances’ instinct, their daughter came out, telling them that she’s a lesbian.
It was an emotional situation for the entire family. They lost contact of Kerry, who started to fail in her studies, and was dropping out of college because she was breaking down after she came to terms with her sexuality.
“It was a very hard time for me when Kerry came out. I cried for several days, not because my daughter is gay or because I feel bad because she’s gay, but because she was leaving, she was going away,” Frances said.
Frances, went to PFLAG for support and enlightenment to what happened to her daughter. After talking to other members of the organization, it became easier for her to accept and slowly started communicating with her daughter again.
Now, they are on very good terms. Kerry married her girlfriend and they have twin little girls. Their relationship, as family, has been stronger than years ago. Frances and Kerry understood and now feel that family ties is stronger than whatever obstacles that may come along their way.
The story of John
John is a father of an 18-year old gay boy. His son came out to him five years ago, almost the same time when older students started to bully him in school.
It was a hard time for the whole family; they didn’t know what to do with the older students in school. John tried to talk to the school authorities to discuss the bullying, but they refused to acknowledge it. He then went to PFLAG to ask for support. The organization together with John found a way to set up several meetings with the school authorities and explained to them about the bullying.
“The school environment is very dangerous for the kids, especially the ones who are just coming out and dealing with their sexuality. We, parents, should spend more time with our kids and talk to them, and know how they are doing outside our home,” John explained.
PFLAG provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Thus, parents, family members and friends who are in a difficult situation with a family member who is an LGBT, can easily contact PFLAG, and they will set a meeting and counseling with other members of the organization. They have small group discussions between members, where they share their stories about their struggle in accepting their LGBT family members and friends.
The center is open for any new members who are experiencing problems in coming to terms in accepting and understanding what their LGBT family members are going through or for anyone who needs support. And through understanding, they can create a support system which serve as stronghold for a good family relationship.
In the Philippines, there is still no well-built organization that supports LGBTs who experience indifference from their parents and family members. The existing organizations only function as: research and gathering of data about anything and everything LGBT related in the Philippines, a political party, and other LGBT related matters.
LGBTs don’t get enough emotional support from their parents and family members after they come out. The only way they can communicate with their family members is through their friends; worse, they don’t have any way to do so, and for this reason, they tend to just grow apart from their families.
Patrick King Pascual filed this report while on a reporting tour in the United States, sponsored by the State Department Foreign Press Center, entitled “A Developing Narrative: LGBT Rights and Issues in the United States.”