“I have a homosexual son and I love him.”
—Jeanne Manford, Letter to the Editor, New York Post, April 29, 1972
In April 1972, this simple announcement and a mother’s unconditional love would launch a worldwide movement. It was following a tragic incident where her adult son Morty was brutally attacked in New York City, while police were on the scene, but did nothing to help him.
Jeanne Manford and her husband Jules were at home in Flushing, Queens when they received a call that their son had been hospitalized. When she sought to get response from the police or the news, she was hung up on, but her resolve to see justice for her son was far from over.
In the following June, she had attended a New York Pride Parade with her son, holding up a handmade sign which read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children.” Other young men and women were awestruck by this gesture of bravery, acceptance and love; they reached out to her directly, begging her to talk to their parents. Soon, they started POG “Parents of Gays” which would later evolve into PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) which has included Bisexuals and Transgendered people in the 90s.
Jeanne Manford instilled hope and pride in her family, supported by her husband Jules. On January 8, 2013, Jeanne passed away at age 92. Her daughter Suzanne Manford Swan, accepted the President’s Citizens Medal, in her mother’s name, by President Obama in February 2013. Her son Morty became an assistant to the New York State Attorney General and a well-known gay-rights advocate. Morty passed away at 41 from complications as a result of AIDS.
PFLAG was founded in a place of compassion and understanding for parents who have just learned that their son or daughter is lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual. Fear, shame, anger, denial and confusion surround parents who grasp at straws, trying to figure out where their parenting skills went wrong in producing this genetic differentiation in their offspring. PFLAG embraces their children, their friends, and siblings who are not heterosexual. They are a support group and an alliance for equality, seeking not to change or “Pray the Gay Away”, but to embrace and love their children for who they are, regardless of sexuality or gender identity they were born with.
Locally, PFLAG meets at the GALA Center on the fourth Tuesdays of the month from 5:30-7:30 pm. All are welcome to join. They are also available at Farmer’s Market once a month. For more information please contact www.pflagcentralcoastchapter.net. PFLAG will also be available at SLO Pride in the Mission Plaza on Sunday, July 14. See www.slopride.com for details.
It is thanks to PFLAG that many positive steps have been taken to decrease bullying in schools, positive role models and visibility in media has been pushed forward, and violence from parents has decreased. If you are a parent and have just found out your child is gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, or questioning, know that there is a resource and support group available for you right now to assist you in processing this information and to answer questions. What your child needs to know above all else, is that you love them unconditionally.