Pioneering Mother's Legacy Lives On Through PFLAG

by Michael K. Lavers

EDGE Media Network

http://EDGEonthenet.com

A mother's simple act of walking alongside her gay son sparked a worldwide movement.

Jeanne Manford conceived the idea that would eventually become Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in 1972 after she marched with her gay son Morty in New York's annual Pride parade. Nearly four decades later, the ally movement has come of age in the eyes of those who continue to carry Manford's torch.

"We are still on the frontlines of this work, and we have always known that family and community acceptance is key to the health and well-being of our loved ones," said Jody Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG.

More than 300 people from across the United States, Canada, Latin America and even Portugal gathered in Alexandria, Va., on Nov. 3-6 for PFLAG's National Convention. Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden once again spoke out against bullying as she stressed the importance of family acceptance in a speech she delivered at the opening of the conference on Friday, Nov. 4. The organization also honored Betty DeGeneres, mother of comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Nearly 200 PFLAG members lobbied members of Congress on Thursday, Nov. 3, to support the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require schools that receive federal funding to adopt an anti-LGBT bullying or harassment, policy and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would require any public school that receives federal funding to ban discrimination against any student based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

"PFLAG demonstrated its power by sharing its members' most valuable currency on the Hill: their personal stories about how bullying has hurt their families and made their kids feel unsafe in the classroom," said Huckaby.

Doctor Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, highlighted data that shows a direct correlation on rates of family acceptance of LGBT youth and increased propensity of health and mental well-being in adulthood.

A trained social worker, Ryan and Rafael Diaz launched the Family Acceptance Project in 1999. It contains four components: study how parents, families and caregivers react to and adjust to a child's sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, develop data-based training and assessment materials for health care providers, juvenile justice officials and others who work with LGBT youth and their families, create resources and what Ryan describes as a new family support model to help ethnically and religiously diverse families support their LGBT children.

"What we've learned over time is that families can learn how to support that LGBT person, but how one looks at them has to be culturally appropriate," Ryan told EDGE before the conference. "It has to really be done in ways that respect their religious traditions and their cultural values."

The Platas of Modesto, Calif., are among the eight families that the Family Acceptance Project highlights in a series of videos that accompany its research.

A self-described "macho Marine dad," Edward Plata struggled to accept his eldest son E.J.'s sexual orientation. He threw away the Little Mermaid doll with which his son played when he was a child and replaced it with G.I. Joes-E.J.'s mother, Elizabeth, always replaced it. Edward Plata even scolded his son when he told him that his classmates had bullied him in school.

"As time went on, I started thinking about myself and what I'm going to tell my friends," said Edward Plata as he and his family drove back to their Central Valley home after visiting his son and his boyfriend in San Francisco earlier this month. "A macho Marine dad doesn't put out gay kids. He puts out athletes and scholars and devil dog Marines."

Edward Plata was not surprised when he found out that his son is gay.

"E.J. really came out to her [Elizabeth], but I did have a talk with E.J.," he said. "With teary eyes I said, son, I love you and we will with every situation here."

The Platas soon began to reach out to other parents of LGBT children. They also began to host get-togethers for local LGBT teens at their home twice a month. "I'm very passionate when I speak about my son and the kids who are in our group; I feel like they are like my kids," said Edward Plata. "I try to respect people to have their own feelings because I've been there."

The Family Acceptance Project's findings came as no surprise to Romen Monteiro, a 22-year-old graduate student from Porto, Portugal, who attends Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Monteiro's mother has become one of Portugal's highest profile LGBT activists. As founder of the Association of Mothers and Fathers for the Freedom of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, she regularly appears in the Portuguese media to discuss family acceptance and other LGBT-specific issues.

"It's very good that they finally showed it scientifically in a way that they can use this data to show the government, the schools, to all these entities that families and communities should accept their children because it's for their own health," he said.

PFLAG Omaha [Neb.] President Carrie Spencer agreed.

"PFLAG is all about families," she said. "Doctor Ryan's work takes it that much more further about family acceptance and the roles families play in the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth and just how powerful the family unit is."

This article was originally published by EDGE Media Network. All Rights Reserved. For more articles from EDGE, visit http://www.EDGEonthenet.com.

MI Marriage Trial

Michigan Same Sex Couples Demand Respect And Equal Treatment

Michigan Leaders React To Feds Recognition Of Marriages

MI Marriage: Schuette Asks For Full Appeals Court Review

The Stay Delayed Allows 315 Couples To Wed In State

Gay Marriage Defines Schuette's Reelection Campaign

Snyder Says Schuette Going Against Trend

Sixth Circuit Continues Stay

Michigan Marriage Ban Struck Down

Michigan Makes History With First Marriages

Elected Officials, Advocates Petition Schuette To Drop Marriage Aappeal

Pictures from Ingham County - Getting Married

Pictures from Oakland County Clerk's Office - Part 1

Pictures from the Oakland County Clerk's office - Part 2

Pictures from the Oakland County Clerk's Office - Part 3

Pictures from Washtenaw County

White Nationalist Group Files Brief Supporting AG's Appeal In Marriage Ruling

Discredited Witness Part Of Right-Wing Cabal

Schauer Celebrates Overturn Of Michigan Marriage Ban

Equality Michigan Circulating Petition to Drop Appeal

Why Are Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette Wasting Michigan Taxpayer Dollars On A Costly Appeal?

Michigan Marriage Ban Co-Author Goes 'Moral'

BTL's Wedding Expo: Like Pride in April

Snyder Says Marriages Invalid

Elected Officials, Advocates Petition Schuette To Drop Marriage Appeal

Request To Remove Stay Based On Process And Substance

Schuette Lies To Satisfy Political Base

DOCUMENTS: The decision, the stay, and more

BREAKING: Holder Asked To Recognize Michigan Marriages

Michigan Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

BREAKING: Sixth Circuit Court Of Appeals Issues Temporary Stay On Michigan Case

BREAKING: Same-Sex Couples Across Michigan Get Hitched

BREAKING: Judge Friedman Declares Michigan's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Judge Could Rule Late Today In Mich. Marriage Ban

Michigan Marriage Trial: And Now We Wait

Editor's Viewpoint: Our Long Journey To Justice

Federal Marriage Case Decisions Outside Michigan In Circuit Court of Appeals

Peers Distance Themselves As Regnerus Takes The Stand

Marriage Supporters, Protestors Brave Cold At Courthouse

Highlights From Michigan Same-Sex Marriage Hearing

Brown Says Schuette Instructed Clerks To Defy Court

Michigan Marriage Equality Trial Begins Second Week

Marriage Equality Trial Opens : Science v. Fear

Michigan Marriage Center Prepares State For The Possibility!

Michigan Marriage Case Begins

A Trial Full of Experts: Incredible and Not So Credible, In Hazel Park Case

like us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on google+