By Terry Moran, Chapter President of PFLAG Hamilton-Bitterroot, Michael P. Moran, MD
As proud parents of a gay daughter and founding members of PFLAG Bitterroot-Hamilton, we would like to thank the Bitterroot Star and a recent opinion writer for providing us with an opportunity to communicate and clarify the meaning and mission of PFLAG. “PFLAG” is an acronym which stands for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. The origin of PFLAG dates to 1972 when a supportive mother, marching with her son in a Gay Pride parade, was besieged by young gay people who begged her to speak with their parents. Recognizing the enormous need, this woman started a support group which met in a local church. Over the years, through word of mouth and community need, chapters sprang up all across the country to provide “safe havens” and mutual support for parents with gay and lesbian children. The mission has gradually evolved to promote “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.”(www.pflag.org) We often hear these goals described as some sort of mysterious and evil “gay agenda.” We fail to see how safety and equality should be viewed as anything other than basic rights afforded to all members of a free and civil society.
Pursuant to the safety issue, we are encouraging the valley schools to include language specific to LGBT persons in their anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies. We firmly believe that all students have the right to feel safe in the school environment. If you agree, we would encourage you to contact your school administrators or board members and voice your support.
We invite all likeminded allies to become members of PFLAG. PFLAG is fundamentally an adult support group. Minors are welcome to attend if accompanied by a responsible adult. We welcome you to become a friend on facebook and follow our activities. Our website: pflaghamiltonbitterroot.org has all the details about becoming a member. The PFLAG national website (www.pflag.org) also contains a wealth of information. You can mail your membership or donation to: P.O. Box 202, Hamilton, MT 59840.
The PFLAG Hamilton-Bitterroot chapter began approximately three years ago and is steadily growing in membership and vigor. We are very grateful for the countless expressions of support we have received from the community. We would also like to announce that Hamilton will host the annual PFLAG Pacific Northwest Conference coming up September 21-23. The theme will be “Big Sky/Big Dreams.” We are planning a stimulating program with national speakers, including Jean-Marie Navetta, PFLAG National Director of Equality & Diversity Partnership, Jean Hodges, Chairperson of the Regional Directors at National PFLAG, Amy White Executive Director of the Pride Foundation, Cesar Hernandez, PFLAG Western Field and Policy Manager and Kathy Reim, PFLAG Pacific Northwest Regional Director.
Some conference highlights include:
Keynote speaker: Dr. Robert N. Minor, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, www.fairnessproject.org
He will also present seminars on:
Other programs will include:
Fundraising 101: Basic Tricks of the Trade
Establishing Winning Boards and Leadership Practices
Faces and Facets: Understanding Transgenderism
Straight for Equality in Faith Communities
Facilitation Skills: Going from Good to Great
Cultivating Respect: Safe Schools for All
Several of these programs will include training which could be beneficial to a variety of community organizations. We hope that many of our supporters will be able to attend.
Lastly, we wish to stress that PFLAG is a purely secular organization with no religious affiliations. While we welcome as members sympathetic supporters from all faith backgrounds, we also recognize that a portion of the “religious” community is the greatest source of the most painful and mean spirited vitriol directed at LGBT people. Unlike some of the more rabidly homophobic members of our community, “we fully support the separation of church and hate.”