By Michael P. Moran, MD, Hamilton
This summer marks the 40th anniversary of an event which seemed mundane at the time, passing essentially without notice but eventually proving to be the harbinger of a movement with momentous impact on American society. It was June, 1972 when a courageous New York elementary school teacher named Jeanne Manford first walked side by side with her gay son Morty in New York City’s Liberation Day March (the precursor to the Pride parades of today). At that time gay offspring were almost universally shunned by their families and her public display of love and support was virtually unheard of. During the parade she was overwhelmed by the many young gay people who approached her and pleaded with her to speak to their parents. It was from that experience that she realized the enormous need for a group to support the families of homosexual young people. Their first formal meeting took place in 1973 in a local church with approximately 20 people in attendance. This group eventually evolved into PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Over the years, through word of mouth and driven by local community need more than 350 local PFLAG affiliates have sprung up across the country. Today, with membership and allies in excess of 200,000 people, these local chapters continue to offer “safe havens” and mutual support for parents, friends and family members of the LGBT community. PFLAG is truly a “flagship” organization with the threefold mission of support, education and advocacy for LGBT people, families and issues. As the proud father of three daughters, one of whom is gay, I feel a sense of kinship as well as a profound indebtedness to Jeanne Manford. I consider her one of the unsung giants of the American civil rights movement.
It is in this context that I wish to call the attention of your readers to the upcoming PFLAG Pacific Northwest Regional conference, coming to Hamilton’s Bitterroot River Inn, September 21-23. We look forward to welcoming members and allies from the five state northwest region for a stimulating series of presentations and workshops. With nationally known speakers including Dr. Robert Minor, Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies, University of Kansas; Jean Hodges, PFLAG National Chair of Regional Directors; Jody Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National and others, the program should prove to be educational, entertaining and inspirational. The general public is invited (one can view the complete program and register for the conference at www.pnwpflag.org) and Continuing Education credits are available for counselors and teachers. The registration fee is $60; one can attend only Dr. Minor’s keynote address and the reception following for a $15 donation. In particular, we wish to extend an invitation to family members who may be struggling with these issues. It has been my experience that hearing the personal stories of people who have experienced this conflict can truly direct people toward a path of healing and peace.