When my son came out almost 29 years ago, I wasn’t surprised. I was shocked and part of my shock was my own reaction. I never imagined I’d have such a hard time with this not surprising information. After all, I was liberal, open-minded and had gay and lesbian friends. But none of them were my child. I didn’t know what to do with the emotions and reactions that came up for me. It was even hard for me to articulate how I was feeling.
I had heard there was a support group for parents of gay kids and so as soon as I came home, I grabbed the phone book. I looked in the white pages and the yellow pages. I looked under gay, lesbian, parents. I couldn’t find anything. I knew I needed support and I didn’t know any other parents of gay kids.
I had a friend in San Francisco who was gay. I knew him in Los Angeles before we both moved north. I figured he could find out for me. I don’t know why I thought he’d know or would be able to find out but I’m so glad I called him. He told me, “Don’t worry. I’ll find out what it is and where it is and call you back.”
It wasn’t long before he called and told me about PFLAG. He told me where and when they meet and I attended my first PFLAG meeting less than a month after my son came out.
There I was welcomed and affirmed. No feeling was judged or bad. I was never made to feel guilty for how I reacted. I told those warm, loving parents that I wasn’t comfortable having my son visit me with a boyfriend. They told me it was okay and I didn’t have to do that yet. I’ll be forever grateful for their permission and for my son’s understanding. It tells me that he was pretty secure in my love for him and got that I just needed some time to adjust. And it wasn’t imminent. He didn’t even have a boyfriend and lived 450 miles away so it wasn’t going to be an every week or month thing. He would visit maybe once or twice a year.
I can still remember them asking me about marching with PFLAG in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade that coming June. I thought “No way! I’m not ready for that.” I was still in the closet in my new home in the bay area. What if someone saw me?
I did march in that parade and it’s an experience that stays with me to this day. I don’t know how I would have handled things if I hadn’t found PFLAG or if it didn’t exist. I stayed an active member of PFLAG for many years until the chapter in my area disbanded. I didn’t attend a meeting for many, many years.
About 5 years ago, I started my business coaching parents of LGBTQ kids. I started contacting local PFLAG chapters offering to be a speaker. As I attended different meetings in the bay area, my love for PFLAG was rekindled. No, I didn’t need it like I did in the beginning. But I could offer the same support I was offered to new parents who came in. I found a chapter that I grew to love. We still don’t have one in my area so I drive across a bridge to attend. This past year I’ve been privileged to be the president of my chapter.
Friday my husband and I leave for Portland for the bi-annual conference. I attended two years ago in Nashville. I’m so looking forward to connecting with people, learning and sharing with other PFLAG parents. I’m also looking forward to connecting with the people from PFLAG in North Carolina where I’ll be moving at the end of year.
In PFLAG I feel at home. It supports the work I do and it supports me. It allows me to give back to parents what I was generously given when I first arrived.
PFLAG needs all of us – those who are still struggling with having an LGBTQ child and those who are totally accepting and affirming. There is still so much work to do for the LGBTQ community and together we can accomplish so much. If you need to find a meeting, click HERE and search in your area.
I’d love to hear your experiences with PFLAG and what it has done for you. Share in the comments.