Thursday, October 9, 2008

Asking Questions, Looking to the Future

In communities across the country, PFLAG is the organization for families to access support when a loved one comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. PFLAG chapters offer support to families through small group meetings and one-on-one conversations. In the beginning, societal hostility toward LGBT people motivated Jeanne Manford to form an organization for parents to confidentially talk to each other about issues affecting their children. In our changing society, PFLAG families became instrumental in educating communities and advocating for the LGBT community.

A few weeks ago, PFLAG St. Paul/Minneapolis set out to host a conference examining PFLAG’s role in community education and advocacy for the LGBT community. "Is PFLAG ready for the next generation of LGBT people and their families?," they asked, as well as, "How do we fulfill the PFLAG mission; to support, educate and advocate?," and "What can PFLAG do to welcome and work with straight allies?"

Just over 100 people attended the conference to explore these questions. Workshops focused on creating a safe environment in school for LGBT youth; preventing and addressing substance abuse in the LGBT community; strategizing to end discriminatory laws; building alliances with families of color; and developing coalitions with the unusual suspects. Robert Curoe spoke about trying to understand and practice his faith within the Catholic Church while also loving his daughter, Carol, as he does his other children. And Jody Huckaby, PFLAG National’s executive director, urged us to nurture and work with straight allies.

As we look to the future, we envision a society that celebrates and embraces everyone, so that we can all, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, realize our full potential as human beings. The keynote speakers, Dotti Berry and Roby Sapp, shared their experiences of travelling across the country and creating authentic connections with people who are wrestling in some way with their understanding of people’s sexual orientation and gender variance. Their story inspires us to continue our support for families, education to the community, and advocacy for our LGBT loved ones.

- Brooke Smith

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