Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Help us Welcome our Newest PFLAG Chapter: Taos, NM

PFLAG Taos president Annouk Ellis. Photo courtesy of Susan Ressler.

From Taos News:

The new chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a nationwide, grassroots organization more widely known as PFLAG, is offering a service that Taos members of the LGBT community did not have before — support.

PFLAG Taos founder Annouk Ellis said their next meeting will be held Aug. 1, for what the group is calling a “back to school” meeting. The attendees for past PFLAG meetings have said that safe schools for gay and lesbian students are a primary concern.

The meeting, in addition to having the usual support section, will have a special guest speaker, Jean Hodges, giving a presentation. Hodges is an instrumental force within the PFLAG organization and is known for her work with the Boulder Valley Safe Schools Coalition, which advocated for a safe school system for LGBT students there.

With the help of Hodges, Ellis says PFLAG Taos is looking to gain a similar system for Taos’ LGBT students, one that they can feel safe in and help to bring about change themselves. Following her presentation, Hodges will be administrating a question-and-answer session for anyone interested.

In addition to offering support for gays and lesbians, the organization provides support for parents that may be scared for their child’s well-being as a newly outed lesbian or gay. The organization has chapters across the country, including one in Santa Fe, but has not had a Taos chapter since the late ’90s.

The new Taos chapter came into existence when founder Ellis’ son came out and Ellis was struck with the realization that there were “no support groups for either [her] son, or [her].”

PFLAG takes into account that being a parent of a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child may be a difficult or frightening burden to bear. The Taos chapter held its first meeting May 2, and Ellis says that they “have been working hard ever since to gain more awareness and members” for their chapter.

PFLAG Taos made a great stride in gaining followers when members marched in the Fourth of July parade in Arroyo Seco. Ellis said “the event was both monumental and magical.”

Ellis said “when I heard the cheers for the sign I was carrying I cried” and that she found it hard not to be emotional. Her sign read “Parents of gays unite in support for our children,” a message she borrowed from an early driving force behind PFLAG, Jeanne Manford.

PFLAG Taos has aspirations to become much bigger and to be an official chapter, which it is “very close to doing,” Ellis said. Another idea members have is to form a Spanish speakers outreach division within their chapter.

Ellis said of the upcoming meeting that “it is important to know that everyone is welcome” and that the organization is “to inform everyone, not just gays, lesbians, and parents.”

The event begins Aug. 1, 5 p.m. at 1335 Gusdorf Road, suite R.

For information about PFLAG Taos, visit its Facebook page or its new website pflagtaos.org.

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