During the month of October we will reflect on the history – and celebrate the accomplishments – of straight allies. When PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford marched with her gay son Morty in 1972 in the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade (a precursor to the Pride Parade) in New York City, she signaled the power family and friends could have for moving equality forward. Carrying a sign that read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support of our Children,” Jeanne sparked the Straight Ally movement and propelled individuals to stand up for their LGBT loved ones. Jeanne truly was the Mother of the Straight Ally movement.
This all came at a time when it was unheard of for straight people to speak up for LGBT equality and openly support their LGBT loved ones. “I didn’t think anything of it, but I guess it was the first time a mother ever stood up publicly and said, ‘Yes, I have a homosexual child,’” reflected Jeanne. From this monumental day and public display of support, PFLAG emerged, offering the first much-needed forum for parents, families, and friends to get and offer support, providing them the education and resources and resources they needed to come out as allies.
For four decades, PFLAG has led the way in helping family and friends of LGBT people stand up for equality. In 2007, PFLAG launched Straight for Equality and took the next step to help a new group of allies – not the family members that PFLAG is known for working with – start coming out as supportive of their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. Straight for Equality expands the organization’s efforts to include more people in the equality movement than ever before. This national project is designed for straight people who want to participate in the equality movement but are not sure how to start, emphasizing that there are many ways to be an ally; all a person has to do is want to speak up and learn more.
Straight for Equality offers resources, including workplace, healthcare and faith community trainings, to facilitate an open and honest dialogue about the importance of being an ally, what it means to be an ally, and simple steps anyone can take to advocate for and support equality in their community. This campaign emphasizes that straight allies can set an example for others and help to make sure the next generation is not burdened with the same problems we face today.
As with all civil rights issues, allies are critical to the progress of equality. Allies add power in numbers, offering greater support for LGBT individuals and increasing awareness about issues LGBT people face. Allies are additional voices to stand up against intolerance and express the need for basic rights, including that to love. They also offer a unique perspective to the importance of equality. By advocating for policy changes or new laws that will not directly benefit them, allies convey the message that they are standing up for equality because it is the right thing to do. Straight for Equality works to empower the ally voice and advanced the message of equality far and wide.
We thank Jeanne Manford for igniting the Straight Ally movement, and we celebrate the progress that has been made over the last forty years, including the fantastic work that PFLAG families, friends, and allies continuously do to change hearts and minds and look forward to equality continuing to move forward.