“As we marched the parade route, so many people came up and hugged me and cried and talked about their own parents.”
Due to the encouragement she received when she came out as a straight ally, the first to publicly do so, Manford decided that parents of gay and lesbian children needed a support group to help them come to terms with their children’s sexuality. After writing a letter that appeared in the New York Post on April 29, 1972 declaring her support of her gay son, Manford organized the first formal meeting of PFLAG, which took place in 1973 at a local church. Approximately 20 people attended. From there, the group drastically expanded, emerging as a resource of education, advocacy, and outreach for educational institutions and communities of faith all across the country. PFLAG’s role as a resource of education has remained constant throughout the past four decades and has helped inspire PFLAG’s current initiatives such as our “Care with PRIDE” partnership with Walgreens and Johnson & Johnson and our “Cultivating Respect: Safe Schools for All” campaign.
To help bring our anniversary celebration to all of our members nationwide, we are launching a new campaign: PFLAG Then & Now…40 Years of Family and Ally Voices. Each month for the next year, we will look at a different timely piece of subject matter and highlight the differences PFLAG has made in 40 years of moving equality forward.
For the month of June, we are releasing our Hate Crimes Guide & Toolkit, which will educate the public about the importance of addressing hate crimes, what they are, and how to report and prevent them.
Aside from PFLAG’s own efforts to spread the word about our 40th Anniversary, we have also received a vast amount of support from our friends. Check out the cover of the Huffington Post Gay Voices vertical today for a story all about Jeanne Manford’s iconic march with her son, an exclusive interview with Jeanne Manford’s daughter, Suzanne, and some never-before-seen Manford family photos. We also hope you didn’t miss the love letter to PFLAG released by Ms. Magazine on Wednesday and our blog post just yesterday about the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus’s Launch Event, in which PFLAG’s very own Executive Director, Jody Huckaby, moderated a panel that provided an overview on bullying behavior and power dynamics.
In 40 years, we have seen vast strides made in the fight for LGBT equality. Just 40 years ago, Jeanne Manford learned that New York City police stood idly by as her son was brutally beaten by homophobic bigots. Today, in that same city, her son could marry his same-sex partner. Jeanne Manford laid the foundations for a more accepting society in which families and allies can proudly stand up for their LGBT loved ones and fight for their equality. We certainly cannot forget that the United States still has a long way to go, but we must also not forget to stop every now and then to look back at how far we have come. Thank you, Jeanne Manford. You truly are the mother of the straight ally movement.
Please click here to visit Jeanne’s page and share your thanks, as well as your insights into how she—and PFLAG—has made a difference in your life, and the lives of your LGBT loved ones.