The PFLAG Express is proud to host a guest contributor to the PFLAG National Blog today: Suzanne Swan, the daughter of Jeanne Manford, PFLAG's original voice who changed the world. We are honored to deliver her message, carried cross country by PFLAGXpress:
Having a mother like Jeanne Manford was truly a blessing. She was a great person and taught us to love and respect people and ideas. Mom loved and protected her children, but when she couldn’t keep us from harm, like all parents, she would be upset. She became infuriated when my brother Morty was brutally beaten by Michael Maye, a fire captain and a former Golden Gloves champion. Morty suffered injuries that hospitalized him. Politicians and police officers at the scene didn't offer any help to my brother and this greatly angered my mother.
Mom was pragmatic; she did what was logical and what needed to be done. She was outraged that someone wanted to hurt her child and so she sent letters about the attack and the lack of response by the police to the New York newspapers, all but one declined to print her words. The New York Post published her letter where-in she berated the attacker who hurt Morty. This letter made headlines in the Gay community, literally hundreds of Morty's friends called him. They were astonished. They couldn't believe that a parent would admit that they had a gay child or that a parent would stand up for them in such a public way.When Morty came out to my parents, Mom's only concern was for him; how he would be treated by society, would he have the same rights and privileges as anyone else, the same opportunities...In 1972, my mother was quoted in the New York Times as saying: 'Morty has his own life to live, if he can make a good life for himself and be happy, then I will be happy. People are entitled to their human rights and dignity.'Mom loved Morty fiercely and she would have done anything for him. If Morty was gay, then being gay must be a good thing; this was never in question.Mom marched with Morty in the second New York City LGBT Pride parade in 1972. The now-famous sign that she held read "Parents of gays: unite in support of our children". It was during this march that she became an activist. When the young men and woman who screamed and rushed over to her and cried and hugged her and begged that she speak with their parents, Mom realized how many people were hurting because they couldn't talk to their parents about the deepest meaning of who they are, how many parents were hurting because they didn't understand their children... she knew that the conversation between parents and LGBT children must be started. She and Morty also knew that the straight parents were the link the LGBT community needed to the rest of society to be understood and accepted.History would answer her call with PFLAG chapters in all fifty states with over 350 chapters and more than 200,000 members, in addition to many international chapters.Mom passed away in January of 2013 and a memorial was held at the New York Metropolitan Church where the first PFLAG meetings we we held.
Councilman Daniel Drumm read into the NY City Council record: “Jeanne and Morty once fought from the balcony of this Council Chambers for the passage of the gay rights bill in the NYC Council. Today she was remembered by that same body as the gay rights pioneer that she was. Times change!"