“Keeping families together”
That is the mission of the voluntary not-for-profit organisation Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – PFLAG.
Since the Australian chapter of PFLAG was started by June Smythe with a meeting at the Perth home of John and Margaret Pugh on 2 December1989, PFLAG has worked to assist families through the process of a loved one coming out as LGBTQ.
For President of PFLAG NSW Judy Brown her involvement in the organisation has been a substantial and deeply personal one.
“For a start we were shocked,” she remembered of her son Steven’s coming out. “We weren’t prepared for it you know, although we should have been!”
“When he did come out at 23 but we just said to him that we loved him unconditionally but there wasn’t a problem.”
“He found about PFLAG for us when he was at university and we went off to the meeting. It took us awhile but we did find PFLAG very helpful and we have been involved ever since.”
“What I always tell them is that you must tell your child that you love them and that you love them unconditionally.”
PFLAG has been proactive in helping families and friends gain understanding, acceptance and eventually happiness in their relationships with loved ones. The organisation’s activities have worked to help with the feelings of isolation, confusion and anger that some families experience in the coming out process.
The activities include:
- monthly support meetings where we discuss member issues and concerns. Some meetings include a guest speaker who is a professional in their field
- a library of books, videos, pamphlets, and articles to help educate parents and others on issues
- a monthly newsletter and an information telephone line
- advocacy on behalf of their children to parliaments, politicians, community and business on issues of human rights and equality in law, also for inclusion and social acceptance.
Australian society has gradually changed – sometimes too gradually – since her son came out almost two decades ago and Judy Brown says the responses from parents and family members range from her shock to unconditional acceptance and PFLAG’s role has also evolved accordingly.
“When it’s your own child it still seems to affect parents in the same manner. They still take it quite hard generally, except for the young parents,” she said.
“The older parents, they still feel the loss and a kind of grief of the dreams that they have for their children over the years.”
“Mostly people that contact us now are younger parents with very young children and they don’t want help for themselves.”
“They are generally very accepting but are very concerned for how their kids are going to fit into society and they want to know where they can go to get gain support for their children.”
The story of Judy Brown’s family has been one of happiness with her son marrying his partner of 13 years in 2014. It’s a happy story that many families have been able to experience with the assistance of PFLAG.
After arriving at happiness, Brown has a couple of simple messages to help families in reaching that destination.
“What I always tell them is that you must tell your child that you love them and that you love them unconditionally,” she said.
“Some parents may be very ignorant at the beginning, we were, so tell them that you don’t understand but you are willing to educate yourself and that you just want them to be a part of your family.”
PFLAG will be attending Wear it Purple’s Brisbane Event on 25 August 2017 at Queens Park.
PFLAG Australia contacts
This year’s Wear it Purple theme is “Celebrate”.
In the lead up to the WIP Day, we are highlighting those in the rainbow community who provide happiness, demonstrate the diversity, help bring together the community, work to raise awareness and ensure there are good times for the rainbow community.