Guest Blog: PFLAG LGBTQIA People and Their Families

What does PFLAG do?  

Our local mission is to advocate and offer support to local LGBTQIA People and their families. We run two support groups on a regular and monthly basis. PFLAG is from 7 to 9 PM the second Thursday of every month. We focus on individuals who need support and community and on families in need of information and understanding as they help their LGBT family member on their path. 

Transformations meets from 6 to 8 PM on the second and fourth Thursday of every month. That group focuses largely on gender questioning and transgender people over the age of 16, although younger people do sometimes attend. We also do community outreach, which includes a resource page on our website, having speakers available to companies, schools and nonprofits to help educate and inform others about LGBTQIA culture and us, as individuals. We show up and let people ask the hard questions.  

How did you get started?  

National PFLAG was started in 1973 by a mom who wanted to let the world know she loved and supported her gay son. Our local chapter was started by Diane and Andy Peterson and chartered by National in 2011. 

How are our LGBTQ young people feeling today?  

From our experience, many of them are telling us coming out stories that have a striking resemblance to those of the older people in the groups. Kids are often in danger so they do not come out. Religion, culture, and misinformation can all lead to bad family reactions when a child comes out as LGBTQIA. Our job is to be there to let the kids know they are not alone. We are also there to listen to the concerns and beliefs of the parents, without judgement, and help them gain knowledgeand also let them know that they are not alone. Sometimes what sounds like hate from a parent is actually just a grave concern for the safety of their child out in a world that is often dangerous for LGBTQIA people. Other parents are available for them to talk to and adult LGBTQIA people are available to let them know things turn out okay. 

What issues are they dealing with? 

They are dealing with a society that often not so subtly tells them having same sex attraction is dirty or wrong.They are told that any action that deviates from the gender norms imposed by our culture make them less valuable. Lots of kids get bad information from the internet or kids on the bus. They are seeking role models via media and the internet… they look around in real life to see people that look like them. Part of our job as PFLAG volunteers are to be the mentorsthe older versions of themselves that they need to see.  

What can people do to show support of the LGBTQ community? 

Learning a bit of our culture and history can help to dispel myths. Every part of the LGBTQIA has their own unique story. Encourage schools to teach it. Support politicians who support our civil rights. Ask your employer, your schools and other businesses you support to invite PFLAG speakers in to open conversations and dialogue. Donate money to local LGBTQIA nonprofits who are working in your community to help those in the community who don’t have the support they need from family or friends (kind of like PFLAG). When speaking are listening…be careful what you say. 

Jen Rowray is president of PFLAG Cedar Rapids, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  You may contact her or her organization; or