PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – is the premiere gay rights group working with families of gay people, especially gay kids. PFLAG is much revered in the gay community. PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford has died at 92.
Today the world has lost a pioneer: Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the Mother of the Straight Ally movement.
Jeanne was one of the fiercest fighters in the battle for acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is truly humbling to imagine in 1972 – just 40 years ago – a simple schoolteacher started this movement of family and ally support, without benefit of any of the technology that today makes a grassroots movement so easy to organize. No Internet. No cellphones. Just a deep love for her son and a sign reading “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.”
This simple and powerful message of love and acceptance from one person resonated so strongly it was heard by millions of people worldwide and led to the founding of PFLAG, an organization with more than 350 chapters across the U.S. and 200,000 members and supporters, and the creation of similar organizations across the globe.
Jeanne’s work was called “the story of America…of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury,” in a speech by President Barack Obama in 2009.
All of us – people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies alike – owe Jeanne our gratitude. We are all beneficiaries of her courage. Jeanne Manford proved the power of a single person to transform the world. She paved the way for us to speak out for what is right, uniting the unique parent, family, and ally voice with the voice of LGBT people everywhere.
Andy Towle has more, quoting Liz Owen at PFLAG on the date of Jeanne Manford’s 91st birthday last year:
Following a brutal attack on his life at a rally, Manford stood alongside her son in a protest through the streets of Manhattan, carrying a sign that read “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.” Begged by observers to speak to other parents, she started support groups teaching parents to accept and support their LGBT loved ones and become, like her, brave advocates for equality. As demand steadily increased, Manford founded PFLAG, a national organization with a mission of support, education, and advocacy.
President Obama explains the history of PFLAG:
This is a photo of Jeanne Manford marching with her son Morty: