Badpuppy Gay Today

Wednesday 23 July, 1997

PARENTS OF GAYS (PFLAG) MEETS WITH U.S. PRESIDENT

Parents, Families & Friends of Gays Represent 70,000 U.S. Homes
History-Making Organization Reaches into over 400 Communities

Compiled by Badpuppy's GayToday

 

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) President Nancy McDonald moved to bring the views of nearly 70,000 PFLAG households from across the country to President Bill Clinton during a White House meeting Tuesday. President McDonald conferred with President Clinton in a private meeting alongside a dozen gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community activists.

"We are seeking to create 'safe space' for everyone, and especially in our schools and communities. I hope that Clinton and his Administration will join us in this work," she said.

Leaders of PFLAG, an evolutionary step in the parents of gays movement, was created two decades ago out of a mother's pain and anger as she watched her gay son be beaten on a television newscast. She pledged this past spring at the historic President's Summit for America's Future to provide "safe spaces" for 10,000 more gay, lesbian and bisexual youth and their families by the year 2002. This is in light of the fact that every day 13 Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 commit suicide, and it is estimated that perhaps 30% of these young people are gay or lesbian.

PFLAG itself had its first incarnation in 1973 in New York City, with the assistance of a prominent lesbian-feminist author and a courageous Gay Activist Alliance militant. Why?

A front page report in a 1973 gay newspaper tells of activists meeting in Manhattan when " a 16-year old boy came in with tears in his eyes. His grandmother was kicking him out for being gay. Her sons were beating him up saying it would 'knock the gayness out of him.' " Though black, the boy chose a white woman to approach to tell of his experiences and she assumed later that it was because she'd represented a mother figure to him."

Parent Richard Ashworth, known to author Eric Marcus as a member of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays gives in Is It a Choice? another reason that brings parents, especially fathers, to examine their own roles: "Fathers train males to be macho. So being a 'he-man' is a very important thing. Fathers may expect to live their lack of success in that area through their children. I think (with a gay son) you may find more disappointment from the father at first. I don't think you find that as much in a mother."

Following the historic 1973 founding of the first parents of gays organization, a banner headline on GAY, America's first weekly, exclaimed:" Parents of Gays Organizing!" Activist media whiz Randolfe Wicker wrote the GAY news scoop, dated 4/23/73. It said, "Several couples, all parents of gay children, were brought together on Sunday afternoon, March 11th in a lounge of the United Methodist Church at 13th Street and Seventh Avenue to discuss their mutual experiences and see how they could help other parents handle their relationships with their gay offspring."

"Gay activists Barbara Love and Morty Manford organized the meeting and served as informal moderators of the discussion after explaining that they hoped to be but "temporary catalysts" in getting the parents' group going."

Love and Manford's hopes bloomed in novel ways in yesterday's meeting-- 1997-- of PFLAG's President with the American President. The PFLAG president's attendance now vividly recalls how two long-ago temporary catalysts succeeded in creating an important liberation organization with chapters in 11 nations. PFLAG, many activists believe, is gay liberation's natural beachhead into the heterosexual community's longing for families whose members live in affection and understanding.

With PFLAG President McDonald's presence at the White House, a significant milestone is reached in a year of unparalleled token triumphs, a milestone that could hardly have been dreamed about in 1973 when Republican same-sex marriage opponent and anti-porn crusader Richard Nixon occupied the Watergate- rocked White House.

Then, a photo under GAY's banner-headline shows GAA's handsome and earnest Morty Manford with his mother, Jeanne and the well-known author of popular childcare-advice books, Dr. Benjamin Spock in 1972. Jeanne Manford is carrying a sign that says, "Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children!" On page 10 is a picture showing Manford with both parents (Jeanne Manford and Dr. Jules Manford principals both in the founding of Parents of Gays) and Morty's sister, Suzy Manford.

At Tuesday's meeting a quarter century later, PFLAG President Nancy McDonald delivered a message, in essence, to the President of the United States:

"We are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends who want to live in a society where everyone is valued. We are seeking to create 'safe space' for everyone, and especially in our schools and communities. I hope that you, as the President, and your Administration will join us in this work," she said.

Ms. McDonald is a community educator who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

PFLAG, a national family organization, currently serves more than 400 communities, has been headed by McDonald since October 1996. She coordinated the group's public educational program, Project Open Mind, during its initial launch in Tulsa, and is the founder of the city's PFLAG chapter.

McDonald is an education consultant, having previously worked in the Tulsa Public Schools developing and coordinating the School Volunteer Program and Partnerships in Education with Business and Industry. Her many honors include being named Tulsa Woman of the Year and Administrator of the Year by Tulsa Classroom Teachers.

She and her husband of 35 years have five children and five grandchildren.

1997 BEI; All Rights Reserved.
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