PFLAG Pioneers Oral Histories

Learning from the past, from the wisdom of pioneers, is crucial for future generations. Following is a short personal history with a message of family love embodied in PFLAG pioneers - luminaries of LGBTQ activism - that should be captured and remembered.

I had a loving father when I was little, over 60 years ago. He had joy in my company. His love for me shown from his face like a beacon of light. But, when I was 7, he passed away. I wasn't very lucky then. But a few years later, I got lucky again. I met my beautiful wife and we had two sons - one who happens to be straight and one who happens to be gay. I love both of them.

My younger son and I have a great rapport - the kind of rapport I had with my father. We went camping together, we went to Disneyworld together - we loved each other every minute. When he was 11 though, he went into a shell, his behavior changed and he lost his friends. I couldn't figure it out. Once, he asked to have his nails done and his ignorant father made a homophobic remark - that remark embarrasses me to this day. I couldn't understand why a boy wanted to get his nails done.

When he was 17, he came out to us. I got emotional at the time because of fear for his welfare in this difficult world. Since then, our love and bond have only grown stronger. I am very lucky to have him in my life. He can see the love shine in my face whenever he walks into the room. Over the years, I have become a fierce fighter for his equal rights through PFLAG.

Our PFLAG journey began from our need to learn about what it meant to be gay. We joined the PFLAG chapter in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, near our home. It was led by savvy parents who taught us PFLAG's mission - support, education and advocacy for parents, families and friends of LGBT people.

At that time, PFLAG was "Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays," now it's just PFLAG - parents, families, friends and allies united with LGBTQ people to move equality forward. PFLAG represents over 200,000 families in the United States who support fairness and equal rights for their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members.

Why does PFLAG exist? Because PFLAG parents love their children - straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender - and the world is a hostile place. At its origin, just over 40 years ago, a brave PFLAG mom, Jeanne Manford, stood up for her son in the NYC Pride Parade. A continent away, in Los Angeles, she inspired Adele Starr, also the mother of a gay man, to stand up as well. Jeanne and Adele were joined by other loving parents who knew in their guts that the children they raised were wonderful human beings.

In those days, there was no favorable press, only disquieting homophobia, misinformation and prejudice. It took real courage to buck media consensus, stand their ground and organize a national organization saying "no" to anti-gay sentiment, threats and intimidation.

Unfortunately, Jeanne and Adele are no longer with us. So, we should no longer miss any opportunities to capture the legacies of other major contributors to LGBTQ history to educate future generations!! See what is means to be a PFLAGer and why oral histories matter:

Also, please check out the website of The Lavender Effect (www.thelavendereffect.org), whose top project is recording the oral histories of major LGBTQ pioneers.