From time to time we share the essays and letters of guest bloggers. This week, we are pleased to publish another post from Michelle Dooley. Michelle is Vice President of PFLAG San Antonio and we met her in person for the first time this past October at the PFLAG national conference in Portland, OR. She is also the mother of Matt Dooley. Happy Mother’s Day Michelle, and all the wonderful PFLAG moms out there!
The approach of Mother’s Day each year fills me with such mixed emotions. My own mom, whom I was so very close to, is no longer with us, leaving my with a renewed feeling of loss each time the holiday rolls around. At the same time, I am filled with joy and awe as I watch both my daughter and daughter-in-law as they mother my adorable grandchildren.
As complicated as my narrative is regarding this celebration, it is nothing compared to so many in the LGBTQ community who suffered rejection, condemnation, and worse from their own mothers. Over the last 45 years, PFLAG has often filled this void. Members of the LGBTQ community who have attended meetings filled with loving, accepting parents voice similar reactions. They experience an often overwhelming sense of hope for the future as they witness family support that they, themselves, were not given at the time they came out to their loved ones. Many have said that they continue to participate in PFLAG because, in addition to the support they receive at the meetings, there is often a sense that they have acquired a surrogate mom or two.
As important a role as PFLAG plays, it can not function without the presence of accepting, supportive parents to act as teachers, role models, and surrogates. Yet, the recruitment of loving, accepting parents to counsel parents with a newly out child, or to act as a surrogate for someone whose own parents rejected them, has become difficult.
When approached about serving PFLAG, moms or dads who may have sought the help of PFLAG themselves when their own children first revealed their true selves, now say they no longer need PFLAG. They seem immune to the pleas that, while they no longer need PFLAG, PFLAG certainly needs them. Bil Browning’s recent article for LGBTQ Nation prognosticating the imminent demise of PFLAG probably hasn’t help.
Our own chapter suffers from this attitude. Our ten person Board contains only three parents, two of whom have, after eight years of service, tendered their resignations. Their lengthy tenure occurred, in part, because no one has stepped forward to take their places.
Public attitude may have been falsely affected by things like the passage of Marriage Equality and, even the positive portrayal of members of the LGBTQ community on both the big and small screens. But if the pain and anguish I am privy to in our support meetings is an indication, rejection, discrimination, and hatred are still occurring in shameful numbers.
It is as important today as it was 45 years ago when Jeanne Manford first marched in a Gay Pride Parade with her son. As the only parent in that parade, she was surprised to be greeted by cheering, tears, and requests for hugs along the entire parade route, demonstrating the need for a support organization for and by parents. That experience led her to found PFLAG.
Not much has changed in 45 years. In fact, when I marched in our Pride parade wearing my “I Love My Gay Son” t-shirt, I, too, was greeted with cheers along with requests for hugs, handshakes, or photos. Members of the LGBTQ community still long for love and acceptance. One of PFLAG’s primary missions is to provide just that. We then serve to educate the wider community and advocate on behalf of our LGBTQ loved ones. Until one’s sexuality is a nonissue, a PFLAG mom’s job is NEVER done.
So all you parents who benefited from PFLAG in the past but walked away, come back. We need you! There are parents new to the community who need mentoring, as well as members of the LGBTQ community who need your love and affirmation because they aren’t getting it at home. If you really feel like you can’t commit to the organization in such an active manner, write a check! PFLAG National is currently in the red and could use your help. If it fails, the 400 plus chapters it supports will fold, creating a void that Jeanne Manford rushed to fill 45 year’s ago.
Remember, you may not need PFLAG, but PFLAG certainly needs you!