I’m about to come face-to-face with the family that loves me unconditionally, yet I’m fearful of what I have to tell them will prove that their “unconditional” love has conditions.
I could tell my parents everything when I was growing up, from getting drunk in high school to screwing up an important test, but now I have to tell them something that may make all of those conversations seem insignificant. I’ve avoided this conversation so long that I can no longer avoid it, and it hurts me so much to think about the different responses they will have. I don’t want them to look at me differently than they did before.
“Mom and Dad … I’m gay.”
These conversations are happening all over the world today in every single socio-economic class. In some incidents, their families are loving and supportive, but in other unfortunate incidents families struggle to understand and accept one another. This is because some families are inadequately exposed and informed about the LGBTQ community. This is where organizations like PFLAG – which stands for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – can play a vital role in family members’ relationships with one another.
PFLAG is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the LGBTQ community and about how to support and advocate for its members. They meet monthly and welcome members of the LGBTQ community, their families, and anyone who wants to be better educated on the topic. They make sure that all who enter their meetings feel safe and comfortable with who they are.
Recently, I had the pleasure of being able to talk on the phone with a key member of PFLAG. Joy Fisher is the president of the Westminster-Carroll County, Maryland Chapter.
Fisher was the vice president of the Westminster chapter four years before and became president when the president at the time stepped down. Fisher is a member of the LGBTQ community herself, and she believes that PFLAG is a crucial organization for kids who are in the LGBTQ community and their parents.
When I asked her why she feels this organization is so important to kids, Fisher pointed to support systems. “Plenty of kids out there don’t have support from their families or their schools, and they need a voice and to be accepted for who they are,” she said.
For parents, Fisher emphasized the importance of understanding of the LGBTQ community. “Parents need to be educated and need to learn how to accept their child for who they are. I have not met a parent who has come out of PFLAG that isn’t happy that they have been educated,” she said.
Fisher also spoke of how PFLAG has affected her life since joining.
“[PFLAG] has allowed me to see a great group of kids who want to make a difference in their community,” she said. Fisher added that she has seen “far more [kids] than I realized were here who want our help and who need our help.”
“It is so nice to be able to watch Westminster evolve,” she concluded.
Anyone who feels like they are being treated unequally in the community or if they feel like they might not understand the LGBTQ community as well as they want to are welcome to participate in PFLAG meetings. The meetings are a place where everyone is accepted and listened to, and if you might not be comfortable with meeting in front of a big group of people, PFLAG has a helpline where callers can arrange a time and place for a more private meeting with a member of the organization.
PFLAG is an organization that I feel is vital in any community and that can help so many people who are afraid or who might be struggling with their family members’ relationships with them. This organization is a saving grace to anyone who is going through hardships with finding acceptance with themselves.
PFLAG’s website can be found here. The Westminster-Carroll County chapter’s helpline is 410-861-0488.