Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Jeanne Manford wrote to the New York Post and publically proclaimed her love for her gay son, helping to launch the first organization of parents, families, and friends of lesbians and gays in the United States, a group that remains active into the twenty-first century.

Summary of Event

In New York City in 1972, three years after the city’s Stonewall Rebellion and the birth of the modern GLBT rights movement, Morton Manford, a gay activist, had been brutally assaulted Antigay violence;and founding of PFLAG[PFLAG] at a rally as police stood by and failed to protect him. Television cameras had captured Morton’s assault and his parents watched helplessly as their son was beaten in the streets. [kw]Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Is Founded (1981) [kw]Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Is Founded, Parents, (1981) [kw]Friends of Lesbians and Gays Is Founded, Parents, Families, and (1981) [kw]Lesbians and Gays Is Founded, Parents, Families, and Friends of (1981) [kw]Gays Is Founded, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and (1981) PFLAG [c]Civil rights;1981: Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Is Founded[1420] [c]Organizations and institutions;1981: Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Is Founded[1420] Manford, Morton Manford, Jean Starr, Adele

Morton survived the assault and emerged from the violence with a new outspoken ally, his mother. Jeanne Manford, a New York school teacher, thought nothing of it when she wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Post in April, 1972, expressing outrage at the attack on her son and about police inaction. She wrote, “I have a homosexual son, and I love him.” Her letter caught the attention of other parents. Jeanne recalled being surprised by the overwhelming response, but added, “I guess it was the first time a mother ever stood up publicly and said, ’Yes, I have a homosexual child.’”

Morton and Jeanne walked together in the 1972 New York City gay and lesbian pride parade. As they marched, the crowds cheered wildly, with Jeanne hoisting a sign with the words, “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.” Thousands of gays and lesbians lining the parade route cheered so loudly that Jeanne thought the cheers were for someone else, but the cheers and cries of the crowd were for her. Her simple sign gave hope to countless gays and lesbians, and it also started a movement. Jeanne remembers telling Morton as they walked in the parade that “she hoped some day that this would become a national movement, but that was just a dream. I never imagined we would reach so many people.”

Jeanne, overwhelmed by positive response, held the first support group for parents of gay and lesbian children in March, 1973, at the Metropolitan Duane Methodist Church in Greenwich Village. The twenty or so people who attended shared stories and support. The meeting flourished, and later, parents began calling Jeanne from all over the country.

In 1976, the Manfords encouraged parents Adele Starr and Larry Starr to start a similar meeting in Los Angeles, and in March of the same year, Adele launched the Los Angeles group. Soon more groups formed in other parts of California and in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Washington State, and Washington, D.C. During the mid-1970’s, many of these same parents met at the Manfords’ house in New York to discuss organizing a national group. Later, parents from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., in 1979, at the first National March for Gay and Lesbian Rights. Adele had addressed the historic crowd and noted that the march was being held in the “year of the child” and that a group of about twenty-five parents had met and organized to plan the national organization.

Two years later, in a two-day meeting, thirty people in Adele’s home in Los Angeles created the bylaws and articles of incorporation for a national organization that was to be called Parents FLAG (Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Adele remembers, according to the PFLAG Web site, that, “We…had pizza and drank beer…and formed the national organization” with a five-member board and Adele as president. In 1982, with twenty groups around the country, PFLAG was incorporated and granted nonprofit status, and for the next six years, the national office was located in the Starrs’ living room.

Significance

From Jeanne Manford’s letter to the New York Post, to a church in New York City, to Adele Starr’s living room, to a national office in Washington, D.C., PFLAG grew from the love, commitment, and outrage of parents who believed that family support and advocacy could transform the world for their gay and lesbian children and ultimately for tens of thousands of other families.

The dream evolved into an international organization that has nearly five hundred chapters, at least one in every state and several countries, and serves two hundred thousand members. Just as the gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights movement has expanded to include those who are transgender or intersexed, PFLAG, too, has evolved with the times. In 1993, the organization restructured and created an affiliation process for chapters, elected board seats, and changed its name to Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

PFLAG transformed the world of sexual and gender identity by shattering the familial silence surrounding having a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or intersexed (GLBTI) child or loved one. PFLAG has created a supportive space for parents, families, friends, and GLBTI people. The organization has a national presence at every GLBT march on Washington, participates in local pride events, and is active in opposing the anti-GLBT movement. PFLAG rightfully takes its place next to the many heroes of movements toward civil justice for all people. PFLAG

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anderson, Robert W. “Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).” In Gay Histories and Cultures, edited by George Haggerty. New York: Garland, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bernstein, Robert A. Straight Parents, Gay Children: Keeping Families Together. Rev. and updated ed. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2003.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clark, Don. Loving Someone Gay. 4th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Celestial Arts, 2005.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Drucker, Jane. Lesbian and Gay Families Speak Out: Understanding the Joys and Challenges of Diverse Family Life. Reading, Mass.: Perseus, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">PFLAG. Be Yourself: Questions and Answers for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth. http://www.pflag.org.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Faith in Our Families: Parents, Families, and Friends Talk About Religion and Homosexuality. http://www.pflag.org.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Our Daughters and Sons: Questions and Answers for Parents of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual People. http://www.pflag.org.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Siegel, Laura, and Nancy Lamkin Olson, eds. Out of the Closet, into Our Hearts: Celebrating Our Gay Family Members. San Francisco, Calif.: Leyland, 2001.

June 28, 1970: First Lesbian and Gay Pride March in the United States

1975: First Novel About Coming Out to Parents Is Published

October 12-15, 1979: First March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

October 11, 1987: Second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

October 11, 1988: First National Coming Out Day Is Celebrated

April 25, 1993: March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation

June, 1994: Stonewall 25 March and Rallies Are Held in New York City

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