Born during the fury of the gay liberation movement, PFLAG – short for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – is one of the oldest national LGBTQ+ organizations in the U.S. As the name suggests, it started as and continues to be a support group for families and friends of queer people. In turn, they learn how to be allies and advocates. PFLAG has been a dominant force fighting for a world where diversity is celebrated and LGBTQ+ people belong to loving families and communities. In addition to their activism, they are a reservoir of information for those who need it. When I came out, I handed my family PFLAG’s Our Trans Loved Ones—one of the many publications written by PFLAG members about the journey of having a transgender family member—to help assuage their fears and misgivings to acceptance.
PFLAG is a national nonprofit composed of many grassroots groups spread out over 400 communities, including Pittsburgh. Our very own PFLAG chapter has long been involved in our city’s queer community. They’ve helped organized some of the earliest Pittsburgh Pride events, host support programs, and educate the local community about LGBTQ+ issues.
The Pittsburgh chapter is currently lead by President Dave West, who has been a member for six years. He first turned to PFLAG, like many parents of queer children, when his son came out. Not only did he become informed about how to adequately support his son, but he also received support managing the change in his family.
PFLAG Pittsburgh offers many services to parents, families, and friends of LGBTQ+ people as well as queer people themselves in order to help them come to terms with a loved one’s queerness in a productive way. One can call their warmline at 412-833-4556 to connect with a “veteran” parent. At their monthly support meetings for adults and youth, they frequently invite educational speakers such as authors and local activists to discuss important topics. Some of their more recent discussions were about gender-affirming surgery and transgender veterans navigating the healthcare system. Their Parent 2 Parent Coffee program connects parents of transgender children with each other in a local coffeehouse for a more cozy experience. On the fourth Wednesday of every month, they hold a potluck dinner with LGBTQ+ youth and their families.
In the wake of the pandemic, all programs have moved online and are being held via Zoom. PFLAG Pittsburgh has always been open to anyone, but they’ve noticed their outreach expanding beyond Allegheny County thanks to the wonders of technology. They plan to continue their online programs after the pandemic for those who may not have access to transportation or time to reach their physical location.
Another way they show support is through activism. The chapter offers a speakers bureau to various institutions operating in the city – from school districts, to businesses big and small, to political parties – to advocate for the interests of the local queer community or simply present information during events. In fact, before the pandemic shut everything down they were providing sensitivity training about LGBTQ+ people to the Pittsburgh police department. They plan on continuing the training once things become safe again. Anyone in the Pittsburgh area can request their aid by contacting the city chapter.
PFLAG Pittsburgh is currently holding a membership drive through to the end of the year. You don’t have to be a member to attend any of their events or use any of their services – PFLAG Pittsburgh has never turned anyone anyway. Nevertheless, PFLAG members help financially support the chapter so they can continue operating and providing for the community free of charge. Memberships for individuals cost $35, students for $15, and $50 for a whole family. If you’re interested in joining, you can donate directly or send a check to PO Box 5406, Pittsburgh PA, 15206. Their website is pflagpgh.org.
PFLAG is a great example of the kind of allies LGBTQ+ people need. They go above and beyond the acceptance we request of individuals. They fight for our rights, which have been incredibly fraught in this country, and demand our inclusion into society at large. Perhaps the ones who love us make the best compatriots.