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New group focuses on LGBTQA support

Ashanka Kumari

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A new group organized by UA students and faculty aims to support the parents, family and friends of gay and lesbian people.

Spectrum, the UA student LGBTQA group, with the support of Capstone Alliance, the UA faculty and staff LGBQTA group, and various community members, is organizing a new PFLAG chapter for Tuscaloosa.

PFLAG — which stands for Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — is a grassroots organization that works in communities around the nation to actively support LBGTQA persons, their families and friends through education and positive advocacy.

“This organization is unique in that it acts as a voice for those who often go unheard in the national discourse over LGBTQA equality issues, the family and friends of those affected by discrimination, harassment and violence,” Spectrum Political Committee chairman Michael Dewar said.

According to the organization’s mission statement, PFLAG promotes the health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their families and friends. The group aims to help them cope with an adverse society, enlighten an ill-informed public, and end discrimination and secure equal civil rights.

According to the organization’s website, PFLAG was originally formed by a mother named Jeanne Manford who got the idea while marching with her gay son during New York’s Pride Day parade in 1972. She carried a sign saying “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of our Children” in response to the physical abuse her son suffered in a previous protest.

After many gay and lesbian people came to her and begged her to speak to their own parents, Manford decided to form a support group. Since then, PFLAG has grown into a grassroots organization of tens of thousands of people that work in communities around the nation.

Tuscaloosa is in need of a community-wide organization that will work to facilitate broader understanding and acceptance of LGBT persons in our city and state, Dewar said.

“Tuscaloosa, though a city of approximately 200,000 people, has very limited organizational resources outside the University of Alabama for LGBTQA persons their friends or family members,” Dewar said.

“PFLAG will serve as a safe and supportive space for all members of the Tuscaloosa community, but we specifically would like it to serve as a resource for the people, like family and friends, who rarely get the opportunity to discuss how these issues affect their own and their loved-ones’ lives,” Dewar said.

Dewar attended several PFLAG meetings in Birmingham and said he became interested in starting a PFLAG chapter in Tuscaloosa to help give support locally.

“One of our main goals is to be a support organization. We hold a monthly support meeting in Birmingham on the second Tuesday of every month at the Unitarian Church,” Wilson said.

Meetings offer support to both parents and children and everything discussed is confidential, Wilson said.

“At the meetings you have parents who have just found out their child is gay who come to the meeting for support in order to deal with the issues they face,” Wilson said. “We also have great gay and lesbian people who provide support to the parents and contribute the perspective of the gay or lesbian person.”

The next meeting of the new Tuscaloosa PFLAG chapter will be April 20 in the student center of Canterbury Episcopal Church on University Boulevard.

For more information about PFLAG visit community.pflag.org or pflagbham.org.

 

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New group focuses on LGBTQA support