There’s one category that we all fit into, whether we know it or not. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. PFLAG, or as it’s spoken, P-flag.
At a church workshop a year ago, there was discussion about what more we could be doing for the community of Simi Valley, where the church is located. On a sudden impulse, I started asking whether there is a chapter of PFLAG in Simi, and wouldn’t it make sense for us to start one? It’s hard to imagine that no one had thought of it before. Another of our members, Jeff, was interested in helping with a start-up, and we were off.
The first step was to plan a public meeting at the church and locate a suitable speaker. That turned out to be easy; PFLAG has a volunteer organizer for the Los Angeles area, and he was more than ready to help us. We talked to him, selected a date and advertised it. On that evening, Joan and I met him for dinner and then took him to the meeting. Thirty or so people attended, and there was lively interest in starting a local chapter. Soon after, there was another meeting, and then a smaller meeting to select some officers to take on the real work of contacting national PFLAG and getting papers from the state of California to do business as a non-profit.
I was really happy that there were willing volunteers to serve as the necessary officers, Jeff being one of them. I could cheer from the sidelines, which suited me just fine. President Patti needed a few months for the required paper work, and in the meantime I visited two PFLAG chapters in the area, one of them in Santa Clarita and the other in Oak Park. Both of them were large groups, 25 persons or more, and a mix of old and young, straight and gay, singles and couples. At both of the meetings there were parents attending whose children had just come out. There were stories, confessions, realizations, tears. I felt privileged to witness these moments of growth and realization for good people who loved their children and wanted to know how to deal with what they had so recently learned.
PFLAG Simi Valley held its first meeting in November, on the third Thursday evening, with 12 persons present. Patti had made many contacts for us, including a Facebook page that soon had hundreds of “Friends.” Several women attended from “Bosom Buddies,” a lesbian group that meets weekly in a friendly Simi bar. The December meeting was also 12 persons, including some new faces. The January meeting was a bit larger, I have been told.
Last night was our fourth meeting, and I was excited to see 19 persons present. We had an entertaining guest speaker, Abby, but at a certain point she gently allowed the meeting to drift away from her on its own momentum. The focus shifted to a new couple, T& L, who had the coming out conversation with their son on New Year’s Day. There weren’t actually tears, but they had some unresolved emotions and differences about how they were dealing with the news. Both parents had known about their son’s orientation for years, but it seemed there was some anger that he had not voluntarily come out until Lasked him the big question, straight out. Earlier in the meeting I had mostly been turned away from them, but others remarked how tense and closed L had been at first, how she relaxed during the conversation, and then how happy they seemed to be when they left at the end.
Patti and I congratulated each other after the meeting: PFLAG Simi has passed its first test. We are right where we need to be to serve people who need us.