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Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)  

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), an international non-profit organization that operates out of Washington, D. C., works to support glbtq people and their loved ones. Stemming from parents' desire to be involved in their gay and lesbian children's struggle for equality, PFLAG has been an inspiration to and resource for countless families since the 1970s.

Sexual minorities differ from racial, ethnic, and national minorities, who may face discrimination and disdain, but who develop within their families important systems of support and nurturance. In contrast, glbtq individuals generally grow up in families in which their minority sexual orientation or gender identity is concealed, ignored, or condemned. Hence, they often receive little or no support from their families, especially during the crucial and often traumatic coming out process.

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Moreover, since most parents are heterosexual and may have imbibed the larger culture's misinformation about sexual minorities, they are frequently ill prepared to understand and accept their glbtq children.

Given these circumstances, the presence and growth of PFLAG have been enormously reassuring both to glbtq people and to their families and friends. Indeed, PFLAG has developed into a significant force for the advancement of glbtq rights.

Early History

PFLAG's origins trace back to New York City in 1972, when a gay man named Morton Manford was attacked at a gay rights rally. Jeanne and Jules Manford, his parents, saw the assault on their local news and were appalled that the police had failed to come to their son's aid.

Jeanne Manford decided to take action. The following year she marched alongside her son at the Pride Parade, carrying a sign that read "Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children."

Noting the emotional response she received from the crowd at the parade, she determined to begin a support group for other parents of gay and lesbian children. About 20 people attended the first meeting of New York City Parents of Gays, as the group was then called, and over the next several years similar groups began meeting throughout the country.

These disparate groups, along with other parents, came together in 1979 at the first National March for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Washington, D. C. Two years later, in 1981, PFLAG decided to establish itself as a national organization, and opened its first office in Los Angeles. The following year, the group was incorporated as a nonprofit organization under the name Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc. In 1987 it relocated its headquarters to Denver and in 1990 to Washington, D. C.

PFLAG's Mission

One of PFLAG's most important functions is to counsel and support parents as they come to terms with their children's sexual orientation. They also provide support to members of mixed-orientation marriages, often in conjunction with the Straight Spouse Network. In addition, they attempt to educate the broader public by providing accurate information about homosexuality and gender identity. Finally, they advocate on behalf of glbtq people and their issues.

In the 1970s, PFLAG's activism included protesting Anita Bryant's anti-gay Save Our Children campaign. In the 1980s, the group worked to oppose lesbians being discharged from the military, as well as distributing educational materials and information.

In the 1990s, PFLAG's then-president Paulette Goodman began corresponding with First Lady Barbara Bush, who stated that she supported ending discrimination against all Americans. The two continued to communicate until 1992.

Current Structure

In 1993, the organization renamed itself Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. PFLAG's restructuring that year included the establishment of an affiliation process for chapters, along with the election of a board; PFLAG thus became a member organization with strong support for its chapter affiliates.

Many of the individual chapters have active educational and support programs, ranging from media outreach to fundraising for scholarships for glbtq university students.

Bisexual and Issues

Despite the exclusion of "bisexual" and "transgender" from the organization's name, PFLAG works for the rights of these sexual minorities as well, providing education on gender identification along with sexual orientation. PFLAG's policy statements on such issues as legislation, equality in the workplace, hate crimes, same-gender marriage, religious affiliation, and comprehensive sex education all reflect its deep commitment to ensuring the rights of all glbtq people.

Current Priorities

PFLAG publishes several pamphlets that help parents understand their children's sexual orientation or gender identity and sponsor several programs meant to inform the public about glbtq people. The organization also attempts to counter the untruths promulgated by anti-gay groups.

PFLAG's current priorities include supporting the work of local grassroots affiliates, working for the safety of students in all schools, and building inclusive models with which to support diverse communities.

Its founders and early members are still tremendously active in the organization, which has become one of the most visible queer support groups in the nation.

Currently, there are more than 460 chapters of PFLAG throughout the United States, with over 200,000 members and supporters.

Teresa Theophano


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The South Orange County PFLAG contingent at the Long Beach Pride Parade in 2005. Photograph by Angela Brinskele.
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social sciences >> Overview:  Boycotts

Boycotts, the refusal to patronize companies or institutions, have in recent decades been organized by glbtq rights advocates to protest discriminatory practices and policies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Civil Union

Vermont's Civil Union law conferred all the rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marriage on same-sex couples.

social sciences >> Overview:  Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes are crimes towards persons or groups motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

social sciences >> Overview:  Los Angeles

The glbtq history of Los Angeles, the U.S.'s second largest metropolis, is replete with cultural, social, and political firsts.

social sciences >> Overview:  Mixed-Orientation Marriages

Mixed-orientation marriages--those in which one partner is straight and the other is gay or lesbian--often end in divorce, but such an ending is not inevitable.

social sciences >> Overview:  Parades and Marches

Both parades and marches have served to render the glbtq community visible; whereas marches typically attempt to effect political change, parades and pride events affirm identity and community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Salvation Army

An Evangelical Christian sect founded in the nineteenth century, the Salvation Army has recently become an arm of right-wing conservatism.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Bryant, Anita

Former beauty queen, popular singer, and orange juice pitchwoman, Anita Bryant became the poster-girl for homophobia in the late 1970s; her name continues to be a byword for bigotry.

social sciences >> Manford, Morty

A pioneer in the gay liberation movement, New York activist Morty Manford inspired his parents to help found the organization that became Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG).

social sciences >> The Point Foundation

The Point Foundation offers financial support and mentoring to college students who have been marginalized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

social sciences >> Polis, Jared

Businessman and philanthropist Jared Polis became one of only three openly gay members in Congress, and the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a freshman, when he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008.

literature >> Sanchez, Alex

Alex Sanchez's unique background as a youth and family counselor and his experiences as an immigrant have helped make him an important voice in today's young adult glbtq literature canon.


Anderson, Robert W. "Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)." Gay Histories and Cultures. George Haggerty, ed. New York: Garland, 2000. 663-64.

Bernstein, Robert A. Straight Parents/Gay Children: Keeping Families Together. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1995.

"PFLAG." Gay Almanac. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1996. 250-51.


    Citation Information
    Author: Theophano, Teresa  
    Entry Title: Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 12, 2011  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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