Coming to terms with your sexual identity can be an uncomfortable thought for some. At whatever age you decide to come out, the question of whether acceptance will meet you at your doorstep still remains. This can be even tougher for kids still living under their parents’ roofs.
It’s understandable to be unsure of where to begin with sexuality and gender identity. The questions are immeasurable, but so are the resources that offer answers.
PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is an organization that supports members of the LGBTQ community and their family and friends. The services PFLAG offer are support through group meetings and through the phone. The nonprofit also has an informational newsletter for parents with questions. Their resources are in both English and Spanish, and the main focus is simply educating people on subject matter pertaining to the queer community.
PFLAG began with a mother supporting her son. The organization originated in New York and first started in 1973. It was founded on love, support, and educating people.
“Family is your first support system that lifts you up or takes care of you,” said Curtis Halbach, the treasurer for PFLAG. “Now, we’ve branched out to allies and parents, friends and families, of queer people. It’s all-inclusive. A lot of people in the community branch out and create their own families, and we do a lot of sessions where parents come out, kids come out, people are transitioning, and much more. Our job is to facilitate and help them get together with other people that are like them.”
Crafting a safe space for families to be assisted through the worries that may come with being queer is crucial for our community. Halbach expressed that resources like PFLAG are in demand more for transgender youth.
A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that out of everyone surveyed, transgender youth have the highest rate of attempted suicide. However, with nonprofits like PFLAG, the number of young people attending sessions have increased. The ages are only getting lower.
“There’s a growing demand, for transgender youth, especially looking for outlets, places to go to learn and to meet other people like them. A year-and-a-half ago, there was maybe one group session a week. Now, there’s two or three per week with people of all ages.”
PFLAG also has a scholarship fund to give to queer youth. The scholarship fund is distributed statewide to schools across Colorado, and unlike many scholarships, it is solely based on what the person has done for the LGBTQ community rather than on academics. Every year, PFLAG’s committee reads the hundreds of letters explaining different youth contribution to the community. Those selected attended a scholarship ceremony and give a heartfelt speech on their future.
PFLAG also has a lot of stories to share about those who are impacted by their services. Halbach expressed the enjoyment of receiving spontaneous feedback from those touched with the significance of PFLAG.
“All the people that come up and talk to you, and they’re crying; they’re so happy that PFLAG exists. And we’ve been told it changed their lives and families. It’s so insane, emotional, and inspirational. That’s probably my favorite part of it.”
PFLAG’s catalyst is educating people on subjects pertaining to the LGBTQ community. The value of making others understand the meaning of our community has been proven to be the greatest triumph of all.
PFLAG specializes in informing the public, because that’s their whole deal. Information reduces ignorance.
“Misinformation is out there. You’ve got to provide them with information. Otherwise, you’re just going to be ignorant, and that’s not OK, because it doesn’t get us anywhere.”
Understandably, being young and queer doesn’t come with perfect hands dealt. That is why this nonprofit does what it does. Halbach emphasized his and PFLAG’s hope for queer youth and simplified it to three simple words: feeling loved, wanted, and accepted
“They’re not alone at all. They need to know we’re all here for them. PFLAG especially, we’re here for them. It does get better. This is 100 percent true.”
Learn more about PFLAG Denver here.
Photo by Veronica L. Holyfield