In gathering spaces across the country, individuals come together to support each other and families. They gather in church basements, community halls, and even pizza shops, all working together towards a safe and welcoming world. For this is the mission behind PFLAG Skagit, part of the larger national organization, Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gay. It’s the nation’s largest support group for families and allies.

Founding members of PFLAG SKagit, Kathy and Robert Reim, attending a Pride parade.
Founding members of PFLAG SKagit, Kathy and Robert Reim, attending a Pride parade. Photo courtesy: PFLAG Skagit

The organization officially began in 1973, but the real beginning was on a warm New York day in June 1972, by a woman named Jeanne Manford, a mom who penned these words in a letter to the New York Post after her son was badly beaten during a gay rights protest, “I love my gay son.”

On June 25, 1972, Jeanne marched arm in arm with her son in the New York Pride parade, otherwise known as the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day march, named for the street where a few years earlier the Stonewall Riots occurred, igniting the gay rights movement.

She carried a handwritten sign which read, Parents of Gays Unite in Support of Our Children.

Jeanne Manford was a small woman with a mighty message to parents everywhere, that love matters no matter who our children are or who they love. Her message met such enthusiasm that she, along with her husband, began to develop an idea. An idea to format an organization where parents of gays and lesbians, and eventually to include transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, could find support in each other and become as she described it, a bridge between the gay and heteronormal community.

Jeanne’s seed of an idea started out as a small group of 20 people meeting in the basement of the Metropolitan Duane Methodist Church. It has grown into a nationwide organization called PFLAG, with over 400 chapters across the country. Including a chapter here in Skagit County.

PFLAG Skagit

Linden Jordan, current President of PFLAG Skagit. Photo courtesy: Linden Jordan

At PFLAG Skagit, members work diligently to support the local LGBTQ+ community, including families, friends, and allies of those within the community.  Current President Linden Jordan leads the work being done by the PFLAG Skagit chapter. As a transgender man himself who transitioned later in life, he knows the struggle and trials one faces coming out to family, friends, and the community. He found solace as well as camaraderie in groups like PFLAG. He is now paying that kindness forward by spearheading several outreach programs focused on education, language and tolerance.

One of his biggest passions is education, for as he states, “Education leads to understanding.” He does this through public speaking, sharing his story with whomever will listen. And listen they do for he and the Speakers Bureau forum through PFLAG has seen an increase in popularity and demand. “Recently we spoke at the Kiwanis Club and two Rotary clubs in Mount Vernon,” says Jordan, “and we just finished speaking to every judge, commissioner, and staff member in the Superior, District, and Municipal Courts throughout Skagit County.”  The end goal for the court system is to create strategies that are less intimidating for marginalized communities such as the LGBTQ+ community. “We are also reaching out to health care workers, educating them on ways to be more inclusive such as switching to forms which reflect all gender identities,” said Jordan.

PFLAG Skagit members working at a fundraiser for a better world
PFLAG Skagit members working at a fundraiser for a better world. Photo courtesy: PFLAG Skagit

But his biggest pride this past year has been what he calls, “our book project.” Through PFLAG a curated, age-appropriate book list has been provided or placed in every grade school, middle school, and high school in Skagit County. These books allow LGBTQ+ kids see themselves represented in school libraries. And representation equals inclusion.

Future Outreach for PFLAG Skagit

Jordan continues to work towards the dream that one day everyone will feel accepted and loved for exactly who they are, the next place he would like to see a conversation begin is with the older generation for they not only have so much to teach us but Jordan feels, “they may have questions regarding a child’s or grandchild’s coming out as gay or transgender.” He would like to create a bridge of understanding as well as see all places be welcoming ones.

Look for PFLAG at community events or check out the website for further resources. At PFLAG “Allies are also very important to us and our efforts,” Jordan says. “If you are looking for a way to make a difference, you have come to the right place.”

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