PFLAG Keeps Families Together in Prince William and Beyond

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By Katherine Gotthardt

Creating a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued and affirmed — that is the focus of PFLAG, and it is one close to the heart of the Metro DC chapter and the Prince William County PFLAG Community Group.

PFLAG’s History

Founded in 1973, PFLAG originally stood for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays. However, in 2014 the name was officially changed to PFLAG, an acronym people could recognize but one that was more inclusive of the entire LGBTQ+ community.

The idea for PFLAG came about when Jeanne Manford marched with her gay son in New York’s Pride Day parade. According to the group’s history, after numerous gay and lesbian attendees ran up to Manford during the parade and begged her to talk to their parents, she decided to begin a support group.

The first formal meeting took place in March 1973 at a local church. Approximately 20 people attended. Founded a year later after this act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG says it is now the nation’s largest family and ally organization.

PFLAG calls itself a grassroots effort with more than 400 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of families in major urban centers, small cities and rural areas across America.

PFLAG’s Local Leadership

Nicolle Campa is President of the Board of the Metro DC PFLAG, a chapter of PFLAG National. The Metro DC PFLAG Chapter has community groups in Northern Virginia, Maryland and D.C. In 2018, Campa joined the Metro DC PFLAG board as a board member and in 2019, she was nominated to be the president of the board.

Campa shared she joined PFLAG, specifically the PWC PFLAG Community Group in 2017, right after her daughter came out as transgender. “I joined as a parent looking for resources and support to navigate my daughter’s transition.”

But long before she became involved in PFLAG, Campa had established a history of being passionate about diversity and inclusion and an ally of the LGBTQ+ community. Over the course of her career as a human resource professional, she led initiatives to inspire and incorporate diversity and inclusion.

Coincidentally, two years prior to her daughter coming out, she developed Gender Transition Guidelines, with the goal of letting LGBTQ+ employees know they are supported and providing managers with tools to support their employees’ transition at work.

Vision and Mission: Supporting Families

PFLAG’s vision states, “We, the parents, families and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, celebrate diversityand envision a society that embraces everyone, including those of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Only with respect, dignity and equality for all will we reach our full potential as human beings, individually and collectively. Metro DC PFLAG welcomes the participation and support of all who share in, and hope to realize this vision.”

The group’s mission, supporting that vision, is keeping families together, according to Campa, and she believes they meet that mission through support, education and advocacy. “Our goal is to ensure families have the resources they need to navigate their child — young or adult — as they are coming out, whether it is related to their sexual orientation, gender transition or exploring their identities,” she said.

She credits PFLAG with giving her family what they needed when they needed it. “My husband and I found the support we needed and were better able to navigate our daughter’s transition after coming to several PWC PFLAG meetings. From the moment our daughter came out, we were very supportive; however, this journey can be overwhelming, and we wanted to make sure we were taking the right steps,” she said.

This is a common experience, according to Campa. Parents and relatives find going through the coming-out process difficult. That is one area where PFLAG can help. “We are here to provide resources and support and remind them that they are not going through this journey alone.”

Campa said her favorite aspect of PFLAG is the relationships that are built. “We come to PFLAG because we want to support a loved one. We come to PFLAG because we want to better understand a loved one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression. We are there because of love. We are there because of that shared force of nature.”

PFLAG in the Community

According to PFLAG, the Metro DC PFLAG CommunityGroups in the D.C. area meet on a monthly basis and provide warm and welcoming support to parents, friends and allies of the LGBTQ+ community. They also take part in community events and advocacy.

Campa said that because of the pandemic, monthly meetings are now conducted through Zoom. But members were still active prior to that change. For example, local members most recently took part in the Fredericksburg PRIDE event.

Advocacy is central to PFLAG because, as the group says, LGBTQ+ people face discrimination at school, on the job and in their family lives. They are more likely than their peers to be harassed at school, to be the victims of violent hate crimes, to be turned down for employment, to be fired and to be asked to leave
their religious communities. Many LGBTQ+ feel the need to speak out on behalf of their children and friends who are unjustly deprived of fundamental human and civil rights.

“We also are involved in advocacy,” Campa said of the PWC Community Group. “This year the Virginia General Assembly had a number of bills that impacted the LGBTQ+ community such as the Virginia Values Act and acts for transgender student protections. PFLAG was involved in writing letters of support to the delegates and senators and providing context on how important these bills were for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Who should consider exploring PFLAG membership? According to Campa, “LGBTQ+ individuals, parents, friends, relatives or allies of an individual that identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Or, anyone who wants to learn more and support the LGBTQ+ community.”

Their website features a full list of community groups: pflagdc.org/support/community. Locate educational publications at pflagdc.org/educate/publications.

For more information on the group and joining, visit pflagdc.org or email info@pflagdc.org.

Director of Content Marketing for Prince William Living, Katherine Gotthardt (kgotthardt@princewilliamliving.com) is a prolific writer, poet and author, as well as president of Write by the Rails, the Prince William chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. When she isn’t writing or reading, Katherine can be found enjoying the company of her husband, grown children and pets. Learn more about her work at katherinegotthardt.com.

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