PFLAG Fresno: Still Doing the Work to Make It Better for LGBTQ+ People

Fifty years ago, in 1972, a mom accompanied her gay son to the Christopher Street Liberation Day March- a precursor to today’s Pride parades. That mom was Jeanne Manford, and as she marched, carrying a sign that read ‘Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children”, she unknowingly began a national movement. PFLAG was born that day, when so many queer marchers ran up to Jeanne to ask her to speak to their own parents. The history doesn’t specify, but it isn’t hard for those of us in the LGBTQ+ community to imagine the hugs and the tears that would have been shared on the parade line. And it isn’t hard to understand what Jeanne signified in that moment: the love, acceptance, and support which we hope for, and know that we deserve when we share our authentic and beautiful selves with the world by coming out.

Fifty years later, the people of the Fresno chapter of PFLAG gather beneath multicolored Pride flags at the Wesley United Methodist church to create community, to share stories, to listen to each other, to learn, and to give and receive support. We come from many walks of life: some of us are LGBTQ+ people. Some are parents, wanting to support our queer and trans kids, and needing a safe place to ask questions. Some are brothers and sisters, and some are even sons and daughters. We’re friends, family, allies, parents, partners, and LGBTQ+ people, all working together to create positive change and improve the lives of queer people right here in our own community through education, advocacy, and support.

Our own chapter has been here serving the people of Fresno, since 1990. Back then, it was called Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a name which was changed nationwide in 2014 to, simply, PFLAG, to better reflect the beautiful diversity of our community. This may be the last year we call
ourselves PFLAG, as our National parent organization undergoes evaluation and updating of all our branding, including our name. We hope to have the best of both worlds: a fresh, new, look and language that is more inclusive and relevant, as well as a preservation of our history as the oldest and biggest organization that focuses on a partnership of LGBTQ+ people and our loved ones, making it better for those who come after us.

Locally, we have been updating our look, as well. Covid-19 necessitated moving our meetings online, but we have found that many folks have liked this. We now structure our monthly support meetings as hybrid: both in person at the Wesley United Methodist Church, as well as on Zoom. We’ve found we’re able to reach and serve more people this way, and doing so is reflective of our commitment to evolve with the times to ensure we’re meeting people where they’re at.

Our biggest visual change recently has been the rollout of our new website at www.pflagfresno.org Fully rebuilt from the ground up, it’s fresh and easy to navigate. Most importantly, we have done extensive outreach to build a comprehensive Resource List for our community. We include such subpages as affirming and welcoming local Medical and Mental Health Providers, to Local LGBTQ+ Owned or Friendly Businesses, to Fresno-area LGBTQ+ Community Organizations, to National Support. We intend it to be a one-stop shop for people here in Fresno seeking information and help, whether that person be a lesbian who has recently moved to the Valley, or the dad of a transgender kid looking for ways to support them, for example. Connecting people to community resources where we are safe, affirmed, welcomed, and celebrated is a large part of PFLAG’s mission. We hope our resource lists will increase access to these spaces and services. If we’ve missed connecting with a queer-friendly or oriented business or
organization, please let us know.

What has been the backbone of our work, however, has always been our support group. We meet every second Sunday of the month. The first hour is typically reserved for a speaker, such as representatives from the California Rural Legal Assistance to speak about their LGBTQ+ program, or a panel of youth from the Dolores Huerta Foundation’s LYFE program, two actual speakers/panels we are in the process of planning for in coming months. In October and November, respectively, we host a Trans 101 presentation, and then a panel on how to be a better ally. This past December was our First Zoyer Zyndel Memorial Gathering, an event we plan to make annual.

We welcome all newcomers to join us at a meeting. Our next gathering will be Sunday, April 11 from 2-4PM at Wesley United Methodist Church. If you prefer a Zoom option, signing up for our email list will provide you with the Zoom link, or you can email us at info@pflagfresno.org.

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