COVID-19 UPDATE - PFLAG Cleveland hosts video conference support group meetings via Zoom through 2022.
PFLAG Cleveland Virtual on Zoom, 2nd Tuesday, monthly at 6:45pm
What to Expect at a Support Group Meeting
PFLAG helps families and LGBTQ individuals learn that they are not alone in the desire to seek acceptance, respect and love. By meeting similarly identified people, new participants come to realize that LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) individuals are an important part of human diversity and found in every social, ethnic and economic group. Indeed, some research suggests they represent approximately 10% of the world's population, and one in every four families has an LGBTQ member. Through attendance at our monthly group meetings, prejudicial and stereotypical views of LGBTQ begin to dissolve, and understanding and acceptance emerge.
During our virtual support meetings, we invite our members to introduce themselves and to tell us more about their lives and relationships. Occasionally new members feel more comfortable listening and learning from the conversations that develop.
In any case, all are welcome... even if it's just to listen.
We meet for approximately 90 minutes. One is likely to hear some familiar stories including:
Individuals facing "coming out" dilemmas with their families.
Parents struggling to accept their children's sexuality and/or gender expression .
Spouses who have just learned of their spouse's sexuality and/or gender expression.
Overcoming fear and prejudice toward LGBTQ individuals in society today.
LGBTQ couples who are celebrating their long-term relationships and anniversaries together.
Parents and LGBTQ+ individuals who participate to others move toward acceptance and love.
Gay parents talking about their children and former spouses.
Non-binary, transgender and transitioning individuals seeking support at home or in the workplace.
How I Told My Parents My Son is Gay
"People often come to PFLAG support group meetings asking, "How do I tell my friends and family that our son/daughter is LGBT, without seeming to announce it?" Attending PFLAG support group meetings first helps family to be comfortable with their child's sexual orientation or gender identity. Once that comfort level is achieved, sharing updates on our LGBT sons and daughters becomes as natural as sharing updates about our straight children. Members help each other to find the "right" words. Members share their own experiences which helps newer members to see the possibilities. At one meeting, the grandparents of a gay young man shared their support for their grandson. I was so moved by their story that it helped me to tell my parents that our son is gay."
Storytelling Benefits Medical Residents
We’ve known for a long time that storytelling is one of the most effective ways to change hearts and minds. But it’s nice to hear it from the medical residents who regularly attend our monthly support groups. We often get feedback like, "I want to build strong relationships with my patients and their family members and represent a safe place to support them. But there is a limit to what a physician can do in a 20-minute visit. Thank you PFLAG for facilitating strong family bonds and helping LGBTQ individuals to thrive."
Many of these future physicians plan to work in primary care or family medicine and some of them share their thoughts with us about the stories they hear, such as this resident’s:
“Initially I thought the meeting would be mostly parents or family members, but surprisingly, a lot of young people participated. There were family members in different stages of accepting their loved ones. When they heard other people sharing a similar story with a happy ending, you could tell it sparked hope. Even as a passerby listening to these stories, I was deeply moved. The openness of every person sharing their stories amazed me. I call this ‘the magic of humanity.’ People tend to keep a secret to themselves, but in the PFLAG group, every person could open their heart completely. This sharing triggered more stories and responses. By the end of the meeting, you felt the energy caused by this ‘touching of hearts’.”
--Medical Residents' Feedback
Watching My Amazing Daughter's Transition After She Came Out
In June, 2014, my then 16 year old daughter came out to our family that she was bisexual (trying to ease us in) and later that year confirmed she is a Lesbian. In that initial conversation, we assured her that our love does not change and that we have her back, that I will always be honest with her, but we also need some time to process.
Back story, somewhere between 12 and 13, my boisterous, happy, funny daughter went quiet. Spending most of her free time alone. We would force her to come with us shopping or to events, Church, etc. but always she would return to her room. I thought, teenage angst, she was finding herself. You need to also know that she was a sickly child, many colds, sinus, ear infections, more than normal. Around that time, she became sicker, missing extreme amounts of school and much of her summers due to sicknesses of varying natures. Eventually extreme side pains, followed by just about every test medically you can do to find out why my child was in unexplainable chronic debilitating pain. Unknown to her mother and me was that she was also self-harming during that time.
After my amazing daughter came out to our family, by that fall, she was basically healthy. How horrible to learn that because she was afraid to come out to us and to be honest with herself, she was eating herself alive.
That fall we learned of PFLAG and pondered the idea of an LGBT support group for families and friends and what that may mean for us. I can tell you what I learned it stands for. PFLAG to me is a safe place, with caring and kind people of all race, creed and orientation. Fathers, Mothers, Siblings, Children, Grandparents, Friends. Beyond that, the only other description is People. A true melting pot. I also learned that all those horrible stereotypes that clouded/colored my opinions and feelings, well those stereotypes were all destroyed by PFLAG and its members.
Not one single homosexual person has come on to me or my wife. I haven't seen any feather boas, leather chaps, or overly flamboyant persons making everyone uncomfortable. Just people. People with real pain. People with deep hurts. People with great joy. People with tremendous pride. Loving people. People I consider friends.
I learned that while I thought I was loving and compassionate, I was living in a very small circle of like-minded people who all thought the same thing. We are loving and compassionate, and we are right and everyone else is wrong. Boy was I wrong. A good intentioned bigot is still a bigot. We have since moved to an Open and Affirming Church and through the counsel of numerous wise people and PFLAG, begun to unravel the 40+ years of learned opinions and well-intentioned but misguided truths.
My daughter is very patient with me (and wise beyond her years), allowing me to be fatherly (sometimes) and spout off about the do's and don'ts of life and my concerns for her. She and PFLAG are helping me to understand more about myself than I like to admit and shine our light on areas where I am bigoted without even knowing I was. I am proud of my daughter and the woman she is becoming. You'd be lucky to know her. I love her.
--Randy Webb, Proud Father, Christian and Recovering Bigot