A group of local health care professionals, educators, clergy, parents, students, and concerned citizens have gathered together to charter PFLAG Niceville, a support group for LGBTQ people and their family and friends, especially serving those in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
Their very first support meeting was held Sunday, July 14, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Emerald Coast in Valparaiso. Monthly PFLAG Niceville support meetings will be held every second Sunday of the month at 6 PM at the UU Fellowship.
It took the local leadership team of 12 people over six months to organize, plan, and file all the legal documents to create their new nonprofit PFLAG chapter. But as Logan Goodson, a health care administrator who lives in Niceville, explained, “It will be worth it for the help it will be able to provide our local community. PFLAG Niceville offers a safe space for those who have been made to feel alienated by their society. You have a home in PFLAG.”
Dr. David Simmons, President of PFLAG Niceville and a Professor of Humanities and Film Studies at Northwest Florida State College, said, “LGBTQ youth are eight times more likely to commit suicide and 120 percent more likely to be homeless than their peers.
“PFLAG Niceville is an organization that seeks to heal families, improve mental health, and provide loving support. PFLAG Niceville will not only save lives in our local community, it will help lives to thrive.”
PFLAG Niceville can also be a support to families with LGBTQ children who are struggling to know how to support them. The Rev. Doak M Mansfield of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship said, “Family and friends can learn to better communicate and affirm their gay children and friends by interacting through PFLAG Niceville with other family and friends of gay persons.”
The national organization PFLAG was first started by Jeanne Manford, a mother who wanted to show support to her gay son Morty after he was beaten while distributing flyers. After marching beside him in New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March (the precursor to today’s Pride parades) in 1972, several LGBTQ people ran up to Jeanne and begged her to talk with their parents. She decided to begin a support group.
The first formal meeting took place on March 11, 1973 at the Metropolitan-Duane Methodist Church in Greenwich Village (now the Church of the Village). About 20 people attended.
From that small beginning, PFLAG has grown into a respected national organization. Today there are more than 400 chapters throughout the United States and several other countries, comprised of more than 200,000 members and supporters.
– David Simmons