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families helping families

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I get by with a little help from my friends...those words were immortalized by the Beatles, and decades later, they still ring true.

It’s a concept the Toronto Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians (PFLAG) takes to heart.

“We are families helping families,” says Toronto PFLAG President, Irene Miller. “We want to ensure that all our family members – straight and gay – are treated fairly and equally, with respect and dignity regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. We help individuals and families to better support their LGBTQ loved ones.”

Toronto PFLAG is just one of the PFLAG Canada chapters, all with the mission to support the families of LGBTQ individuals.

“For the most part we are straight people, speaking to other straight people - and sharing our personal experiences,” says Miller, adding, “We also are able to support LGBTQ individuals whose families are distanced from them, for whatever reasons.  Often, if families are unsupportive, we can help build up the relationships again, because our volunteer families may also have experienced similar feelings.”

Toronto PFLAG has a telephone support line. Calls are answered by parents of LGBTQ.

Support and resources can also be provided by emails at office@pflagtoronto.org. Monthly support meetings are held in the Coxwell/Danforth area. Miller says each meeting is attended by 20 to 30 people and new people join every month.

“The phone calls, emails, and meetings provide the sense that those looking for help are not alone,” Miller says. “There are families just like theirs, who can relate.”

Toronto PFLAG also conducts outreach and education, through high school assemblies, class room visits at elementary schools, as well as workshops to businesses and organizations. It’s all in an effort to promote understanding and diversity.

While acceptance of the LGBTQ community has come a long way, Miller says there’s still much work to be done.

“There may be an element of complacency both within the gay community (I’m all right, so no need to be an activist); and in society at large (our family is straight, and there are laws to protect these other groups, so no need for me to get involved...),” she says. Often that bubble is burst when situations change and people are directly affected, or learn of someone they know who is affected.  Our work is not done yet!”

Toronto PFLAG will continue to do that work, by providing support, creating awareness and participating in a variety of community events.

In May, Toronto PFLAG, its Toronto City Council partners, as well as supporters from other organizations, raised the Rainbow Flag at city hall. They gathered to hear the reading of the proclamation to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

On Sunday, June 2, Toronto PFLAG is co-sponsoring a movie at the Inside Out Film Festival (details can be found at www.insideout.ca ). The movie is called Bridegroom, and Miller suggests you stock up on Kleenex.

Those attending Toronto Pride festivities can find Toronto PFLAG manning an information booth and marching in the parade. Members will also be hosting a pre-Pride Brunch on Sunday, June 30, at Pogue Mahone’s on College St. The event takes place from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.  “We invite anyone LGBTQ to come and eat brunch with families, if theirs cannot be here to celebrate Pride with them,” says Miller.

Brunch cost is $12 per person.

Miller says Toronto PFLAG is always looking for new volunteers and people to support their program.

“We are all volunteers at Toronto PFLAG, and we need people to help us at every level,” she explains. “Also – wear one of our rainbow wristbands. Wear your support on your sleeve, and you will be doing our work for us – every day – at work, or wherever you are, you’ll be spreading diversity awareness and support.”

For more information on Toronto PFLAG, visit www.pflagtoronto.org or call 416-406-1727.

The phone support line is 416-406-6378.

To find a PFLAG chapter in your area, visit www.pflagcanada.ca.




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