Background were. Jeanne would decide to start a support

Background

The coming-out
process can be a critical time for families. When the adjustment period is
particularly long or painful, relationships can become permanently damaged,
resulting in a lifetime of emotional scars. People cannot always rise above the
challenge of accepting themselves or their family member, and the results can
be devastating, even fatal. That’s
why in 1972 as Jeanne Manford marched through the streets of New York alongside
her son, she was approached by many gay, lesbian and transsexual persons begging
her to speak to their parents. Begging her to try to make them understand and
accept their sons and daughters as who they were. Jeanne would decide to start
a support group, not just for gay, lesbian and transgendered persons but entire
families struggling to understand and support their loved ones. The first
meeting of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) would take place on
March 26th 1973 in New York with an attendance of roughly 20 people
(Pflag USA 2017). As time passed, news of this organization would spread across
North America, and various chapters would pop up across the map. In 1991 in
Toronto Parents of Gays (POG) and Families & Friends of Gays and Lesbians
(FFlag) would merge and would also name themselves PFLAG, a separate but very
similar organization to PFLAG within the United States. However, this
distinction would not come to full fruition until 2003, when PFLAG Canada would
consolidate over 70 different support groups for parents of Gays and Lesbians,
and officially become PFLAG Canada. (PFLAG Canada 2017)

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                 PFLAG Canada is a national charitable
organization run by volunteers with over 60 chapters from coast to coast.
Meetings are held monthly or bi-weekly depending on the city. These meetings
and support tools are designed to aid and reach PFLAG Canadas mission of ”
 promoting the health and well-being
of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex,
queer and questioning  persons, their families and friends through:
Support, to cope with an adverse society, and Education, to enlighten an
ill-informed public in order to end discrimination and secure equal rights.”
(Canada Helps) Each different PFLAG affiliate is coordinated and facilitated by
a community member within the localized LGBTQPAA community. Within Montreal the
facilitators of the PFLAG chapter are both based out of the Gender Advocacy
center on Concordia University’s campus. PFLAG Canada is governed by its board
of directors, a board that is nine members large and is responsible for the
oversight and financial governance of the organization and its many affiliates
(PFLAG Canada).  The board of directors
is also responsible for ensuring its partners organizations are actively
fulfilling PFLAG Canada’s vision of ”
actively assisting in the recognition and growth of gay, lesbian, bisexual,
transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex, queer and questioning persons
and their families and friends, within their diverse cultures and societies.” (Canada
Helps)

Issues  

PFLAG is
continuously working to build a greater support network for friends and family
members of gay, lesbian, transgendered, two spirited, transsexual, intersex and
queer persons. This network of support and understanding is crucial in
attempting to alleviate a multitude of issues facing the members of these
communities.  One of the litany of issues
faced by members of this community is the issue of homelessness. According to
The homeless hub Canada, an estimated 25-40% of all homeless youth in Canada
are members of the LGBTQPAA community (The Homeless hub). However we must note
that this data is from a study conducted over fourteen years ago, and while
there have been national studies conducted since, none of them have addressed
the issue of sexuality or gender identity. While there have not been national gender/sexuality
studies conducted, there have been regional studies conducted such as in
Toronto where 20% of all homeless youth identify as a member of the LGBTQPAA community
(The Homeless Hub). And as noted by the homeless hub we can estimate that this
number is actually much higher, as many youth did not choose to come out to
volunteers conducting the survey for fears of safety and potential “street
retribution”(The homeless hub).  Many
people attribute the higher homelessness rate amongst the members of the
LGBTQPAA community due to homophobia and transphobia within the home as well as
within the shelter system. With a higher rate of homelessness and difficulties
finding employment, some Trans persons are forced to resort to sex work in
order to make some kind of money in order to simply survive, let alone begin to
afford necessary medications and treatments to allow them to live as they feel
they should. As noted by Cecilia Benoit in her 2015 work “Sex Work in Canada” Benoit notes that “There are no accurate estimates of the gender breakdown of sex workers.
Most research indicates the sex industry is highly gendered, with the overwhelming
majority of sex workers identifying as women (including both cisgendered and Trans
women)” As well Benoit also notes that 
“trans people, and trans women in
particular, are at greater risk of violence compared to cisgendered workers –
that is, those whose biological sex and gender identity are the same. This is
because working in the sex industry can compound the stigma and discrimination
that many Trans people already experience within Canadian society. For example,
one study has suggested that sex buyers who do not intentionally want to
purchase sexual services from a Trans person may feel “duped” if and when they
realize. Some of these sex buyers may respond aggressively and/or violently”
(Benoit, 2015). From 1991-2014 there were over 294 reported homicides of
confirmed sex workers, which represents 2% of all homicides during that time
frame, with 57% of those homicides being directly attributed to the victims
role as a sex worker ( Statistics Canada). As of this time there is no data
regarding LGBTQPAA rates in sex work or homicide rates, the closest data set
that can be correlated is from the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, which only
lists one murder of a Trans person in Canada from October 2016- September 2017.
The murder would occur in the Montreal village of Pointe St Charles, as Trans
sex worker Sisi Thibert would lose her life in in September of 2017 (Paling
2017).

There are also
numerous issues facing LGBTQPAA persons within the healthcare community.
Studies show that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and (LGBT) populations,
in addition to having the same basic health needs as the general population,
experience health disparities and barriers related to sexual orientation and/or
gender identity. Many avoid or delay care or receive inappropriate or inferior
care because of perceived or real homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and
discrimination by health care providers and institutions. Homophobia in medical
practice is a reality. A 1998 survey of nursing students showed that 8–12%
“despised” lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people, 5–12% found them
“disgusting,” and 40–43% thought LGB people should keep their sexuality
private. (Gay and Lesbian Medical Association)

Policy   

With homeless
rates statistically higher than their Cisgendered counterparts, coupled with
social stigmas and fear of violence, it is clear that early intervention must
take place in order to assist both the youth of the LGBTQPAA community, as well
as their friends and families. It is during this crucial stage of a youth’s
life where PFLAG and its subsidiary chapters seek to accomplish the bulk of
their mission and vision.  As a volunteer
organization PFLAG does not make decisions as an entire entity, however they
allow each of their subsidiary PFLAG chapters, to operate relatively
autonomously, only intervening in the event of mismanagement or more extreme
circumstances. This autonomy allows each grassroots chapter dictate what
positions it may take or advocate on behalf of in regards to social or
political issues. As well PFLAG does not generate its own research, however it
relies upon its vast support network, from grassroots organizations to
professors of sociology and gender studies to generate research and information
regarding pressing issues facing the LGBTQPAA community. PLFAG will then take
this information and research gathered by its vast network to create various
workshops that take place outside of PFLAG’s regular monthly meetings. These
workshops are tailored to specific groups, such as parents, educators, students
or communities as a whole (PFLAG Toronto). As well, PFLAG is not affiliated
with any ethnic, political or religious organization, however they do provide
links to such organizations on their main PFLAG website, as they believe such
organizations may be able to provide the necessary support a LGBTQPAA community
member or their family may require at that time. (PFLAG Canada)

 

Strategies

                PFLAG
Canada is Canada’s only national
organization that offers peer-to-peer support striving to help all Canadians
with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Through their network of 60+ grassroots PFLAG support chapters and associated
partners, they seek to strengthen the bond between parent and child, as well as
to provide resources both to youth and parents struggling with gender identity
or sexual orientation. PFLAG was founded to aid parents and children struggling
with sexual identity, however over time PFLAG has evolved and now has no
specific set population that they target to help, as almost everyone now has
someone of LGBTQPAA identity in their lives or within their sphere of being.
The issues facing persons of the LGBTQPAA community are ones that permeate
throughout society and affect us as a whole, from homelessness, difficulty of
access to health services and even increased rates of violence. These are
issues that can affect all Canadians.

PFLAG
operates with no ethnic, political or religious affiliations; however, they
have formed coalitions of support networks with organizations that fall under
these categories, such as the United Church of Canada or the Gay Buddhist
Fellowship (PFLAG Canada). As well PFLAG has also partnered with other LGBTQPAA
organizations, research institutions and healthcare providers. Examples of
these organizations include the Canadian rainbow Health coalition, Gay and
lesbian Association of Retiring Persons, QMUNITY, The Canadian Online Journal
for Queer Studies in Education, Canadian Aids society and the Halifax Sexual
Health Center. (PFLAG Canada)

Media Relations

As one of the first LGBTQPAA
organizations within Canada, PFLAG Canada has been able to create a vast media
profile. One of their more compelling media outlets is their wide selection of
personal stories that they are able to share though their various social media
accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube). By sharing personal stories, and
putting faces behind the stories is a compelling tool to encourage others to
share their experiences and realize that whatever issues they may be facing
they are not alone, others have faced similar struggles and not only survived
but prospered. Stories come from persons from all walks of life and with
different orientations, ethnicities and religious beliefs, showing that
LGBTQPAA issues affect all members of the community regardless.

With over 60+ chapters of PFLAG
Canada operating autonomously, has allowed various chapters to produce their
own educational material and briefs. Such as the case of PFLAG Toronto which in
conjunction with Central Toronto Youth Services would publish “Families in Transition:
A resource guide for Families of Transgender Youth” (PFLAG Toronto). By
allowing chapters to operate autonomously, PFLAG has given more power to their
vast volunteer network. Meetings are facilitated by the organizations
volunteers and are not required to follow any specific form or mandate; this
allows more freedom within meetings to provide specific aid to participants.

PFLAG has also lent its name to
various educational resources such as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Associations
publication of “Guidelines for care of
Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Patients”(Gay and Lesbian Medical
Association 2016) This informative 35 page document provides health care
providers with a sample of guidelines when dealing with LGBTQPAA patients.
Within the publication issues such as creating a welcoming health care
environment, language, staff sensitivity, suggested questions for LGBTQPAA
healthcare forms and additional considerations for physicians when dealing with
Women, Men and Trans. An example that can be taken from this resource is an
issue that will be explored and discussed further during the LGBTQPAA panel. Is
the issue of how to assess and pose questions to Trans persons. Examples
include, not assuming heterosexuality, or the understanding that discussing
genitalia or sex acts may be complicated by the person’s disassociation with
their outward appearance and this can make conversation particularity sensitive
or stressful to someone seeking medical care. It is imperative that medical
practitioners fully understand the sensitivity of certain issues that may arise
during routine medical care, as a perceived or actual lack of sensitivity can
be the difference between someone returning to seek medical care, or letting
issues linger and develop into conditions that are more serious.

Critical Assessment

Homophobia and
Transphobia has been a constant social issue, encompassing generations and
tearing apart families.  In many
instances homosexuality and transsexuality is a very sensitive topic within
families and many are not willing to talk about their issues publically. The
sensitivity of these internal family issues is an issue PFLAG takes very
seriously, meetings are advertised through local LGBTQPAA channels, however
information is not widely disseminated to the public through social media
campaigns or email blasts as in the case of other organizations. All
information shared such as stories or testimonials remain anonymous unless
otherwise directed so by the person sharing.

As one of
Canada’s first LGBTQPAA support organizations, PFLAG has been one of the
leading organizations when it comes to family relationships. While the majority
of work is done by PFLAG’s 60+ grassroots chapters, its national chapter leaves
a lot to be desired. As LGBTQPAA issues continue to become a larger part of our
social consciousness, PFLAG Canada should be one of the forefront organizations
supporting these communities. By building a strong home life and parental
support system, PFLAG has the opportunity to directly impact the rates of
homeless LGBTQPAA youth. Which is why it is surprising that the organization is
not more vocal when it comes to homelessness, or the potential results from
homelessness such as sex-work. They have a large grassroots support system
behind them, as well as various partners doing work in other social circles,
such as the Canadian Aids society, the united church of Canada, or as
previously mentioned the Central Toronto Youth Services. When policy is
released, or new data is released by statistics Canada, PFLAG has the
opportunity to call upon its vast network of support organizations and direct
volunteers to provide input and create public dialogue surrounding these
issues. As society continues to change and evolve in its core beliefs or
understanding of others, it is crucial that PFLAG uses both its name and
network to lend support to large national issues facing members of the LGBTQPAA
community.

As noted
throughout this evaluation the communities targeted by PFLAG are now known as
LGBTQPAA, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Questioning, Poly and
Allies. Since its inception in the early 1990’s society and those living within
the targeted communities by PFLAG have evolved, and so too should the name of
the organization. Parents for Lesbians and Gays is no longer an encompassing
term that would make all feel welcome, will someone who is transgender feel
welcome? What about those who have no sexual interest in others? While this may
seem like a minor detail to those outside of the LGBTQPAA community, for those
who are directly affected through the ” coming out” process and the resulting
family implications, a name can make all the difference between feeling
welcomed and empowered or unwelcome and powerless.  

Conclusion

                PFLAG
is one of Canada’s leading support organizations for the LGBTQPAA. Through
their work they have created over 60+ grassroots organizations dedicated to
education and supporting both parents and youth dealing with issues related to
sexuality and gender identity. Through partnerships with organizations and
educators they have been able to create and publish various resource guides and
support tools for parents and youth. However there is still work to be done to
destigmatize LGBTQPAA persons, so they do not continue to face mounting issues
such as increasing homelessness, violence and sexual fetishization. While PFLAG
and its allies continue to work towards ending these societal issues, those
within the Cisgendered community should take it upon themselves to be the final
A in LGBTQPAA and truly become Allies to our fellow human beings.